Thrust stage

Last updated
A thrust stage at the Pasant Theatre Pasant Theatre from seats.JPG
A thrust stage at the Pasant Theatre

In theatre, a thrust stage (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. This is in contrast to a theatre in the round, which is exposed on all sides to the audience, is without a backstage, and relies entirely on entrances in the auditorium or from under the stage. Entrances onto a thrust are most readily made from backstage, although some theatres provide for performers to enter through the audience using vomitory entrances. 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.



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 Doctor Faustus stage 273-3.jpg
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. There, 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]

Later resurrected by director Tyrone Guthrie and designer Tanya Moiseiwitsch, [3] a thrust stage was used in 1953 by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada. [4] 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.


North America


United States

Westminster Playhouse in Westminster California


Waldbuhne Berlin Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-P019137, Berlin, Reichssportfeld, Dietrich Eckart-Freilichtbuhne.jpg
Waldbühne Berlin



United Kingdom




  • Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre, located at W!LD RICE Funan



Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">English Renaissance theatre</span> Theatre of England between 1562 and 1642

English Renaissance theatre, also known as Renaissance English theatre and Elizabethan theatre, refers to the theatre of England between 1558 and 1642.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Royal Shakespeare Company</span> British theatre company

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The company employs over 1,000 staff and opens around 20 productions a year. The RSC plays regularly in London, Stratford-upon-Avon, and on tour across the UK and internationally.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stratford Festival</span> Theatre festival in Stratford, Ontario, Canada

The Stratford Festival is a theatre festival which runs from April to October in the city of Stratford, Ontario, Canada. Founded by local journalist Tom Patterson in 1952, the festival was formerly known as the Stratford Shakespearean Festival, the Shakespeare Festival and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The festival was one of the first arts festivals in Canada and continues to be one of its most prominent. It is recognized worldwide for its productions of Shakespearean plays.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Royal Shakespeare Theatre</span> Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST) is a grade II* listed 1,040+ seat thrust stage theatre owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company dedicated to the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It is located in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon – Shakespeare's birthplace – in the English Midlands, beside the River Avon. The building incorporates the smaller Swan Theatre. The Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres re-opened in November 2010 after undergoing a major renovation known as the Transformation Project.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tyrone Guthrie</span> English actor and director (1900–1971)

Sir William Tyrone Guthrie was an English theatrical director instrumental in the founding of the Stratford Festival of Canada, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at his family's ancestral home, Annaghmakerrig, near Newbliss in County Monaghan, Ireland. He is famous for his original approach to Shakespearean and modern drama.

Ben Iden Payne, also known as B. Iden Payne, was an English actor, director and teacher. Active in professional theater for seventy years, he helped the first modern Repertory Theatre in the United Kingdom, was an early and effective advocate for Elizabethan staging of Shakespeare plays, and served as an inspiration for Shakespeare Companies and University theater programs throughout North America and the British Isles. His name lives on as the name of a theater at the University of Texas as well as annual theater awards presented in Austin, Texas.

Harry Thomas Patterson, was a Stratford, Ontario born journalist who went on to found the Stratford Festival of Canada, then called the Stratford Shakespearean Festival, the largest theatre festival in Canada.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stage (theatre)</span> Designated space for the performance of productions

In theatre and performing arts, the stage is a designated space for the performance of productions. The stage serves as a space for actors or performers and a focal point for the audience. As an architectural feature, the stage may consist of a platform or series of platforms. In some cases, these may be temporary or adjustable but in theaters and other buildings devoted to such productions, the stage is often a permanent feature.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vomitorium</span> Passage in a theatre allowing crowds to exit

A vomitorium is a passage situated below or behind a tier of seats in an amphitheatre or a stadium, through which big crowds can exit rapidly at the end of an event. They can also be pathways for actors to enter and leave stage. The Latin word vomitorium, plural vomitoria, derives from the verb vomō, vomere, "to spew forth". In ancient Roman architecture, vomitoria were designed to provide rapid egress for large crowds at amphitheatres and stadia, as they do in modern sports stadia and large theatres.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shakespeare's Globe</span> Theatre in London, England

Shakespeare's Globe is a realistic true-to-history reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse first built in 1599 for which William Shakespeare wrote his plays. It is located on the south bank of the River Thames, in the London Borough of Southwark and hosts theatrical productions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon</span> Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England

The Swan Theatre is a theatre belonging to the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. It is built on to the side of the larger Royal Shakespeare Theatre, occupying the Victorian Gothic structure that formerly housed the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre that preceded the RST but was destroyed by fire in 1926.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William Bridges-Adams</span>

William Bridges-Adams was an English theatre director and designer, associated closely with the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, from 1919 until 1934.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Other Place (theatre)</span> Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England

The Other Place is a black box theatre on Southern Lane, near to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. It is owned and operated by the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 2006, an earlier version of the theatre closed and reopened as the temporary and larger Courtyard Theatre, while the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres were redeveloped. In March 2016, The Other Place was reinstated as a 200-seat studio theatre.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shakespeare in performance</span> Performances of William Shakespeares plays

Thousands of performances of William Shakespeare's plays have been staged since the end of the 16th century. While Shakespeare was alive, many of his greatest plays were performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men and King's Men acting companies at the Globe and Blackfriars Theatres. Among the actors of these original performances were Richard Burbage, Richard Cowley, and William Kempe.

Colin George was a Welsh actor and director, who was the founding Artistic Director of the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield (1971).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Theatre of the United Kingdom</span> Overview of theatre in the UK

Theatre of United Kingdom plays an important part in British culture, and the countries that constitute the UK have had a vibrant tradition of theatre since the Renaissance with roots going back to the Roman occupation.

The Stratford Adventure is a 1954 Oscar-nominated documentary film about the founding of the Stratford Festival. It is directed by Morten Parker for the National Film Board of Canada.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre</span> Dramatic theatre in Gdańsk, Poland

The Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre is a Shakespearean theatre in Gdańsk, Poland. It is built on the site of a 17th-century theatre, known as the Fencing School, where English travelling players performed works of English Renaissance theatre. The leading figure in the project to construct the new theatre is Jerzy Limon, a founder of the Gdańsk Shakespeare Festival.

A Shakespeare festival is a theatre organization that stages the works of William Shakespeare continually.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Keith Fowler</span> American actor (1939-2023)

Keith Franklin Fowler was an American actor, director, producer, and educator. He was a professor of drama and former head of directing in the Drama Department of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts of the University of California, Irvine (UCI), and the artistic director of two LORT/Equity theaters.


  1. "Open stage | theatre". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved Sep 15, 2019.
  2. France, Richard (1977). The Theatre of Orson Welles. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press. p. 91. ISBN   0838719724.
  3. "Our Timeline". Stratford Festival. Retrieved July 24, 2023.
  4. "Maps and Guides | Stratford Festival Official Website | Stratford Festival". Retrieved 2019-09-15.