Teaching Drama Technical Theatre

Performing Outdoors Part 1: Technical Considerations

Outdoor Theatre - Technical Considerations
Written by Kerry Hishon

Performing outdoors can be a lot of fun — Shakespeare in the park, anyone? But as with any theatrical undertaking, there are some things to consider before getting started with rehearsals. The following exercise gives students the opportunity to act as “location scouts” and discover the technical pros and cons of doing theatre outside in nature.

1. Introduction & Discussion

If you wish, you can start the lesson with a brief discussion of historical outdoor theatre.

2. Brainstorm

Brainstorm with your students some pros and cons to working outdoors. Some technical considerations may include:

  • Space for performers – How will you separate the playing space from the audience? Will you erect a stage? How far away should the audience be from the performers?
  • Space for the audience – Will the audience stand? Will you provide seating such as chairs or benches? Will audiences bring their own chairs or blankets?
  • Is there a place for a backstage area, a changing area, or storage for props and costumes?
  • Accessibility – How do performers and audience members get to the location? Is there parking available? Where are the nearest bathrooms? What is the terrain like (uneven ground, potholes, etc.)? Do you need a permit to use the space?
  • Sound concerns – Think about vehicle and foot traffic or ambient noise such as a nearby playground. Will the audience be able to hear the performers? Will you need microphones or will students just have to project?
  • Lighting concerns – What time of day is best to perform, before it gets too dark? Will you need to provide lighting? Where are the nearest plugs?
  • Weather concerns – What if it rains? What if it’s ridiculously hot?
  • Safety concerns – This will be discussed in an upcoming post, but will likely come up in your brainstorming.
3. Get outside

If you are in person, take your class outside and look at the space around your school. If your students are studying via distance learning, have them walk around their neighbourhood. Have students find a location that could potentially work as an outdoor performance space. If possible, have them take a photo of the location with their phone.

4. Analysis

Using the technical considerations discussed above, have students analyze the potential location. What are the pluses and minuses? What kind of show might work well for this location? Feel free to use the handout download for students to refer to when doing their analysis, including any additional thoughts from the brainstorm.

5. Submission

Have students type up their notes (maximum length: 1 page) and submit them to the teacher along with their photo. As well, have them respond to the following exit slip question: What do you think is the most important technical concern when considering an outdoor performance? Why?

Click here for a free printable reference sheet and evaluation rubric.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.

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About the author

Kerry Hishon

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. View her blog at www.kerryhishon.com.