Design for the Stage: First Steps

By Darwin Reid Payne | Go to book overview

designer to open channels of communication. During the rest of this book this need should always be kept at the back of the mind; the designer cannot perform his job successfully unless he finds ways to cooperate with the directors with whom he works and still preserve his own artistic personality. It is often difficult but it can be done.


§5 The Designer and the Physical Stage

It is not possible to design for any theater without first examining the various physical forms the stage within it can assume. It is, perhaps, the designer's first, and in some ways his most important, duty to reconsider the possibilities that lie open to him when he is given a production to design in even the most formalized and rigid of theater structures. He does not often have the opportunity (or need) to completely remake the stage and auditorium for one particular production, as did Norman Bel Geddes for Max Reinhart's production of The Miracle, but designers are more and more not content to accept as inviolate the flat floor and picture frame which characterize most theaters in this country. They are beginning to feel less inhibited about extending their settings into the audience's area in ever new and different relationships.

It would be well to examine briefly just what basic relationships between the acting area and the audience are possible in the two types of theaters the designer of today is apt to encounter: the open stage and the proscenium stage.


The Open Stage

What concerns us in this book is not so much the historical aspects of the open stage (although the designer should be aware of this form's development) as with the role the designer plays when working for it. And to fully understand that role we must also be aware of how the actor moves on that stage and how the director guides that movement.

Basically, this movement tends to be circular in nature; directors find, because of the audience-actor relationship, that they must cause the actor (A, fig. 17) to move in such a way that (1) he does not spend any appreciable time with his back to any one section of the surrounding audience, and (2) so that when he is speaking, he is generally in a position that allows him to face both his partner (B, fig. 17) and the greatest number of the audience possible at the same time.

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