Space in Performance

Coordinator: Richard Roberts

Space is one of the elements available to be manipulated by the designer in the development of a design for performance. Performance space is defined by the theatre and this can be expanded and compressed, altered and changed through the use of scenic elements and devices - the set. This subject examines how space can be used as a dramaturgical tool in the creation of a performance.

Over twelve weeks students examine performance spaces from the ancient theatres of Greece and Rome to contemporary theatre spaces. They will look at the particular characteristics of purpose-built performance spaces, converted spaces and temporary performance structures and how they can be approached and manipulated by performance designers as part of the design of a performance - this includes the relationship between the performer and the spectator.

The major project for this subject involves the analysis of a given performance text and its pairing with an appropriate performance space. Students are given a list of three performance texts – Hekabe by Anne Carson, The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell and The Threepenny Opera by Bertholt Brecht and Kurt Weill - and also a list of three iconic Melbourne performance spaces – the Fairfax Studio within Arts Centre Melbourne, the Athenaeum Theatre and 45 Downstairs.
Students are then required to pair that text with one of the performance venues, acknowledging that their choice of venue will inform their interpretation of the text. The project involves the development of an approach to the text – an identification of the key themes or ideas in the text and which space might best serve the communication of those themes and ideas to an audience.
Students are then required to develop a design response to the text in the space – specifically looking at how the use of space might help in conveying clearly identified themes from the text. Plans, models, drawings, samples of materials and visual research images were all used to convey their response.

Image credit: Project 3 Space in Performance by Demeter Gerakios

Performance Design 2021_winter