Managing Space in Drama
Drama can occur absolutely anywhere
How much space?
If your drama work doesn't include a lot of movement, then any space will do, although the space needs to be adapted to fit the dramatic context or situation, so you might need to move chairs at least. A good starting point for any drama lesson at any age is either a circle or with the students grouped round a talk chair. Usually drama will involve movement, whether for dramatic role-play, acting, warm up activities, or exercises. At the least, you need an open uncluttered area for students to move around and find individual and groupwork spaces. Students need spaces where they can concentrate without distraction. If your drama work involves performance, you will need to consider the positioning of an audience, whether this is among the class itself or with an external audience. You may decide on a performance that is an intimate engagement between the artists and a few audience members, such as street theatre. For this type of performance, you may be able to set up anywhere, or have your students perform as wandering minstrels, with no specific area defined. For all other drama work, the space needs to be defined, not too large and if at all possible, not overlooked by passers-by. Drama tips for teachers contains additional suggestions for working within your chosen drama space.
Where do I find space?
In selecting your space for drama, simply take a walk around your school as a first step. Consider your own classroom, which can usually be quickly altered to serve some simple process drama work. If there are rooms in your school that are standing idle, then claim them. Don't restrict yourself to traditional performance spaces such as assembly halls, but if they are standing idle, then why not use them? As a last resort, consider sporting areas, ovals, basketball courts or lunchtime eating areas. Outdoor spaces are not ideal, though, as weather and external distractions can limit their useability. If these spaces are visible to others from outside the class, some students will certainly react to that and their work will suffer. Drama needs privacy as well as somewhere to perform. A community hall just around the corner from the school may also work well for you. Drama doesn't always need a lot of space, especially for smaller group events. For larger audience events, such as storytelling performances, you may be able to set up a Theatre in the round refers to when a performance space is surrounded by an audience on all sides. See Theatre Design: Stage types – theatre in the round by positioning seating (logs, forms, chairs) appropriately.
Using my own classroom
If you are using your own classroom, then it will probably need to be transformed quickly to provide you with some open area. Practising simple routines with your students to stack furniture around the walls, or out the door, can afford you enough space quite quickly, and the exercise of shifting furniture can energise the class.
Tailoring an area for drama
If you have a big classroom, or if you are able to find an area that can be dedicated to drama, give yourself and the students advantages by providing (or borrowing) the following basics:
a clear floor space, which can be carpet or polished wood, but preferably not concrete (the students need to sit and lie down)
the furniture should be restricted to stacking chairs for each student to have when necessary, as adults in formal role-play meetings, for example
a few moveable tables
if you are very lucky, a few rostra boxes that can be moved around and used to change levels.
If you can, consider the light and work towards being able to vary it, perhaps by blinds or curtains, and then possibly with simple stage lights. Try to ensure that the technology for using media and/or sound can be made available in your space.
Safety is always key. Make sure there are no protruding furnishings in your area and that any lifting is managed carefully. If the area is carpeted, then beware of carpet burns, especially with nylon carpeting.