Arena Theatre: Dimensions for the Space Age

Arena Theatre: Dimensions for the Space Age

Arena Theatre: Dimensions for the Space Age

Arena Theatre: Dimensions for the Space Age

Synopsis

"How to do" arena theatre is knowledge already widely disseminated; this book examines why to do it. Until now, because principle had failed to inform practice, successful arena productions occurred mostly through pure chance. Arena theatre has never enjoyed the benefits of a consistent, enlightened theory to guide its work, or to explain its "raison d'etre." This path-breaking book explicates such a theory. Placing arena's faded glory into context, and pointing out the failed logic which routinely has been applied to arena staging, this study designates and proclaims arena theatre as the "true modern theatre form."

Excerpt

The modern American theatre in all its many manifestations and diverse methods of staging has often carried the boundaries of experimentation in production methods well beyond the normal expectations of any playwright's drama. Various techniques of production have been applied, sometimes with profoundly artistic results, to old plays that were thought to be more or less empty of further potential for illumination. At the same time, some scripts have been utterly ruined by production experiments and unique staging methods. in something more than a manner of speaking, there are no rules for production in the American theatre; generally, anything the theatre artist wants to try goes, and the results can often be as chaotic as they are iconoclastic.

Among the various methods that have become more or less standardized from theatre company to theatre company, however, certain staging techniques have emerged as being the most popular. Quite obviously, the traditional proscenium method using a main drape and box set (or not) remains at the forefront of most companies' repertoire, but in the course of the past four decades in particular, the evolution of a number of other types of stages--thrust, three-quarter- round, two-sided stages, etc.--have also emerged. Some of these have been born of necessity, as not all companies, amateur or even professional, have the funds required to construct a traditional theatre and must operate in buildings singularly ill-suited for theatrical production. But acting on the presumption that the design of a theatre's stage is to some degree deliberate and the result of thoughtful formatting and planning by a company's managers and directors, the question must be raised as to the logic behind the design of any stage for any singular purpose. It must never be left to chance, and it must accommodate both the medium and the message of the plays the company plans to produce.

"Theatre-in-the-round" or arena staging was for a short time about thirty years ago, very popular. Early experiments in this production form were more than somewhat successful, but for one . . .

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