Theatrical Space, Seating Arrangement and Audience Participation in the Blackfriars Playhouse


The play-going and play-watching experience in a recreated early modern indoor playhouse is drastically different from a more “traditional” proscenium theater in many fundamental ways, such as the breakdown of the fourth wall and direct audience contacts, which are closely intertwined with the unique theatrical space and the dynamic and fluid exchange between actors and audience members. This study will examine the theatrical space of American Shakespeare Center’s indoor Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia. ASC’s performances are well known for their so-called “original practices,” including dramatic or theatrical features such as universal lighting, thrust stage, 360 degree seating arrangements, 3D performance, and direct audience contacts. These are some attempts of the “original practices” that ASC tries to reproduce in their reconstructed early modern indoor playhouse. These age-old innovative theatrical devices or features facilitate wonderful changes in audience members’ play-watching experience and may sometimes fundamentally alter their perception of the play. This paper aims at exploring some of the innovative ideas and possibilities offered by the theatrical space in this reconstructed early modern playhouse, and to consider their impact on audience participation.

Author Information
Hsiang-chun Chu, National Changhua University of Education, Taiwan

Paper Information
Conference: ECAH2023
Stream: Media

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon