Design for the Stage: First Steps

By Darwin Reid Payne | Go to book overview

make here is that no single stage and auditorium could ever be expected to satisfy all the philosophies that exist concerning the physical theater. There is more truth than we might care to admit in Tyrone Guthrie's statement that, "an all-purpose theater is a no purpose theater."


§6 The Designer's Areas of Influence

The Stage Floor

There is a great deal of soundness in the proverbial basic requirement for theater--three boards and a passion. There is no better way in which the designer can serve the actor than to provide an appropriate place for him to perform, since there is nothing more or quite as important to him as what he stands on.

Once the stage floor was nothing more than just a floor; something to be walked upon, but not to be considered to any great extent by itself. It was merely a neutral area with no definite shape or boundaries except those of the back and side walls of the theater. As the designer became more involved with the performer's actions on this floor, his interest in its scenic possibilities also increased. Now, for many designers, this area has become the single most important element in the total design. The emphasis of scene design, once almost totally confined to the periphery of the stage area, has now all but given way to the treatment of the stage floor; once only a simple horizontal plane (slightly tipped in older theaters to facilitate the sight lines of an audience seated on a flat floor), this area is now being fractured, extended, raised, lowered, and angled in literally every possible combination. To resolve the stage floor into appropriate acting areas is the first major step in designing a production (fig. 29).

It is surprising that only in the last century has the proper attention been given to this most important of considerations. Yet, it has been only relatively recently that the scene designer has considered the stage floor as scenery at all.


The General Background

This general background includes walls, backdrops, overhead units, etc. While actors do not necessarily involve themselves with the background, they will always be seen in relation to it. Nothing can be

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