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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Discussion: THEATRE IN THE ROUND - why very little opportunity in Canada?

by Kevin Kibbey (special to The Charlebois Post)

A small Independent theatre company in Montreal regards ‘in the round’ theatre as the preferred method of staging plays whenever possible - even when there is a stage at the venue.

I was doing some research on 'theatre-in-the -round' because our latest play was written specifically for this form of theatre. 

At the last count there were 9 theatres-in-the-round in the UK, 50 or so in the USA,  and 1 in Canada : The Globe Theatre, Regina is a national centre of excellence in the production of theatre-in-the-round.  But it seems to be the ONLY purpose built example of this type of theatre in Canada.  

Theatre-in-the-round was common in ancient theatre, particularly that of Greece and Rome, but was not widely explored again until the latter half of the 20th century; it has continued as a creative alternative to the more common Proscenium format.  This style of theatre presents challenges, since actors of necessity have their backs to some members of the audience at certain times. However, it also allows for interesting and realistic staging.  The concept requires no stage curtain and little scenery. You can adapt any space to become theatre-in-the-round.

It offers the audience a closer intimacy with the stage than proscenium theatre.  Round is used in the geographical rather than the geometrical sense.  Our staging is usually a geometrical square with the front row of the audience no more that 3 feet away from the stage area. Given satisfactory acoustics, hearing the actor remains a constant technical discipline for the performers. Other shapes of theatre demand that the actor translate the natural 3-Dimensional structure of life to project events in one direction. Theatre in the round imitates life more literally. The actors can stand face to face and talk to each other.  But, of course, it presents actors with the problem of speaking distinctly when half his listeners are always behind him. The rewards for the actor are great, for the proximity of the whole audience does enable a wide range of vocal and physical subtelties to be effective. In addition the encirlcing audience creates a positive tension, which, like a magnetic field, seems to give a greater power to such subtelties. Properties, furniture colours and textures also have a stronger presence.

This contributor sees a dire need for an independent theatre venue to be purpose built in the centre of Montreal - a comfortable, enticing venue that can be utilised by all independent theatre companies - and the hope is that it would be purpose built for 'theatre-in-the round' - there is room in Canada for another 'centre-of excellence' in this form of theatre!

Kevin Kibbey is performing in Absurd Person Singular in January.

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