Enhancing the Performance Space: Black Box Theatres

By: Dumisani Thomsen, Project Manager

DePaul University, Chicago IL, Black Box Theatre, Theatre School

Known for their flexibility and simple design, Black Box Theatres have been popular since the 1920’s. This type of unique space offers the ability to easily transform a scene through flexible staging and alternate lighting configurations. More importantly, a Black Box Theatre serves a greater purpose of connecting the audience to the performers in a purposeful and uninterrupted way. In its most basic description, a Black Box Theatre is a simple, open space consisting of four walls, a floor, and a ceiling that are all painted black. The use of staging and lighting in Black Box Theatres can range from extremely minimal to very elaborate, depending on the performance.

One of the main benefits of a Black Box Theatre is its versatility, but this can often leave theatre owners frustrated with many options to choose from.  More importantly, it is crucial for them to choose the right equipment that will both fit seamlessly into their performance space and also allow flexible movement and storage.

Staging Concepts manufactures staging equipment that is highly modular and flexible, which make many of our products the perfect solution for a Black Box Theatre. With just a limited amount of SC90 platforms, a theatre can create many different staging and seating riser configurations. Many Black Box Theatres choose to have a stage for actors to perform on, as well as a seating riser system for audience members to observe the performance. Because Black Box Theatres are highly customizable, many customers choose to have several different configurations for their space. Often times, customers will have a stage centered within their space, along with seating on all 4 sides, known as “theatre-in-the-round”. Others choose different configurations that complement the style of performance being showcased. Since certain configurations may not use all components at one time, rolling carts are often supplied. These carts are a convenient way to store and transport unused platforms, support legs and other components.

Merrill Community Arts Center, Woodbury MN Black Box Theatre

Staging Concepts offers a variety of finishes on all staging materials. For example, aluminum legs and outer aluminum extrusion frames can be mill finished, clear coated, anodized or powder coated in a variety of colors. Since a Black Box Theatre is usually black and the darkness of the space allows it to be highly adaptable and “pure”, many customers choose to go with black so as not to distract from a performance. Powder coating yields a rich, dark finish while anodizing yields a lighter, more durable finish. Lighting can also complement any of our products and allow the stage to work as a beautiful part of the background scene.

Platform decking material is also subject to choice. Staging Concepts typically recommends platforms for Black Box Theatres in polyvinyl, plyron and painted plywood with carpet and tongue and groove flooring also available. Polyvinyl, typically black, is a tough surface that is laminated to a plywood core, which makes it highly resistant to scratching. Plyron is tempered hardboard, painted black that is easy to repair. Painted plywood is a solid plywood material, painted black, and is also easy to repair.

Staging Concepts offers flexible staging systems that are available in a variety of materials and coatings to fit each and every Black Box Theatre’s needs. If you need a stage to blend in with the background and be invisible to the audience, but also serve as highly functional for performers, SC90 platforms in black finishes are the perfect choice. If you want the stage to stand out and be part of the performance, we can help you create the perfect configuration and stock of staging systems that are highly adaptable and long lasting. Because a Black Box Theatre space can be used in so many different ways, the design options focus heavily on practical and efficient options. Because of this, Staging Concepts is the perfect solution for any number of Black Box staging configurations and products. To learn more about how we can enhance your space, contact 763.533.2094 or email us today.