The Proscenium Arch

The proscenium arch is like a window to the stage! It is a window that separates the audience from the stage and it is a central element in an established form of theater design.

The theater is entertainment! Yes the theater is entertainment! The theater is about viewing the stage. In the old Victorian theaters, seating rose almost literally and symbolically to ‘the gods. This was where the highest seats were…but these seats were away from the plushness, glamor and style below. Yes the gods, they offered a view but it was one view.

You could say the proscenium arch was the window for this view. It was a ‘real and true’ window. However, maybe the real window was the great central space of the theater which rose to the lights, sometimes great chandeliers above….

Sometimes as you look through the proscenium arch, you can see the great stage below…and sometimes it is at the back of this stage that the orchestra plays.. the orchestra plays behind the stage rather than in front of the stage in the ‘pit’. And here then the stage is another world..

The proscenium arch and its curtains and all..and the lighting around.. these can create the illusion of space. You could argue that the proscenium arch restrains and hinders ‘space’. The audience is ‘cramped in’ as they wait for the rise of the curtains. But why would they be cramped in? There is space for everyone! Maybe the proscenium arch does the opposite. Instead of ‘restraining’ space, it rather creates space.

Space is important in theater..and in the victorian theaters..seating rises to the ‘gods’. It’s as if there is a lack of seating and the only way is up! But is this really the reason? Maybe the reason is to view the stage or maybe it is ..something to do with the real and true purpose of the theater, which is entertainment. Yes, entertaining not just the so-called high-brow but the low-brow also…the high brow, the low brow..and the middle brow of course. Yes, the reason is entertainment and theater, it’s just offers the human being the chance to be a spectator, any chance…and ‘the gods’ and the ‘circles’ can give that chance. And ‘the gods’, although they are cheap and high’ are sometimes the best places to see the entertainment.

But what does the proscenium hide? It hides the stage behind and when the curtain rises,the stage opens out into a wide space. Sometimes it’s not just a picture that the audience sees… is not just a picture they see but a whole world. And in this way, you can say that the proscenium arch hides and then uncovers a world rather than a stage or a picture and people want to see new worlds! So the proscenium arch is the great window which ‘offers’ this world. It is the ‘book cover’, the great outer design aiming to uncover the great inner design behind.