Theatre in the round

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Theatre

Theatre-in-the-round or arena theatre is any theatre space in which the audience surrounds the stage area. In 1947, Margo Jones established America's first professional theatre-in-the-round company when she opened her Theatre ’47 in Dallas.

As outlined by Margo Jones, her theatre-in-the-round concept requires no stage curtain, little scenery and allows the audience to sit on three sides of the stage. That stage design was used by directors in later years for such well-known shows as the original stage production of Man of La Mancha and all plays staged at the ANTA Washington Square Theatre (demolished in the late 1960s), including Arthur Miller's autobiographical After the Fall. Such theaters had previously existed in colleges but not in professional spaces.

The stage itself in this arrangement is typically round, square, or triangular, with actors entering and exiting through the audience from different directions or from below the stage. Such a space is usually configured with the stage on an even level with or lowered below the audience in a "pit" or "arena" formation. This configuration lends itself to high-energy productions, and is especially favored by producers of classical theatre. Theatre-in-the-round was common in ancient theatre, particularly that of Greece and Rome but was not widely explored again until the latter half of the 20th Century; it has continued as a creative alternative to the more common Proscenium format.

Theatre-in-the-round presents problems since actors at all times have their back facing some members of the audience. However, it also allows for interesting and realistic staging. The configuration is also commonly employed when theatrical performances are presented in non-traditional spaces such as restaurants, public areas such as fairs or festivals, or street theatre. Special consideration needs to be taken in regard to the set design, so as not to obscure any audience member's view of the performance.

The innovations of Margo Jones were an obvious influence on Albert McCleery when he created his Cameo Theatre for television in 1950. Continuing until 1955, McCleery offered dramas seen against pure black backgrounds instead of walls of a set. This enabled cameras in the darkness to pick up shots from any position.

When an arena staging was conceived for the progressive-rock group Yes by their tour manager Jim Halley in the mid 1970s, it prompted a redesign of rock concerts and venue seating arrangements.

Theatres in the round

  • United Kingdom
    • New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire
    • Octagon Theatre, Bolton
    • Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
    • Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough
    • Orange Tree Theatre, London
    • Cockpit Theatre, London
  • United States
    • Margo Jones' Theatre '47
    • Heritage Forum, Anaheim, California
    • Arena Stage, Washington, D.C.
    • Cape Cod Melody Tent, Hyannis, Massachusetts
    • South Shore Music Circus, Cohasset, Massachusetts
    • Cassius Carter Centre Stage, Old_Globe_Theatre, San Diego, CA
    • Northern Arizona University
    • Circle Rep, New York City
    • The Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, Denver, CO
    • Ula Love Doughty Carousel Theatre, Knoxville, Tennessee
    • Glenn Hughes Penthouse Theatre, Seattle, Washington
    • The Wells Fargo Pavilion, Sacramento, California, home of California Musical Theatre's Music Circus
    • North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly, Massachusetts
    • The Barksdale Theatre in Richmond, Virginia
    • The Irish Classical Theatre in Buffalo, New York
    • Longstreet Theatre at the University of South Carolina
    • TITR at Seton Hall University
    • Theatre in the Round in Minneapolis, Minnesota
    • Glendale Centre Theatre, Glendale, California
    • Marian Theatre, Santa Maria, California
    • Solvang Festival Theatre, Solvang, California
    • Hale Centre Theatre, West Valley City, Utah and Gilbert, Arizona
    • Kauffman Centre for the Performing Arts
    • The Little Theatre, Newton North High School
    • Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire, Illinois
    • The New Theatre, Ashland, Oregon; one of the theaters used for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
    • The North Fork Theatre at Westbury, Westbury, New York
    • Le rêve Theatre in the Wynn Las Vegas casino resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • Canada
    • Globe Theatre, Regina

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