Thrust stage

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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

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[edit]


United States[edit]

Westminster Playhouse in Westminster California


Waldbühne Berlin



United Kingdom[edit]




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




  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.

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