What Makes a Stage a “Real Stage”?

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  • Seana Hendrickson

As a director who works primarily with children and teens, it is my job to shape them into educated and experienced performers as well as individuals. Too many times, I have been asked the question, “are we going to be performing on a real stage?” Which begs the question, what is a real stage?

The perception for most theatergoers about what a real stage is typically a proscenium stage. They expect the spectacle of flashy lights, moving set pieces, and ornate costumes. Don’t get me wrong that is definitely a stage but let us not forget our roots.

Our ancestors, the OG performers back in Greece, did not have any of that and they were the literal creators of what we call theatre today. There were two maybe three actors and a chorus performing in amphitheaters. They used the light of day and what they had for costumes while playing more than one part. They could not rely on technology and flashy commercial appeal. They had a hollowed out hill and excellent acoustics for audiences to spectate and enjoy. Obviously, that was enough at one point because the art of acting and performing has lasted so many years after.

I think often people discredit smaller venues or black boxes because they lack the commercial appeal, but those are the stages that often produce the most moving and personal work, not to mention most shows start in a small space before they get to any space like the Gershwin or even the Lyceum. Give me a space and a few people to watch me, and there is my stage. Take Improv Everywhere, for example, or Guerilla theatre. Performing in communal spaces without audiences, even knowing is still a stage. Let’s not sell good work short just because it is being performed in a smaller space or on a small stage.

Basically what I’m saying here theatergoers, performers, artists of any kind is, respect theatre performance in all ways it’s created but especially how it is performed for audiences. Whether you are performing in a park somewhere or on a stage in NYC, it matters. It counts. If you have a message, an actor, and at least one person to watch take in that space. It is a stage.