Theatre Glossary

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Aerial work: Part of a performance in which actors are suspended above the ground.

Audio described performance: A performance where blind or partially-sighted members of the audience have the action described to them through headphones.

Auditorium: The whole theatre space including the stage and seating areas.

Back of house: The areas of the theatre only accessible to theatre personnel; i.e., the backstage area, dressing rooms, props store etc.

Balcony: The highest area of raised balcony seats; usually the seats furthest away from the stage.

Bar: The length of steel tubing used to suspend scenery, cloths and lights as part of the flying system.

Bay: Offstage area used primarily for storing scenery and props (also known as a 'scene dock').

Beginners: The call to stage for actors, performers, backstage staff, musicians etc to come to the stage ready to begin the performance.

Blacks: Black clothing worn by people moving scenery on stage during performances.

The call: Rehearsal times and show times i.e. what time you are 'called' to perform or rehearse. Origin: when actors were not in a theatre, perhaps at a local coffee house, a call boy was sent out to inform actors that they are required - they called out through the streets. Call boys were used inside the theatre before & during performance in the days before backstage paging systems.

Captioned performance: A performance that has subtitles for the benefit of deaf or hard of hearing audience members.

Circle: The first area of seats raised above the stage onto a balcony.

Colour change: Process of swapping the coloured gels that filter the light from the lamps - a blue light in The Merchant of Venice may be yellow in Twelfth Night.

Conterweight flying: 'Flying' or lifting scenery from the stage, using steel or lead weights to counterbalance the weight of the scenery.

Curtain call:??

Curtain up: The time that a performance starts (even in a theatre without any curtains!).

CYC/Cyclorama: Usually a large area of cloth used to form a backing to the set - can be made from a range of materials.

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Dark: A period in which no plays are being shown, however there might be other activity on stage eg Fit Up, Tech etc.

Designer: ??

Director: ???

The Dock: More usually the scene dock, an area to the rear or side of the stage where scenery and props are stored. Can also be the Get-in area.

Dress/ Dress Rehearsal: A run-through of the finished production in full costume. This would usually be the last rehearsal before the first performance in front of an audience.

Dropping the iron: Lowering the safety curtain, a steel framed fire resisting 'curtain' that separates the stage from the auditorium forming a fire seal.

Deputy Stage Manager (DSM): Definition to be supplied by a DSM...


Ensemble: Members of a theatre company, including actors, directors, stage managers and other creatives, who work together over a long period of time.

Fit-up: Means the erection, installation, focusing, commissioning and snagging of, but not limited to, scenery, props, lighting, sound and associated equipment for the purpose of presenting the productions.

Flat: A rectangular, two-dimensional piece of scenery of varying size, often textured and painted, used for side walls, for example.

Floor: The scenery that covers the stage surface - built in sections it should be easy to transport, out of steel and timber and fixed down with screws.

The Five (minute call): The call for actors to 10 minutes before curtain up (5 mins before their final call, 5 minutes before the show starts).

Flys: The area above the stage from which all 'flown' scenery is lifted. Inhabited by flymen, who work mainly on the fly floor, the system allows storage of large items of scenery above stage level

Flytower: ???

Focus plot: A record (drawing/picture) of where every light actually hits the stage, i.e. plotting where each light is focused.

A record that is created for each show describing where every individual light is pointing, what its purpose is and what conditions are required (scenery etc.) to re-create the focus should the light get moved or replaced. These records consist of digital photographs, drawings and written descriptions. These records are used on every changeover and they also help our team re-create the lighting design when the production moves to another theatre.

Folio: A sheet of paper folded in two to make four pages; or a large-format book made up of folio sheets bound together. The Folio, or The First Folio, was put together in 1623 by Hemings and Condell, Shakespeare's friends and contemporaries; the first time all the plays appeared together in one book.

Front of house (FOH): The public areas in the theatre that are not within the auditorium itself, for example; the bar, foyer, toilets etc. Front of house can also refer to theatre staff that work in these areas (ushers/box office/cloakroom).

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Gallery/Balcony: The highest area of raised balcony seats; usually the seats furthest away from the stage.

Get in: in general terms the means of access to the Venue but/and shall also mean the time, activity of the arrival of delivery vehicles, the unloading of same and the period of unloading into the Venue at which point the Fit-up may begin.

Get out: Means and includes where required by staff the dismantling and removal from the venue by staff, the loading (though not necessarily on the same day) onto vehicles after the final performance, of the scenery and costumes, effects, electrical and technical equipment, at any time on any day.

Grid: Platform suspended below the ceiling of the flytower, above the stage. It is a steel grid through which the flying system's wires, ropes and chains are run.

The Half (hour call): The call for actors to get ready 35 minutes before curtain up (30 mins before their final call, 5 minutes before the show starts).

House seats: Seats in the theatre kept in reserve from public sale, mostly during previews, for the creative team (director, designers, etc).

Hydraulics: System for activating large pieces of moving scenery, similar to the hydraulic ramps on tipper lorries.

Kill the workers: Request to the lighting team during technical rehearsals to turn off he working lights on stage.

Lighting bridges: Platforms, spanning the width of the stage, from which staff can access the lighting points for focusing. They can be raised or lowered on winches.

Line runs: A rehearsal where an acting company rehearse just the lines of the play, without any action. A company may do this after a break in performances, for example.

Model box: to be defined. Model boxLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec eu sapien at eros lobortis consectetur. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.

New work/ New writing: Literary to supply definition - opportunity to link to rel section on website

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Off the book?:

On stage/offstage: visible or not visible to the audience.

On the book: Rehearsals in which the actors have not yet completely memorized their lines, so may read some/all of them from the text.

Opposite prompt (OP): Stage right - the left hand side of the stage when looking at it from the auditorium. Traditionally the opposite side of the stage from the prompter.

Out front: In the auditorium.

Parterre: The back section of seats, and sometimes also the side sections, of the main floor of an auditorium.

Pneumatics: The use of compressed air to power anything, from tools to moving scenery.

Power flying: Using mechanical assistance to fly scenery. When individual items are too heavy for coutnerweight flying, electric chain hoists or hydraulic/electric winches can be used instead.

Press Night: A night where members of the Press are invited to come and review the show.

Preview: A reduced-price performance of a production before Press Night. During previews, the Director is able to make changes to the production if needs be; having seen it played out on the stage to an audience.

Promenade theatre: In promenade theatre there is no formal stage, both the audience and the actors are in the same space. Usually, the audience is encouraged to move around the performance space by the actors at certain points in the performance.

Prompt: ???

Prompt book:

Prompt corner: A place on the proscenium stage (normally stage left wing) where the Deputy Stage Manager sits. From this spot, they can communicate with and cue technical staff. If the prompt corner is in the stage right wing it is known as a 'Bastard Prompt'.

In theatres with a thrust stage houses, such as the RST, the cueing is done from a position FOH and the Stage Manager uses the traditional prompt corner position to run the stage and make calls to the dressing rooms, backstage areas and FOH for intervals etc.

Props: Items carried or used by actors in the course of the play (spectacles, a pen, a gravediggers spade etc). Origin: items were once stored and toured in wicker baskets (skips) labelled the PROPERTY of the MANAGEMENT - hence the properties or props. More links possible

Proscenium Arch: An auditorium in which the entire audience directly faces the stage, which is behind a large frame (the 'proscenium arch') from the Greek 'proscenia'.

Public understudy run: A performance, open to the public, where all understudies perform the parts of the leading actors.

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The Quarter (hour call): The call for actors 20 minutes before curtain up (15 mins before their final call, 5 minutes before the show starts).

Quarto: A sheet of paper folded four times to make eight pages and bounded together in a book. Many of Shakespeare's plays were printed individually in quarto form. Such editions are referred to as first and second quartos; meaning that they are the first and second editions of the plays.

Raked stage: The stage slopes upwards away from the audience.

Rear of house (ROH): The areas of the theatre only accessible to theatre personnel; for example the backstage area, dressing rooms, props store etc.

Repertoire: The list of plays that the company is performing in a season.

Repertory (Rep): The company performs several different plays in a season.

Scene dock: See 'Bay'.

The set: ???

Solus: ???

Stage door: a door at the back or side of a theatre, used by performers and theatre personnel, rather than public entrances or exits.

Stalls: The area of seats in an auditorium that are level with/ just below/ nearest to the stage.

Supernumerary/Super: 'Supers' are usually amateur actors employed in non-speaking parts to create authentic crowd scenes.

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The Tabs: The House curtain between stage and auditorium, often sumptuous velour and decorated. Origin ~ a tableaux curtain.

Tech/ Technical Rehearsal: There are several days of technical rehearsals before preview week. During 'Tech', the company moves the production from the rehearsal rooms to the stage. Technical elements (lighting, sound, effects etc) are added as the show is put together. Tech rehearsals usually end with the Dress Rehearsal.

Thrust stage: An auditorium in which the stage is surrounded by the audience on three sides - 'thrusting' into the audience.

Trap: Hatch or door in the floor of the stage, often hidden and used as a novel entrance or a dramatic exit.

Traverse stage: An auditorium in which the stage is set up like a catwalk with the audience sitting on two sides; facing each other.

Truck: Scenery with wheels to make it easier to move around the set.

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Understage: The area under the stage, often very busy with actors making entrances through traps and technicials operating machinery, amidst an array of wires, pipes, smoking machines and understage lighting

Understudy: A performer who learns the part of a leading actor. If the lead actor is unable to perform, the understudy will take their role.

Up stage/Down stage (left and right): The back of the stage is considered up stage. The front of the stage is down stage. Stage left and right refer to the actor's left and right facing the audience.

Verse speaking: Performing text that is written in verse i.e. has a pattern of stresses or rhyme, rather than prose, which does not have a regular pattern or structure and is more like natural speech.

Vomitoria (Voms): The walkways that extend from the front corners of the stage through the audience seating, from which actors' entrances and exits can be made to/from the front of the stage.

Winch: A drum that winds and unwinds wire rope with a pulling capacity of up to 1/4 of a ton.

Wings: The area immediately offstage, either side of the stage - actors ready to go onstage are described as 'waiting in the wings'.

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Teaching Shakespeare