The lesson plan lay-up: Proscenium, Thrust, & Arena Stages

Fellow Theatre Educators,

After returning from an IB Theatre conference last month, I have had the great pleasure to gain a network of teachers who are all sharing lesson plans, handouts, and materials via the interwebs!  One of my new friends, who is just starting out as a theatre educator, was extremely grateful to me for sharing some of my lesson plans, and even followed up a couple of weeks later to thank me again.  This got me thinking, that maybe this ‘Lesson Plan Lay-Up’ should be a recurring segment on this blog?  So here it is, the second installment of my teacher assists: Sightlines for Different Stages.

In my Designing for the Stage class (first level design), we’re getting into Set Design & Staging.  I tried a new strategy to make make students understand first hand how the relationship between the placement of actor to audience and a set piece to audience can create a major impact on how design and performance are carried out in a play.

Preparation: I decided to utilize Tableaux Vivant to help students understand how to craft one moment in each type of stage: proscenium, thrust, and arena.  I printed some 11″ x 17″ copies of Norman Rockwell pictures with 2-6 people pictured in them.  Students gallery walked the pictures for about a minute before selecting one and forming a group on their own.Screenshot 2015-09-24 23.02.22

Rehearsal: On props tables in my classroom I pre-pulled some props, hats, and costume pieces (think ties, jackets, shawls, gloves, glasses) that I had readily available to help students create their tableaux.  I also have a lot of rehearsal furniture in my room so students could use tables and chairs, benches, rehearsal blocks, etc.  (You can tailor the images you use in your class based on the resources available to you.)  Students had 5 minutes to select any props, furniture or costume pieces for their tableaux and stage the recreation of their chosen image into a Tableaux Vivant.

Phase One: After the initial rehearsal phase, each group presented their tableaux to the class and the observing students commented on any sightline issues.  Those commenting became directors and had to use appropriate stage direction terminology to re-stage the picture.  This took about 15-20 minutes because we had about 7 groups to get through.

Phase Two: We followed up this first phase with a group brainstorm of how to adapt their Tableaux Vivants onto a thrust and arena stage.  They drew these in their journals.  Next I used Guided Practice to push students to use as much of the thrust stage as possible.  One at a time we worked through the Thrust staging of each tableaux.  Students learned how to utilize depth and planes to buy the most visibility for their staging and create an interesting view for each side of the audience.

Phase Three: For the Independent Practice, students had 5 minutes to take what they had learned in the Thrust Re-Stage phase and re-stage their tableaux one final time for an Arena Stage.  I gave students a 5 point score incentive based on how much re-staging had to occur when they presented.  This encouraged them to work efficiently on their own.

Discussion: To conclude our lesson, students reflected on their experience as an audience member and an actor and then came up with some ‘rules’ to follow when staging in each type of stage:

  • As an actor, what type of stage did you prefer to work on?
  • As an audience member what type of staging did you find the most interesting to see?
  • What are some ‘rules’ you know about staging and sightlines in a Proscenium/Thrust/Arena stage?
  • How would you as a set designer or director use these rules to help you create a set or a stage picture?

Click here for a copy of this lesson plan 5.TableauxSightlines (1). [yikes-mailchimp form=”1″ submit=”Subscribe to the Lesson Plan Lay-Up”]