Black Box Entertainment


Theatres are fun to design.  The stage builds confidence.   Stage size or location doesn’t matter, there is a built up excitement about rising higher than the crowd.  Once the crowd is quiet and all the eyes are on the performer, there is a switch from reality to fantasy.  I recently attended a recital for my ballet dancing daughters.  The experience of being on stage is so different than practicing the routine in your home knocking into kitty condos and couches.  The stage is a place to spread out and give others space to shine.  The little tiny kids always seemed to ball up on the right hand of the stage to do their routine.

  The theatre above is a theatre Serbin Studio designed for the City of Phoenix.  This design was completed well before the Center for the Arts building addition was completed last year.   The theatre design inspired future programs and activity at the Center for the Arts.


The photo above is the current North Building on 3rd Street and Moreland in Phoenix, Arizona.  The original building was built in 1965 as a Baptist church.  All the baptism, seating and walls were demolished during the asbestos abatement.  The structure inside doesn’t support having a fly for the stage so we naturally went with a pipe grid system for the design of a proscenium end stage black box theatre.



Black box theatre is the DIY of theatres.  It is like learning to drive on a stick shift as opposed to having an automatic for the your first car.  For instance, black box is void of fancy computerized stage lighting.  You simply cannot flip a switch to have a light rotate to change a spot light on a performer.


Check out the building cross section above…see the stage?  It is too small huh.  You want me to zoom in. I knew it.  Ok go cut out a box tops or something….


So I pulled up the AutoCAD drawing.  Here it is.  It was really a cool project!  See the pipe grid above the dancer on the stage?  I love the dancer, that was from our theatre consultant Westlake Reed Leskosky.  Her head is so tiny!   If you wanted to change the light above the dancer in a black blox you would have to do this:  See the cat walk to the right with that red arc thing *acoustic panel*?  A person would have to be perched up there during the performance and hand manipulate the spot light on the performers.  There is also lighting above the performer on a black pipe grid with lights attached.  Pipe grid lighting have to be changed with a Genie lift, long poles or ladders.  We designed a metal truss that frames the stage opening that has lights as well.  You really want lights to project on the performers and not know where the light source is coming from.


Lara Serbin

Lara Serbin is the founder of Serbin Studio. She has had continuous involvement in the design and construction industry since 1995, and worked in all phases of project management, programming, design, and construction administration. Lara has particular interest in conceptual design with respect to cost efficiency and energy conservation.

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