Thrust stage

In theatre, a thrust stage (also known as a platform stage or open stage)[1] is one that extends into the audience on three sides and is connected to the backstage area by its upstage end. A thrust has the benefit of greater intimacy between performers and the audience than a proscenium, while retaining the utility of a backstage area. Entrances onto a thrust are most readily made from backstage, although some theatres provide for performers to enter through the audience using vomitory entrances. A theatre in the round, exposed on all sides to the audience, is without a backstage and relies entirely on entrances in the auditorium or from under the stage. As with an arena, the audience in a thrust stage theatre may view the stage from three or more sides. Because the audience can view the performance from a variety of perspectives, it is usual for the blocking, props and scenery to receive thorough consideration to ensure that no perspective is blocked from view. A high backed chair, for instance, when placed stage right, could create a blind spot in the stage left action.

A thrust stage at the Pasant Theatre


Photograph of the thrust stage used for the Federal Theatre Project production of Doctor Faustus (1937) at Maxine Elliott's Theatre, airbrushed in white to emphasize its contours

The thrust stage is the earliest stage type in western theatre, first appearing in Greek theatres, and its arrangement was continued by the pageant wagon. As pageant wagons evolved into Elizabethan theatre, many of that era's works, including those of Shakespeare, were performed on theatre with an open thrust stage, such as those of the Globe Theatre.

The thrust stage was generally out of use for centuries, and was resurrected by Orson Welles when he staged Doctor Faustus for the Federal Theatre Project in 1937. The thrust apron extended over three rows of seats at Maxine Elliott's Theatre, extending 20 feet. "It was constructed especially for the production and was probably one of the first to break out of the procenium arch in a Broadway playhouse," wrote critic Richard France.[2]

The concept was used in 1953 by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada.[3] Their Festival Theatre was originally under a tent, until a permanent thrust stage theatre facility was constructed in 1957. Since that time dozens of other thrust stage venues have been built using the concept.


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Waldbühne Berlin



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  1. ^ "Open stage | theatre". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved Sep 15, 2019.
  2. ^ France, Richard (1977). The Theatre of Orson Welles. Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press. p. 91. ISBN 0838719724.
  3. ^ "Maps and Guides | Stratford Festival Official Website | Stratford Festival". Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  4. ^ "Stewart Theatre technical specifications" (PDF). Retrieved Mar 20, 2023.
  5. ^ "Playcrafters Barn Theatre". Retrieved Sep 15, 2019.

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