Focus-Screen and Stage

Today in class we agreed that there are less options in terms of directing/controlling focus on the stage than in the cinema.  I want to bring up the way lighting is used on stage.  Though it does convey emotional reaction with color and mood, etc., I primarily want to focus on how it’s used to direct our focus. 🙂

Though I do agree that there is a richer repertoire for controlling focus on the screen (deep/shallow, zooming), the stage does do this with:

  • the curtain
  • proscenium-the imaginary line between “reality” where the audience is and imaginary/fantasy where the performance is.  for practical purposes, it is the (imaginary)line on which the curtain open and closes
  • lighting (especially spot lights)
  • and of course blocking (down vs upstage)-the position/placement of actors

Do you think this is similar and that film can take it further and offers more simply because of the medium or am I off base here?


  1. yenning

    I like how you point out some characteristics which could be controlled/directed on stage. Your post makes me think of some films that have some shots are like the scene on stage. For me, when I sit in a theater, I always have the idea: “they are acting.” Although there are lots of methods which can do focus (ie, spot light) on stage, I still have difficulty being totally engaged in the play as I do in the cinema.

  2. Jungyoun Yim

    I like your thought to try compare between film and stage. After I read your post, I came up an thought about the boundary of reality. When I was enjoying a play or a musical, sometimes an actor got out of stage and came to audiences and acted in front of them or led them to participate a part of the performance. Although it was one of exceptional situations, sometimes it gave the audience fabulous experience, because it breaks the rule, it breaks frame, it breaks the boundary of reality. 😉

  3. jeffreybardzell

    Good point, Jungyoun. I think the notion of “boundary” is a very important one. I read an article about mixed reality and mobile phone games that talks a lot about boundary there as well: the boundary between the virtual world and the real. The nature of that boundary, and in particular how and where it is permeable, is absolutely crucial to interaction design in mixed reality. So your point about surprising boundary “violations” in live performances is a very good one.

    The notion of boundary also has ethical implications in similar ways that the framing of the shot does in film, because it similarly establishes relationships between the audience and the performers, giving audience members different levels of participation/voyeurship in the reality of the play or musical.

  4. laurabrunetti

    Jungyoun I totally agree with you. The boundary of reality (proscenium), though imaginary, is a powerful line and in theatre it is never an accident when it is crossed and action is brought out to the front of the stage or even in the audience. Like we discussed in one class about how every prop, every person, everything in a film shot is there because someone wanted it to be, in theatre crossing the boundary of reality is a very deliberate tactic often to draw the audience into the performance by blurring the line of imaginary and reality. Some examples I can think of that may be more well known are (with actors) the musical Starlite Express when the skaters skate around/above the audience, and (with props) in the Phantom of the Opera at the beginning when the chandelier falls from above the audience onto the stage.

    Another similar tactic is when an actor addresses the audience directly, like you said when an actor “led them [the audience] to participate a part of the performance.” In most theatre performances there are well defined audience (observer) and participant (performer) roles. When the audience is directly addressed in a show, again there is a deliberate attempt to blur that line between roles and reality/fantasy. A pretty well known example could be, perhaps, A Midsummer Night’s Dream when the play closes with Puck directly addressing the audience in a closing monologue.


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