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Conference & Stage Expo
For the Record

What began as a joint endeavor between the Architecture Commission and the American Society of Theater Consultants (ASTC), has taken on a new format in recent years. The new charrette format will keep all of the fun and playfulness of charrettes of the past; however, they now will focus on fewer design elements.

This will allow a limited topic to be explored more fully in a budget-free, physics-free, multi-disciplinary, imaginative, and collaborative environment. The design solutions will then be analyzed and dissected for application into the built environment. The results of that study will be used to construct a formal review in a follow-up session at the next conference.

In Long Beach, the Architecture and Scene Design commissions joined forces to host Breaking the Proscenium: A Design Charrette. This explored the zone where the space of the play meets the space of the audience, typically delineated by the proscenium. Participants were encouraged to create new ways of thinking about how building designers attempt to draw the focus of the audience onto the stage and how stage designers attempt to push the performance out towards the audience.

The group was divided into teams, and each team was asked to create the "down-stage-center" of a performance space complete with the setting for act 1, scene 2 of Into the Woods, where Cinderella sits at the base of a tree she planted to mark her mother's grave. She wishes to go to the ball at the palace, and the Mother Tree magically produces a ball gown for her.

This scene, intentionally chosen for its exterior setting and magical effects, challenged the participants to consider a natural or exterior setting located inside a built environment, not necessarily within a building. As very few limitations were given, some of the teams located the setting of the play in an exterior built environment.

In Toronto, the Architecture Commission will conduct Breaking the Proscenium Part II: a Formal Review. The design sketches from the 2004 charrette will be displayed and used as a point from which the discussion will follow. With some slight modifications, some of those "crazy" ideas might just work!

In a separate session, the Architecture Commission will join forces with the Sound Design and Lighting Design commissions in Reflect the Ceiling Plan: A Design Charrette. This design charrette will explore lighting and sound equipment as installed in the audience chamber. Often the sound clusters and front-of-house lighting positions appear to be an afterthought instead of being integrated into the look of the space.

Are there ways to incorporate these needed elements into the design or decoration of the space? Are they available in any other color than black? Can speakers be hidden behind acoustically transparent materials? Can lighting positions be an extension of the interior themes of the room?

Come to Toronto with ideas and a creative spirit and be part of this exciting evolution.

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Charrette Format Continues Evolution

Greg Crouch
Architecture Vice-Commissioner for Programming

Photo: Participants discuss their options as part of the Architecture Commission's Design Charrette at the 2004 Annual Conference & Stage Expo in Long Beach, California. For 2005, the format of the exercise will change.