What is Black Box?

A black box is a bare room with a movable seating area, a movable stage, and a flexible lighting system. The name “black box” comes from the fact that the room is typically, but not always, painted black which gives the appearance of "anyplace." This way, it’s easier to make the audience feel like they’re actually in the location, which is helpful when the shows are so intimate in nature. This intimate feeling appeals to many actors doing monologues and solo shows, because it allows them to connect with the audience on a deeper level. Black is also a neutral color which means it won't clash with costumes, sets, and lighting. 

There are 5 basic staging designs for a play: with the audience on one side, two sides, three sides, four sides (called theatre in the round), or environmental staging, in which the audience and actors intermingle. Black box theatre opens the opportunity to have any one of those configurations! The ability for the stage & seating area to be rearranged enables the director to create unique, intimate spaces for the actors & audience to share. 

The Alvina Krause Studio at Northwestern University

The Soho Repertory Theatre (Also known as "Soho Rep")

This black box theater is dedicated to the late Alvina Krause (right), the legendary Northwestern University acting and interpretation teacher whose methods remain the basis of their acting curriculum. The Alvina Krause studio and an endowment in her name to support productions there were made possible by gifts in her honor, including gifts from various Krause students. Krause will forever be honored by this performance space at Northwestern.

The Soho Rep is a 65-seat space located in the Tribeca district of Manhattan. This non-profit theater company was founded in 1975 by Jerry Engelbach and Marlene Swartz in an old hat warehouse. They were excited to produce both rarely seen classic plays, and works by Aristophanes & Shakespeare. The founders said they wanted the theater to be “light and informal. We want the audience to feel the space itself is comfortable and interesting and to do productions in a way which prove to be the most theatrical and immediate for them.”

“Black box is the purest form of theater. What takes place inside is still supported by light, sound, costumes, props, and great writing and acting, but everything has been distilled down to its purest form.”

-Harry Lipstein, founder and producing artistic director at DENIZEN

Looking to see a black box theatre show in the Hudson Valley? DENIZEN Theatre in New Paltz, NY is a non-profit, arts organization producing live, professional black box theatre for members of the community. Our flexible, 70 seat, black box theatre allows audiences to experience compelling, actor-driven, live theatre with a season of plays that focuses on new works, emerging playwrights, and powerful themes. Find out more about our current show here!

References

Lobdell, Emily Hiser. Day, Kingsley (ed.). "Annual Report 2009" (PDF). Northwestern University School of Communication. p. 24.

SohoRep.org Official website

TDF Theatre Dictionary » Black Box