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Converting Room to Black Box/Studio

  • 1.  Converting Room to Black Box/Studio

    Posted 15 days ago
    Hi, all! I am hoping to convert my small theatre classroom space into a black box/studio space over this school year. While I have some ideas on how to convert the space, I'm curios to hear from anyone that's done such a conversion and to get suggestions on the installations and equipment I should be looking at. Some specifics about the space:

    -The room measures approximately 30 ft. x 24 ft.
    -The ceilings of the room are approximately 9 ft. high (and are normal school drop ceilings)
    -All furniture in the room can be moved out of the space
    -The floor is classic floor tiles
    -My hope, like I said, is to make it into a studio workspace and a 25-45 seat black box, depending on arrangement

    I'd love to hear suggestions on:

    Final considerations:
    -I don't have a strict budget for this conversion, yet. I am right now sort of dreaming up two versions: one that I could put about $2,500 into and one that I could put about $5,000 into.

    Thank you all so much for any help you can provide!

    Drew Whitley
    D. W. Daniel High School
    Central, SC

  • 2.  RE: Converting Room to Black Box/Studio

    Posted 14 days ago
    Hi Drew,
    My name is Jessica Ley and I represent Staging Concepts. What you're looking for seems right up our alley - we work with converting black box spaces all the time and finding the best ways to maximize the space. I'd love to connect you with the sales representative for your area. Please feel free to reach out to me at and I'll be happy to assist. Thank you! Jessica

    Cindy Ley
    Minneapolis MN

  • 3.  RE: Converting Room to Black Box/Studio

    Posted 14 days ago
    Hi Drew!

    i know that my predecessor got a grant maybe it was 'Pop-up Theater"? I don't have info but perhaps you can sleuth out.

    Good Luck!

    Theater Teacher
    South Bronx Academy for Applied Media

    Gabrielle Gold
    South Bronx Academy for Applied Media

  • 4.  RE: Converting Room to Black Box/Studio

    Posted 14 days ago
    Hey Drew,

    Congratulations. I'd be interested to see what is between the drop and the actual ceiling. We had a similar projects and removed the drop ceiling and painted everything place. This included the walls. We then put a masonite flooring down, also painted it black. For sound, the space is small enough that you can use those small indoor/outdoor speakers. We bought four polk audio Atrium 8 SDI @ $200 a pair. Great sound. You would need a small receiver that you could plug a laptop in to. ​Lighting is the toughest because of the height. You could go with some slim par pro LEDs and some of the Elation Fuze Par Z120. They are RGB and have barn doors.

    Hope this helps.

    Crit Fisher
    Lighting/Sound Designer
    New Albany High School

  • 5.  RE: Converting Room to Black Box/Studio

    Posted 14 days ago

    Consider hanging a 360 degree track from which to suspend black legs or a small cyc. 

    you're going to need either platforms for a somewhat raised stage or risers for the audience lest you suffer significant sightline problems. The more flexible the better of course. 

    you will also need a raised area (howeverTemporary) for your lighting and sound folks to see what they're doing.

    Take advantage of the offer for a vendor to advise you even if your budget is too small for what they do. Good suggestions here from others on sound and lighting. 

    Make sure you're not violating any fire code regs if you want to remove the ceiling tiles, which may indeed give you a bunch more height. 

    Douglas "Chip" Rome
    Theatre Consultant
    Educational Stages
    Burke VA

  • 6.  RE: Converting Room to Black Box/Studio

    Posted 13 days ago
    I am with a company that does this type of work, 1) I am not going to use this forum to sell anything to you, in my opinion this forum is a place for ideas to help you decide what you would like to do.

    You have options.........

    1) Check with the school districts facilities to determine what changes you can make to the room, some districts will not let you remove ceilings, paint walls with non district approved colors or potentially interfere with egress or visual egress.
    2) In this setting where you have a classroom and a box space, i typically recommend portable as much as possible, light trees with LED fixtures, pipe and drape curtaining.
    3) Identify all of your power in the room with the school electricians, you would want to make sure that power is sufficient for the lights sound and any other items you are using. Do not forget LED fixtures can trip breakers if too many are on a circuit(due to what is called inrush...extra power when the fixture powers up)

    If you decide on portable the advantage is it can move to other spaces or be used for productions on your large space or cafeteria.  I wish you luck and am glad you have the ability to do this, it will be great for the students.

    Jerry Onik
    V.P. Theatrical Supplies and Equipment
    Omaha NE

  • 7.  RE: Converting Room to Black Box/Studio

    Posted 12 days ago
    I think you have received a lot of good advice so far, and would simply encourage you to pursue portable things that can be used for other purposes as well.  Drapery stands, lighting trees, a simple portable sound system, booked flats, a self standing door unit, rehearsal boxes, a projection screen.  I think one can get a lot of creative mileage out of those portable materials-- they can be used in the classroom for classroom performances, and then those same materials can be used to augment stage and auditorium performances-- maybe even lobby, outdoor or other devised performances in alternate spaces-- making films, even-- a set of portable blacks is great for that purpose.  A set of LED lights and umbrellas that are generally used for photography and film, can be very useful in a small space for live performance and then can serve a dual purpose as you move to key and fill lighting concepts and demonstrations.

    I would actually avoid making alterations to the space and simply advocate for a portable or "pop up" theater approach as others have mentioned.

    If you decided down the road with your school leadership's help to purse changes to the space, it is very important to involve your district leadership and maintenance personnel in those decisions and designs.  Reaching out to a theater consultant can also be very helpful even in the early stages as they can help to guide you through use and occupancy rates, use purposes, and standards for egress and max occupancy.

    Hope all of that helps

    Michael Johnson
    Trinity NC

  • 8.  RE: Converting Room to Black Box/Studio

    Posted 5 days ago
    Hi Drew. Years ago, I did the same thing. I would suggest, if you have the budget, to lay in a wood floor - one that you can paint black as well. Because you want the BB to be versatile in its orientation, hanging pipes if you can so that depending on whether you are proscenium, thrust or arena you can move draperies as needed - and a pipe grid - or truss to hang lights on.
    We also invested in a cyc and scrim. A basic LED lighting package works for us. We only use playback in sound but it is helpful to have speakers for SFX.
    The other issue for us was a booth - originally we had a small area in the corner with a counter and stool - but again, the flexibility of the playing space is what makes a BB so fun - so you will have to give that some thought. We ended up breaking through the wall into a closet and creating an actual booth with a window which has been great.
    Good luck!

    Amy Luskey Barth
    Talon Theatre Artistic Director
    Director, Thespian Troupe 5524
    Santa Margarita Catholic High School