Part of our
mission at GS is to educate about the dance tradition. Each issue we
will bring you a section on technical dance terminology. In this, our
premier issue, we bring you a list of stage terminology and pertinent
questions to ask when staging a performance written by Ken James. Ken
is an Artistic Director and performer for the Fellow Travelers Performance
Troupe. His background in choreography and theatre brings us the wisdom
of 20 years of practical staging experience.
stage: A stage in which the stage space is directly in front
of the audience and doesn't project into the audience. Generally, in
theaters they are raised up a bit and have a curtain to separate then
stage form the house. In studio theaters, the curtain and raised stage
is lost, but the direct front viewing is the same.
Thrust stage: This stage projects into the audience a little.
In a large theater, there may be an area called an apron in front to
the stage (say over the orchestra pit) that would be the thrust stage
area. This allows the audience to see things from the sides also, perhaps
up to a 180 degree view of what is on-stage.
In the round: Exactly as it sounds. The audience surrounds the
performance. There is no front to the stage
assume the directions are as you stand on stage and face
left, stage right are to your
left and right. (If you are in the audience looking at the stage, stage
left is your right)
upstage: the back of the stage. (stages used to be raked, that
is raised in the back and sloping down to the front so audiences could
see better. So upstage was more literal then)
downstage: The area towards the audience
The house: The audience
ellipsoidal (alias: ellipses,
leiko, source 4): provide a light that can be shaped through shutters,
but may need a longer throw (distance between instrument and stage)
to cover large areas.
Fresnels: good area lights, diffuse and not very shapable
Par lamps: straight forward light. not shapable, but good for
Circuits: each light is plugged into a circuit, basically a electric
socket but somewhat mobile. More than one lighting instrument can be
plugged into a circuit.
Dimmers: Dimmers are where the lights are run from. Circuits
get plugged into dimmers, which control the level of electricity running
to the lights. The dimmers are then adjusted to make the lighting look
you want. Good things: Circuit to dimmer theaters- this means each circuit
is on its own dimmer (this is rare), allowing for amazing control and
variation. More likely: you are limited to between 6 and 24 dimmers,
meaning choices in which lights will be tied together on the same dimmer
arise. This limits the amount of looks you can get. Good thing to ask
before renting, "How many dimmers do you have?"
What to know when renting
is rented to present a show. It is also hopefully a way to break even
on your costs or, better, make money. So be careful that the theater
you rent is right for you. A 500 seat house may only be $750 a night,
but there are other costs. It will probably cost more like $5,500 before
you can perform*. This is fine if you plan to sell out the theater at,
say, $15 a seat, you would still have $2000 to work on something new.
But is that realistic?
Ask yourself some questions:
- How big is your audience
really? It is considered better to sellout and turn away a few people
rather than have half the seats empty. The range is from 50 seats
to 1,500 generally, where do you fall?
- How much space do you need?
You are performing a piece of work, a concert or something, will it
- If you need wings do they
have them? If you need wings, scrims screens or other special things,
does the theater have them and do they come with the rental?
- Do you have special lighting
or sound needs?
- Do you get a technical person
with the rental and for how much time? Will they run the show?
- What set up time do you have
before the performance for spacing, technical rehearsals and dress
- If you need special area
lights can they supply them? what do they have for lights, dimmers,
- Your music is on CD, cassette,
dat and they have ... what? not everyone can accommodate many sound
needs especially in the smaller houses.
On the more practical
and decidedly inartistic side, can you pay for the theater costs with
the audience you bring in? Or are you willing to take a monetary hit
for the amount of the rental? This can be important. There are many
pieces that need certain physical requirements. The artists then rent
a space in which they know they will lose money in order to do the work
Having run theaters as well as producing my own work, I also have some
If you are doing a large show or know nothing about the technical side
of things and the person at the theater who is (possibly) working on
your show doesn't seem to be understanding, find your own technical person / lighting designer. They can be fairly cheap (ask around to other performer)
and will act in you best interests at all times. Especially in a larger
theater this is important. They will hire people, insure everything
goes as it should and generally take the load off of your mind. It limits
how many people you need to deal with in the theater. They will make
many decisions for you (talk things over first), so you can concentrate
on performing or the performers.
If you have a lot of props that need moving, sorting or have a complicated
show of people in and out, different groups or just a lot of stuff,
hire a stage manager.
Their job is to organize the show and run it, making sure everything
and everyone is where they need to be. Also worries you don't need.
The less you have to do during a show outside of the performing, the
happier you will be. It is often worth the money to have that space
and peace of mind. I know how to do all these things, and I still hire
people to do it for my shows. Using friends and relatives is great,
but the less they know the more they will come to you to ask. They are
best used in very clear roles.
* three days in the theater, first spacing and technical, second lighting
and dress rehearsal, third performance = $2,250, Lighting Designer =$800,
Technical staff (5 to load in and out, three to run the show) =$1,980,
programs = $120, House manager = $100 +$250 misc. (big houses mean big
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