In small theatres, those of the store-front variety, actors do see the audience. It is the nature of working in cramped spaces. But as the theatre grows larger, the ability of the actor to see "who's out front" is severely restricted. However, during the rehearsal process, the "house" is visible and when working in a large venue it can be daunting.
At last night's rehearsal for The Little College on a Hill, I did take a photo from upstage aimed out at the seats. This is the space in which we are working, the University Theatre at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
This is the place where, 13 years ago, I performed for the first time. I started out spoiled, moving, for later plays, from this full proscenium stage with 450 seats out front to various community theatre venues ranging from 34 to 200 seats. And the picture only shows the "stage right" portion of the seating. The lighted areas at the top of the picture are in front of the control room. This is the space in which I will feel like I am living as we enter the final week of rehearsals leading to our opening on November 9.
It would be quite an experience if all those seats were filled at curtain time; that is not likely to happen for this production. In fact in all 5 productions I have done in this theatre, there was only 1 performance of 1 play during which the house was filled to capacity. And that was for a performance in November, 1994 of A Shayna Maidel. On that particular night, Director Sydell Weiner had the house sold out to an audience of holocaust survivors who came to see a play about the reunification of a Jewish family following World War II. It was my first play and one of the more emotional nights of my life.
But I wander. When I started writing this, I just wanted to show you what the actor sees when standing on the stage when the house is empty. Guess I got carried away a bit.