A theater, theatre or playhouse, is a structure where theatrical works or plays are performed, or other performances such as musical concerts may be produced. While a theater is not required for performance (as in environmental theater or street theater), a theater serves to define the performance and audience spaces. The facility is traditionally organized to provide support areas for performers, the technical crew and the audience members. There are as many types of theaters as there are types of performance. Theaters may be built specifically for a certain types of productions, they may serve for more general performance needs or they may be adapted or converted for use as a theater. They may range from open-air amphitheaters to ornate, cathedral-like structures to simple, undecorated rooms or black box theaters. Some theaters may have a fixed acting area (in most theaters this is known as the stage), while some theaters, such as black box theaters, may not, allowing the director and designers to construct an acting area suitable for the production.
1 Basic elements of a theater structure
1.1 On and off stage 1.2 Seating and audience
2 Open-air theaters
2.1 Ancient Greece 2.2 Ancient Rome 2.3 Elizabethan England
3 Indoor theaters
4 Asian theater design
4.1 Noh 4.2 Kabuki 4.3 Koothambalam
5 See also 6 References 7 Bibliography 8 External links
Basic elements of a theater structure On and off stage Main article: Stage (theater)
Backstage area of the Vienna State Opera
The most important of these areas is the acting space generally known as the stage. In some theaters, specifically proscenium theaters, arena theaters and amphitheaters, this area is permanent part of the structure. In a blackbox theater the acting area is undefined so that each theater may adapt specifically to a production. In addition to these acting spaces, there may be offstage spaces as well. These include wings on either side of a proscenium stage (called "backstage" or "offstage") where props, sets and scenery may be stored as well as a place for actors awaiting an entrance. A Prompter's box may be found backstage. In an amphitheater, an area behind the stage may be designated for such uses while a blackbox theater may have spaces outside of the actual theater designated for such uses. Often a theater will incorporate other spaces intended for the performers and other personnel. A booth facing the stage may be incorporated into the house where lighting and sound personnel may view the show and run their respective instruments. Other rooms in the building may be used for dressing rooms, rehearsal rooms, spaces for constructing sets, props and costumes, as well as storage. There are usually two main entrances: one at the front, used by the audience, that leads into the back of the audience, sometimes first going through a ticket booth. The second is called the stage door, and it is accessible from backstage. This is the means by which the cast and crew enter and exit the theater, and fans frequently wait outside it after the show in order to get autographs, called "stage dooring". This term can also be used to refer to going to a lot of shows or living in a big theater city, such as New York or Chicago. Seating and audience All theaters provide a space for an audience. The audience is usually separated from the performers by the proscenium arch. In proscenium theaters and amphitheaters, the proscenium arch, like the stage, is a permanent feature of the structure. This area is known as the auditorium or the house. Like the stage in a blackbox theater, this area is also defined by the production The seating areas can include some or all of the following:
Close-up of the seats in the Opera and Ballet
Stalls or arena: the lower flat area, usually below or at the same level as the stage. The word parterre (occasionally, parquet) is sometimes used to refer to a particular subset of this area. In North American usage this is usually the rear seating block beneath the gallery (see below) whereas in Britain it can mean either the area in front near the orchestra pit, or the whole of the stalls. The term can also refer to the side stalls in some usages. Derived from the gardening term parterre, the usage refers to the sectioned pattern of both the seats of an auditorium and of the planted beds seen in garden construction. Throughout the 18th century the term was also used to refer to the theater audience who occupied the parterre. Balconies or galleries: one or more raised seating platforms towards the rear of the auditorium. In larger theaters, multiple levels are stacked vertically above or behind the stalls. The first level is usually called the dress circle or grand circle. The next level may be the loge, from the French version of loggia. A second tier inserted beneath the main balcony may be the mezzanine. The highest platform, or upper circle, is sometimes known as the gods, especially in large opera houses, where the seats can be very high and a long distance from the stage. Boxes (state box or stage box): typically placed immediately to the front, side and above the level of the stage. They are often separate rooms with an open viewing area which typically seat up to five people. These seats are typically considered the most prestigious of the house. A "state box" or "royal box" is sometimes provided for dignitaries. House seats: these are "the best seats in the house", giving the best view of the stage. Though each theater's layout is different, these are usually in the center of the stalls. These seats are traditionally reserved for the cast and crew to invite family members, agents, and others. If they are not used, they usually go on sale on the day of the performance.
The ancient theater at Delphi, Greece
ab, double western wall.
bc, single wall.
aa, gg, walls terminating wings of auditorium.
b, f, entrances.
c, the "katatome" (where the rock of the Acropolis was met by the walls).
d, e, diazoma.
fg, eastern boundary wall.
hh, front wall of Neronian stage.
i, fragment 5th-century orchestra.
klm, ancient masonry (? of supporting walls).
nn, oldest stage buildings.
oo, stone proscenium (1st or 2nd century B.C.).
p, foundations of Neronian side wings.
qr, fragments 5th-century orchestra.
s, 4th-century portico.
t, old Dionysus temple.
Roman Theater, Orange, France
Main article: Roman theatre (structure)
The Romans copied the Greek style of building, but tended not to be so
concerned about the location, being prepared to build walls and
terraces instead of looking for a naturally occurring site.
The auditorium (literally "place for hearing" in Latin) was the area
in which people gathered, and was sometimes constructed on a small
hill or slope in which stacked seating could be easily made in the
tradition of the Greek Theatres. The central part of the auditorium
was hollowed out of a hill or slope, while the outer radian seats
required structural support and solid retaining walls. This was of
course not always the case as Romans tended to build their theatres
regardless of the availability of hillsides. All theatres built within
the city of Rome were completely man-made without the use of
earthworks. The auditorium was not roofed; rather, awnings (vela)
could be pulled overhead to provide shelter from rain or sunlight.
Some Roman theatres, constructed of wood, were torn down after the
festival for which they were erected concluded. This practice was due
to a moratorium on permanent theatre structures that lasted until 55
BC when the
1596 illustration of Swan Theatre, Southwark, London, showing round structure
During the Elizabethan era in England, theaters were constructed of
wooden framing, infilled with wattle and daub and roofed with thatch.
Mostly the theaters where entirely open air. They consisted of several
floors of covered galleries surrounding a courtyard which was open to
the elements. A large portion of the audience would stand in the yard,
directly in front of the stage. This layout is said to derive from the
practice of holding plays in the yard of an inn. Archaeological
excavations of The Rose theater at London's Bankside, built 1587, have
shown that it had en external diameter of 72 feet (22 metres).
The nearby Globe
Recreation of Shakespeare's Globe
Around this time, the green room, a place for actors to wait until
required on stage, became common terminology in English theaters.
The Globe has now been rebuilt as a fully working and producing
theater near its original site (largely thanks to the efforts of film
director Sam Wanamaker) to give modern audiences an idea of the
environment for which
The Alley Theatre, home to the Alley
Queen's Theater (Ganta, Liberia)
Contemporary theaters are often non-traditional, such as very
adaptable spaces, or theaters where audience and performers are not
separated. A major example of this is the modular theater, notably the
Modular Theater. This large theater has floors and walls
divided into small movable sections, with the floor sections on
adjustable hydraulic pylons, so that the space may be adjusted into
any configuration for each individual play. As new styles of theater
performance have evolved, so has the desire to improve or recreate
performance venues. This applies equally to artistic and presentation
techniques, such as stage lighting.
Specific designs of contemporary live theaters include proscenium,
thrust, black box theater, theater in the round, amphitheater, and
arena. In the classical Indian dance,
See also: Noh
The traditional stage used in
1: hashigakari. 2: kyōgen spot. 3: stage attendants. 4: stick drum. 5: hip drum. 6: shoulder drum. 7: flute. 8: chorus. 9: waki seat. 10: waki spot. 11: shite spot. 12: shite-bashira. 13: metsuke-bashira. 14: waki-bashira. 15: fue-bashira.
The independent roof is one of the most recognizable characteristic of
Shibai Ukie ("A Scene from A Play") by Masanobu Okumura (1686–1764), depicting Edo Ichimura-za theater in the early 1740s
See also: Kabuki
The Japanese kabuki stage features a projection called a hanamichi
(花道; literally, flower path), a walkway which extends into the
audience and via which dramatic entrances and exits are made. Okuni
also performed on a hanamichi stage with her entourage. The stage is
used not only as a walkway or path to get to and from the main stage,
but important scenes are also played on the stage.
See also: Koothambalam
The Indian Koothambalam temple is a space used to perform Sanskrit drama. Called the koothambalam or kuttampalam, it is a large high-caste rectangular, temple in Kerala which represented a “visual sacrifice” to any deities or gods of the temple. They were built for kutiyattam or “combined acting” performances, which only two dramas are performed today. The temple has a pyramidal roof, with high walls, and a high-ceilinged interior. Within the large temple has a stage inside which is a large platform with its own pyramid roof. The stage area is separate from the audience area with the musician (a drummer on a high seat) behind the stage, and dressing rooms also at the rear with exit doors behind. The audience would be seated on a smooth, polished floor. Several Koothambalams exist within several Indian temples, and follow the same rectangular plan and structure. See also
List of national theaters
^ a b Richard Allan Tomlinson. "Theatres (Greek and Roman),
structure", The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization. Ed. Simon
Hornblower and Antony Spawforth. Oxford University Press, 1998. Oxford
Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Northwestern University. 11
^ Constance Campbell. "The Uncompleted Theatres of Rome", The Johns
Hopkins University Press.
Bibliography Yann Rocher, Théâtres en utopie, Actes Sud, Paris, 2014. External links
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Carthalia – Theatres on Postcards (pictures of theaters)
Music Hall and
LCCN: sh85134578 GND: 4059706-4 BNF: cb11938054b (data) N