- A form of staging that places the acting area in the centreof the theater with the audience on all sides. It provides an intimateatmosphere but creates technical problems with lighting, sound, andthe movements of actors. Although theater-in-the-round is often considereda modern development, this was the earliest way of staging drama,being used in open-air and street presentations. After centuries duringwhich the actors and the auditorium were separated by the prosceniumarch, some companies felt the need to be released from this confinement.In the 1930s the Soviet director Nikolai Okhlopov introduced theater-in-the-roundfor his experimental Realistic Theatre. In 1937 Britain's Robert Atkins,who ran the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park for over 30 years, presentedShakespeare in the round in the Ring, Blackfriars.
America's first permanent theater-in-the-round was the PenthouseTheatre on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, which openedin 1940. The off-Broadway circle-in-the-Square opened in1951 in Sheridan Square, and the Arena Stage in Washington,DC, opened in 1961. This form of staging became a familiar part ofUS university drama during the 1960s and 1970s, largely because ofthe scope it gave for free interaction between actors and audience.
British examples of permanent theaters-in-the-round includethe New Victoria Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme, the Stephen JosephTheatre in Scarborough, and Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre. Manyother venues have flexible staging. An innovative offshoot of theater-in-the-roundhas been the promenade production, in which the audienceremains standing and accompanies the actors from one acting area toanother.