Theatre Layout Forms: A Review

The history of Theaters can be traced back to ‘Greek theatrons in 4th century BC. It was part of a border culture of the ethicality and performance in classical Greece that included festivals, religious rituals, politics, law, athletics and gymnastics, music, wedding, funerals and symposia. The theaters we see today are the developed form of those Greek theatrons with a difference in materials available at that time and now. As now many things have to be kept in mind while designing the theaters including the sitting arrangements and row clearance. ‘Theater forms’ is the result of planned relationships between spectators and performers dictated by the anticipated function or use. A carefully planned or programmed theatre is very important. The spaces may demand a particular form to support the function.

The “End Stage” – Although a “proscenium” or “picture-frame” stage is very common and familiar to theatergoers, a variation of it the “end-stage” satisfies the need of many other general assembly spaces. This form is well suited alignment for lecture, film or slide presentations. Besides, it may lend itself comfortably to rectangular areas that will fit many conventional new or renovated buildings. However, this form may not be conducive to a close relationship between the performer and the spectator. In some large space theaters seating layouts many seats are beyond a point where un-reinforced speech would be intelligible. 

The “Wide Fan”– A wide fan arrangement is layout with maximum span limits of 130 degrees from a central focus of focal point that will bring the distant spectators closer to the performer, thereby promoting a more intimate relationship. At this angle of layout, a film or slide presentation is possible, however, the stage should be deep and the presentation screen should be placed to the rear as it’s practical to minimize distortion of the projected images. A theater seating layout or seating area which exceeds 130 degrees begins to limit the use of an assembly space primarily to speech-related activities. This fact, can be understood when a physical discomfort develops when one’s head is turned to the side for an extended period, which may permit only brief presentations.

The “3/4 Arena”– The 3/4 arena is the third form of theaters space, which traces its origins to the ancient Greek open-air amphitheater. The design approach is defined by 180 degree to 270 degree angle of inclusion which improves oral and visual contact between spectators and performers. Television monitors or projection screens located throughout the space works more efficiently than conventional film presentation

The “Arena Stage”– This form layout is circular in shape similar to the Roman colosseum we find today. In this layout it offers seats in full 360 degree. Obviously, this theater seating layout brings more spectators closer to the performer, but at the same time it creates certain restrictions. During the presentation or performance the performer will be facing only a portion of the audience.

Almost any of the theatre forms described here might be part of an academic building, Entertainment zone, A performance arena or a game stadia. It can be used at any desired place depending upon the usability, space and aesthetics. Experimenting with the design and layout is always an option but to do that you need a thorough knowledge of anthropometric data and space planning. Else these theaters had and always been a place of entertainment and gathering and create unforgettable performances and memories.

Priyanshi Guhathakurta

Assistant Professor

Department of Interior Design

Kalinga University

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