The American stage floor is raised about 3 feet 9 inches above the front section of the auditorium floor, so as to fix the stage level just below the eyes of the people seated in the first rows. The newer types of theatres are built with straight narrow stage projections instead of old-fashioned stage aprons. The average depth of the stage is about equal to the width of its proscenium opening. The dressing rooms are usually arranged on both sides of the stage behind fireproof walls.
American stages usually have a storage space for properties, a separate workroom for the carpenter and electrician, and occasionally a room for the costumer. Many of the larger theatres include a scene dock for the storage of scenery that is not in use. In theatres where large spectacles are presented there are also extra lighting galleries for the installation of calcium lights. Besides doors for actors and employes a large scenery door four or five feet wide and as high as the underside of the fly gallery is installed to admit scenery carried on end. This large scene door is often made in two sections, the upper section overlapping the under one to prevent rain from beating in on the stage.
The front curtain in most American theatres is arranged to rise without rolling. The writer favors a front curtain that parts in the middle and loops upward on either side as it is being hoisted to those now in general use. When the ordinary curtain is being hoisted it shows the feet of the actors first, and is therefore inelegant and inartistic, unless the performance be a burlesque show. Aside from the regular front curtain there is provided for fire safety an asbestos curtain to cover the stage opening.
The section of the stage seen through the proscenium opening is called the stage proper, and is sub-divided into three divisions; the "center of the stage," the "prompt side," and the "opposite" or "O.P. side." The entire stage mechanism is operated from the "prompt side."
Each side of the stage for its full depth is figuratively divided into "entrances," the first of which is termed the "the first prompt entrance," on the prompt side, and "first O.P. entrance," on the opposite side. These appellations hold good for the entire height of the stage.
The section of the stage above the proscenium arch is termed "the flies," or fly loft. Here hang the borders, those in use being exposed, while the others are hauled out of sight by means of pulleys rigged in the loft, together with the other scenery not employed on the stage.
On both sides of this loft space are the fly galleries, which are equipped with apparatus for manipulating scenery and other devices. This fly gallery is usually constructed about forty feet in height so as to store properly all the hoisted scenery not in use, and its face should be from six to ten feet back from the sides of the proscenium opening to provide room for hanging drops or borders.
The gridiron is another feature of this loft space. It is an open-latticed platform consisting of slats set three or four inches apart, through which the hanging scenery may freely pass suspended on three sets of lines. If the drops be over forty-five feet in width four sets of lines are advisable The gridiron may be supported on steel girders or suspended from the roof trusses and should be strong enough to support men walking on it. Access to the fly galleries and gridiron should be by means of steel ladders or a fire-proof stairway placed in some out-of-the-way corner. A few new theatres in America operate the scenery from the stage level, without the use of the fly galleries, and thus obviate the necessity of men working in the super-heated atmosphere of the sky loft.