Stage-Space Awareness

Level

Junior to Intermediate High School

Overview

A scenic designer needs to be well versed in the use of space to convey emotion and information. Here are several activities to help students become stage space savvy. 

Activity 1: Geography of the Stage

Purpose

To teach students about the areas of the stage through movement. 

Goal

Through the use of repetition and movement, to engage students to learn the areas of the stage in a manor that is fun and fast. By the end of the exercise they will no longer have to think about where those areas of the stage are, they will automatically respond to where they need to be.

Directions

Working in a gymnasium or on the stage of the auditorium, students move to the appropriately marked spot on stage as a result of specific instructions like:

  • All boys wearing jeans cross to centre stage (CS)
  • All students whose first names start with “B” cross to stage right (SR)
  • All girls with braids cross to upper stage left (USL)

Tip

Tailor the instructions to your group, and have about 20 variations. Give the instructions quickly so that the students stay moving and thinking about locations.

Activity 2: Space Exploration

Purpose

Teach students about strong and weak positions on stage.

Goal

Through the creation of stage pictures, to help students understand how placement, especially placement promoting focus and emphasis, helps clarify relationships and tell stories.

Lesson notes

  • Centre Stage (CS) is strong
  • Down Stage Centre (DSC) and Up Stage Centre (USC) are also strong, depending on what else is happening onstage
  • The actor’s body is strongest when facing Down Stage (DS) squarely, but what do other positions indicate?

Directions

Have students take turns being the “director.” He or she will place students on stage individually or in groups to make stage pictures denoting:

  • A monarch/king and his/her court
  • Two people about to engage in a fist fight
  • Two people shyly sizing up each other
  • Half a dozen aggressive figures threatening the audience
  • A sense of freedom
  • A sense of claustrophobia

Activity 3

In groups have students brainstorm situations to explore onstage, but this time to change the visual dynamic, add scenic elements like:

  • risers
  • stairs
  • boxes
  • chairs

Background Material

When the designer talks about placement of objects on stage or the director and actors talk about movement on stage, they all use a set of terms that are oriented to the actor’s point of view when facing the audience:

<em>Stage Geography</em>

Stage Geography

  • Downstage (DS) is the area closest to the audience
  • Upstage (US) is the area farthest from the audience
  • Stage Right (SR) is the area on the actor’s right (the director’s left)
  • Stage Left (SL) is the area on the actor’s left (the director’s right)
  • Centre Stage is the area halfway between us and DS, SR and SL – right in the middle!
  • DSL, DSR, USL, USR, RSC, DSC are refinements on the areas above.

See activity suggestion for the Geography of the Stage.