Making Theatre in Non-Traditional Spaces

In today’s real estate market, it has become increasingly difficult for theater companies to secure dedicated spaces to perform. Many modern community and amateur companies are making due by embracing the use of non-traditional spaces such as warehouses, empty churches, retail spaces, and even residences for productions. This has given rise to several current trends in theater today.

Performances on Found Stages

Many community theaters find themselves, either by choice or by necessity, to be itinerant. They are a fully formed company without a permanent rehearsal or performance space. These roving bands of players perform in a variety of spaces that they either share with or rent from others.

Itinerant theater companies often form mutually beneficial relationships with other community entities. It is not uncommon to find theater performed in small churches where the company gets a place to perform, and the church benefits from a portion of the proceeds. Owners of vacant commercial spaces may strike a deal with a theater company to allow a performance in their building to draw attention to the real estate or as a stop-gap measure until the property is sold. Likewise, many community centers will have unused spaces that they rent out or even loan to local performers.

While there are inherent limitations to doing theater in found spaces, there are many innovative small companies that are figuring out how to do it well. By embracing essentialism when it comes to lighting and sound and investing in staples like stage curtains and backdrops, these companies can create the world of a play without making permanent changes to their borrowed space.

Site-Specific Theater

There are many similarities between site-specific theater and the use of found stages, and the categories often overlap. Perhaps the biggest difference though is that while troupes that perform on found stages often do so out of necessity, companies engaging in site-specific theater do so by choice.

When it comes to site-specific theater, not just any space will do. Performers look for sites that specifically suit the material of the play. Think of a performance of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” done in the abandoned wing of an old hospital, a production of “The Iceman Cometh” performed at a local pub, or “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” done in a local park. This kind of theater can create an experience that is intimate and uniquely immersive for the audience.

The Flexible Black Box

Companies that are able to buy a space to perform are still more likely to find a non-traditional space rather than a fully functional theater that happens to be for sale. For these lucky companies, the best choice is often to create a black box theater that gives them ultimate flexibility in staging and can also provide the opportunity to lease out their space to other companies or groups when they are not using it.

Essentials for a Created Space

Rose Brand has been a trusted name since 1921. It specializes in theatrical fabrics, backdrops, and drapery. Whether you are an established theater looking for an elegant grand swag for your proscenium stage, an intimate black box looking for quality black masking or a traveling company in need of the perfect backdrop, Rose Brand has a custom or off-the-shelf product for you.




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I'm Crystal. I'm married to Dale, and mother to Johnny.Some might say that my life is perfect because I get to do all the cliché wife things like cooking, cleaning, and decorating - but there's more! I also have many hobbies including needlework (crochet), sewing, and reading. My son's education is important, so we homeschool him together.

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