Stage (theater)

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View of the stage at the Royal Alexandra Theater, Toronto
Rehearsal stage in the Heidelberg Theater

The stage (also called the scene ) is the place where a performance - for example a concert or a theater performance - takes place. A phrase borrowed from a poem by Friedrich Schiller describes the stage as “boards that mean the world”.

Today's forms

In places of assembly with a stage house is the stage of backstage opening ( Portal ) lying space with performance area . The stage includes the front stage (in front of the portal), the main stage as well as the back and side stages including the respective upper and lower stages .

The simplest type of stage is a podium . Open-air theaters only host performances in the warm season. There were also summer theaters with a closed stage and open auditorium (like one half of Berlin's Victoria Theater ). In contrast to the traveling stages, these stages are stationary. Larger theaters also have so-called rehearsal stages that performers and singers use for their rehearsals within the house. The smallest stage is the room theater - apart from the stages in the puppet theater or the flea circus .

Today stadiums, sports halls or redesigned factory buildings are often used as large stages . Modern event technology can set up temporary stages for a wide variety of needs, such as festival stages for open-air events.

The term backstage is common for what happens behind the stage .



According to the legend handed down by Horace , the first venue for European theater was the Thespiskarren . The permanent theater structures of ancient Greece were also open-air theaters . The central playing area for the choir was designated with the word orchestra (ὀρχήστρα). A building called Skene (σκηνή) formed the rear end , often with a decorative house or temple front. The spectators sat on the arena in a (semi) circle in rising rows of seats in front of it.

The Roman amphitheater was completely round or oval, but was used for gladiatorial fights rather than artistic performances.

middle Ages

The late Middle Ages hardly had any fixed stages. Spiritual games were first performed in the church and later in front of it. When the cities took over the sponsorship of the medieval theater , marketplaces and other public places were used.


Since the Renaissance , the court theaters gradually developed from the ballrooms of the residences . With the princes, architects began to take an interest in theater. In the 14th century, the humanist Terenz stage tried to revive ancient traditions. The angle frame stage developed , which was designed in perspective.

Traveling actors played on wagon stages or set up show booths in well-frequented public places. One of the largest of these theaters was the Globe Theater in London , which opened in 1599 . The apron stage and the superstructures were used in the manner of a simultaneous stage. This type of stage is called the Shakespeare stage today .


The theater in the baroque age used staggered, mostly painted backdrops , which gave this so-called backdrops stage seemingly infinite depth. In addition, festoons as the upper limit and a stage prospect in the background, all also painted, were part of the set . At the front edge of the stage, called the ramp, spotlights were placed to illuminate the performers more brightly than the audience. Complicated stage machinery ensured numerous effects, such as recesses in the stage floor or lifting machines. The orchestra took place in front of the stage at opera performances, in place of the ancient orchestra , which is now called the parquet . The orchestra pit , which is common in the opera house and which keeps the musicians from the view of the audience, did not gain acceptance until the 19th century.

19th century

The baroque backdrop stage was followed by the peep-box stage , which, instead of the infinite depth, should give the impression of a closed space. This stage form, too, is mostly still divided into alleys like the backdrop stage, but the backdrops were increasingly sculpted, not just painted. In this context, an invisible “ fourth wallfacing the auditorium was postulated (see naturalism ). This made the transformations considerably more complex, which required a large number of stage technicians . The invention of the revolving stage made it possible to change decorations without any modifications. The theater lighting became brighter and more differentiated, gas lighting and electric light replaced the kerosene lights . - To this day, the peep box stage is the principle of most larger theaters.

The floor of the stage was to the 19th century still without fixed seating, also served to dance balls and was in circus buildings to ring redesigned. The auditorium was divided into tiers , galleries or balconies on several floors. Many theaters have two to four tiers. There are also boxes , which were primarily used for social representation and often offered a better view of the rest of the auditorium than of the stage. The ruler of a residence theater received the central box in the first rank, which guaranteed the best view of the stage and at the same time the best visibility for the rest of the audience.

Richard Wagner again realized an arena-shaped auditorium in the Bayreuth Festspielhaus without social gradations in the audience. After the Second World War, there was again a trend towards uniformly rising, shell-shaped auditoriums with fewer tiers and balconies.

20th century

In the early 20th century, this illusionistic stage form was considered obsolete by some directors and stage designers , and attempts began to include the auditorium in the scenic conception, which led to new stage forms such as the arena stage and room concepts (spatial stage ).

The performance art done away with conventional platforms, and numerous theatrical events, such as the street theater , find since the end of the 20th century in the public outside the stage instead.

Special stages

The Friedrichstadt-Palast in Berlin is the largest stage in the world . With a retractable and three-way interchangeable ring and 2854 m² of total playable area, it is the largest theater stage in the world and also has the widest stage portal in Europe at 24 meters.

Legal distinctions

In the past, the different stage sizes were divided into small, medium and full stages. These distinctions no longer apply today. They should also be mentioned here because such stages are still legally protected to this day.

  • A small stage is a maximum of 100 m². In addition, the ceiling behind the portal must not be higher than one meter above the stage opening. A small stage has no side or back stages. An additional front stage is permitted. You do not need an extra fire seal.
  • A central stage must not exceed the area of ​​150 m². However, it may also be max. 100 m² at the rear or side stages. The height of the ceiling or the height to the lower edge of the lacing floor may be a maximum of twice the height of the stage opening (portal height).
  • Everything that is larger than a small or medium stage or does not meet their requirements is a full stage or large stage.

Today is only between large stages and performance areas distinguished.

A large stage has a floor area of ​​over 200 m² without a front stage. Or it has an understage. Or there is an upper stage the height of which above the stage opening ( proscenium opening ) is more than 2.5 m.

Everything else is considered a scene area. Whereby scene areas in assembly rooms have less legal requirements than large stages.


Web links

Wiktionary: Theater stage  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Practical Guide for Venues Regulations, HH Starke, H. Scherer & CA Buschhoff: 2nd, revised edition, xEMP 2007, ISBN 3-938862-14-9