Oregon daily emerald. (Eugene, Or.) 1920-2012, March 13, 1952, SPRING OPENING Edition, Page Twelve, Image 12

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Arena Theater in Villard Provides
Place for New Stage Techniques
By Gail Savage
I-nat spring with the production
of "Good-bye My Fancy” Univer
sity drama funs saw a type of the
ater new to the campus urena
The play, staged in room 104
Villard, represented a recognition
by the University drama depart
ment of the importance of the "in
the-round" production in the mod
ern theater.
Audience Circle
In the arena theater the audience
is seated in a circle surrounding
the stage, which is on the same
level. Persons sitting in the first
row are close enough to touch the
The idea of the arena theater is
supposed to be recapturing in spir
it. the primitve drama around the
The first drama productions in
Greece were in a circle, before
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buildings wore eroded for u the
ater. The theater gradually re
stricted the audience to one side
only. This Is In relatively recent
times 11,000 to 4,000 years ago,
according to Horace Robinson, di
rector of the University theater.
Number of Variations
There were a number of varia
tions of the same circular theater
in the medieval and renulasunce
theater. The circus dramas of the
18th and 19th centuries were an
example of these. The cercus dram
as played in a type of hippodrome
with audience surrounding the saw
dust stage.
The recent Impetus to the arena
theater started with Gilmore Brown
at the I’asadena Community the
ater. Brown used a small building
called the "Playbox,’' and gave
arena productions there a number
of times.
Washington Builds Arena
Glenn Hughes of the University
of Washington was familiar with
[ Brown's approach and had the
] Penthouse theater built with WPA
help about 1936. This is the first
and only building which has been
erected exclusively for arena type
To Hughes goes the main credit
for popularizing for amateurs and
professionals the now accepted
drama staging of the arena theater
! used throughout the United States.
' Most theaters now produce an
| arena theater show in their regular
I season.
tllll'TH I sill 11
Since the Penthouse theater wan
built a number of theaters have
been built for arena but none uti
I -,lzo it exclusively. The stage can bo
i shifted to various parts of the
I room with various sides to the
, audience.
The University of Oregon became
interested in the arena theater
from the University of Washing
ton's success and has produced
arena shows since 1938 or 15)39,
‘ some eight to ten arena plays.
Oregon’s Arena Shifted
Prior to the present location of
the arena theater the arena pro
ductions were held in various loca
tions on campus. Among these
were McArthur Court, the old YW
CA building and the AWS room on
th<- third floor of Gerlinger hall.
The present building was pro
posed in 1918 and there was an ef
fort to have included a large lobby
] to be utilized for arena produc
tions. This lobby was taken out of
the plans, however, because of ex
! cessive costs.
Villurd Room llfqUPMti'i!
When it was apparent the lobby
| would be impossible, the theater
j directors requested 101 Vi Hard, - <
! originally planned to be two class
rooms, made into one large room,
to be eventually equipped to serve
as an arena theater. Equipment
would be provided later by the Uni
versity. The arena theater is now
relatively finished. The first major
production, held in it last spring
was "Good-bye My Fancy’'. "Petti
coat Fever” and “The Second Man”
| were produced this season.
"We realize that this theater is
| not adequate because it can only
seat approximately 132 people and
therefore requires an extensive run
to accomodate the more than 1700
season ticket holders,'’ Robinson
One Production Annually
“It is felt that any university the
ater which fails to produce that
kind of training for its students
is failing to recognize one of the
most significant production styles
of the 20th century,” Robinson
continued. "Therefore we propose
to present at least one production
through each year so people can
have that training opportunity,”
Robinson continued.
As a playing style, actors enjoy
it as a contrast to conventional
staging, but most indicate they
I like the arena productions as well
I or better than picture frame stag
j ing, Robinson said.
The historian Sallust once wrote
I of ancient Rome’s island colony
I in the north: "The poor Britons,
! there is some good in them after
j all—they produce an oyster.” As *•
i early as 80 A.D., oysters were ex
I ported from the Thames estuary to