This stage is the traditional stage, where the audience is seated in one large block facing the stage, with a definite division between the audience and the stage. This division is usually in the form of an arch or a frame, called the proscenium arch.
This stage is the most common, and most of the worlds scripts were designed with this kind of staging in mind. It also allows much more realism and special effects, as the audience only watches from one side, so tricks can be concealed and props/scenery/actors can be positioned, ready for action, only just out of the audiences view.
A curtain at the back allows actors to run from one side of the stage to the other without being seen, while elements of the play can easily be brought into view or taken out from above, below, or the sides.
The proscenium theatre is the most expensive to build and maintain.
Because of the high production costs, plays for the proscenium stage are often written for small casts and minimal scenery. Also, the proscenium stage is not flexible; it cannot provide intimate contact with the audience, or give a different stage orientation.
An arena stage is an open stage where the audience surrounds the stage, similar to the Colosseum. The stage may be any shape and provides access for actors and audience alike with aisles through the seating. Some stages have tunnels instead of aisles, to hide actors as they move towards and away from the stage.
The arena stage is best for amateur groups with low funding, as it is a cheap stage to produce, the focus is solely on the actors, scenery costs are reduced to a minimum, and the audience, being close to the stage, can easily hear the actors voices.
A stage surrounded by the audience means that no matter which direction an actor is facing, he/she is always giving his/her back to part of the audience. Also, large productions that require realistic scenery, concealment tricks or special effects are impossible to run on such a stage. The simplicity of the stage, which is intentional, means that plays cannot look as realistic as on another stage, as less scenery and special effects can be used.
In a thrust stage, the stage itself projects into the audience, so the audience are seated on 3 sides of the stage, similar to a catwalk design.
The two main advantages of a thrust stage are intimacy and lower cost. More audience members can be closer to the stage and viewing the action from three sides emphasises the three dimensional aspect of the scene. The audience has a sense of being in the same room as the actors and since audience members are seated facing each other, there is a greater sense of community and shared experience. Costs can also be lowered; as less scenery changing is required (scenery is only changed for the backstage, which does not require lots of movement devices).
Spectacular effects and large scenery changes in productions such as musicals are not easy to do in this kind of open stage. The thrust stage is not suited to large-scale productions, as large props and scenery cannot be easily moved around, and vertical scenery must be avoided, as it can block audience sightlines.
The traverse stage is a long stage, similar to a corridor, where audience are seated on opposite sides of the stage, which divides the audience seating in half. The stage is like a road that runs through the viewers, giving them a wide view of the scene. When designing for this stage, more thought must be put in as to how actors use their space, as movement in the second dimension is limited.
The audience can clearly and easily see everything that is going on, there are 2 clear entry points and only one stretch of stage in between, making it easy to view the performance.
Movement is heavily restricted, and if an actor is facing one part of the audience, their back will be to the other. Placing scenery and large props is difficult, as it is important not to block or interfere with the sightlines of the audience, and sightlines from two opposite sides is hard to design for.
Open stages include the thrust stage, the arena stage and the black box stage (a type of extremely flexible staging where the audience and elements of the stage can be moved to any form).The open stage is named after the fact that there is no clear division between the stage and the audience both are architecturally in the same room.
Obviously no arch/frame gives much more intimacy between the audience and actors, and the viewers can be closer to the action. Viewers can fully appreciate the play and be in the same room with the actors, giving them more of a sense of being part of the scene.
Since the area is open, rather than the audience viewing the play through one view port, more consideration of the different audience views must be taken into account when designing and performing the play. Many stage tricks, special effects and scenery changes are much more difficult because the audience has a more three-dimensional view, and there are not as many mechanisms for movement of actors and props.