Traverse staging, with its one central platform, presents challenges for the director, lighting, scenic and sound designers, but it can also present an exciting opportunity for productions to engage audiences in an unusual way. Audience members can feel more involved in the action with a traverse layout, and particularly scenes of confrontation can feel more "real."
Traverse staging is a stage layout, not unlike a fashion "catwalk." On a traverse stage, the audience is seated on two opposing long sides of a rectangular stage. Though many theaters have minor variations on this layout with other levels and stage areas, a true traverse stage has only one central platform.
Traverse staging presents some dramatic issues, not unlike those presented by "theater in the round." The first problem is the lack of "downstage." Audiences on either side have literally opposing views of an actor--which direction should he face when delivering his big monologue?
Because the actors will be seen from two sides, lighting with depth is a must. This means light the actors from at least three directions--from above and from two sides, preferably the audience sides. Not unlike theater in the round, using a light colored stage surface allows lights to be bounced off the floor, too.
It is obviously not possible to build a traditional set or backdrop for a traverse stage. This staging is frequently treated like a theater in the round. Scenery must be minimal, transparent or three-dimensional.
Sound reinforcement issues
The sound reinforcement issues of traverse staging are problematic, since any speakers that face one side of the audience also face the stage and are prone to feedback. Finding angles for adequate stereo mixing is almost impossible, and obviously there can be no division between a stage monitor mix and the audience mix. Many sound engineers choose not to mike traverse productions at all, since many of these theaters are small.
- Image courtesy of scenography.co.uk