Today’s mood: “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” - Fiona Apple
Kate asked me to give a short presentation to her architecture firm to start a discussion about stages. I figured it was a good push to begin to reengage with my performance practice, and a chance to dust off the old blog! I’ll be posting little thought snippets that will eventually serve as notes/outlines for the presentation.
Thought 1: Eye Contact, Prosceniums, and Arenas.
First off, two quick diagrams, with “P” for performer and “A” for audience to define the basic proscenium and arena arrangements. Both stage types can range from huge concert halls and sports arenas to small and intimate spaces with only a handful of audience members.
PP ------ AAAAAA AAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAA AA+----+AA AA| |AA AA| PP |AA AA| |AA AA+----+AA AAAAAAAAAA
Performer-Audience Relationship: In the proscenium, the performers can face the entire audience, while in the arena the performer can only face a small portion of the audience at any given time.
Performer-Performer Relationship: A common technique for two performers having a conversation on a proscenium stage is to “cheat out”, meaning artificially rotate themselves towards the audience while talking to give the audience more of a three-quarters view of their bodies, rather than a side profile. In the arena, because there are always audience members at every angle, the idea of cheating out doesn’t function the same way, and performers can face each other directly without feeling like they are turning away from the audience.
Audience-Audience Relationship: In a proscenium, the relationship between audience members is typically supressed, both by the lighting, and by the fact that you can only see the backs of other audience members heads, which are generally less interesting than their faces. In an arena, being able to see across the stage to the audience members who are facing you creates an opportunity for significantly more audience-audience visual engagement. Depending on the reason a performance has been staged in an arena arrangment, this audience-audience relationship may be highlighted or supressed. Sports events are a type of performance where the audience-audience relationship is particularly important, typically with the audience both lit and organized to amplify the rivalry between fans of the two teams.
More to Come!
That’s all for today! I just wanted to get down some basic building blocks before trying to tackle what these building blocks might mean for performers and audiences. This is all pretty basic stuff, but I’m shaking off the dust and clearing the cobwebs out of my brain, so starting simple feels good.
More to come soon on this meandering tour through my thoughts on the relationships, scales, and formalities of different stages, and how those characteristics become a part of the performances on those stages!
I’m also planning on getting digital platforms such as Twitch-style streaming and Zoom-style video-calls into this exploration of the different “shapes” of stages. So more to come on that too!