Appendix:Glossary of theatre

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This is a glossary of terms commonly used in theatre.

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Table of Contents: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A[edit]

ad lib 
Acting without having planned what to do or say. Often done to cover up for something having gone wrong or for forgotten lines. Also common in some forms of theatre such as pantomime. Also spelled adlibbing or ad-libbing.
against type 
Playing a different sort of character than expected. See typecasting.
am dram 
Amateur theatre; community theatre.
amateur theatre 
Community theatre.
antagonist 
A character that hinders the protagonist from achieving his or her goals.
anti-naturalism 
An acting style in which the audience is kept aware that they are watching a performance rather than reality. (See Brechtian Acting.)
apron 
The stage area in front of the proscenium arch.
aside 
A dramatic technique in which a line is said by one character to him or herself or to the audience. The line is unheard by the other characters onstage.
avenue staging 
The staging of a performance with the audience placed on two sides, as though the performance space is a street. Also called "alley" or "tennis-court" staging in regional variations.

B[edit]

beat 
The smallest division of action in a play. The length of time necessary for a character to play an "Objective" (also called "Intention" or "Goal") from beginning to end. Also a very short pause.
blocking 
An actor's movement around a set, or the notations regarding movement in an actor's script. Also for one actor to get between another actor and the audience (see mask).
"boards"
A slang term for the stage.
"break a leg"
A saying for actors before they go out on stage, meaning "good luck".
brechtian acting 
An acting style in which the actors purposely try to alienate the audience from the characters in order to constantly remind them they are watching a play, based on the theories of Bertolt Brecht

C[edit]

call times 
The times at which each individual actor is expected to be at the theater. Call times vary based on the amount of time required to make-up the actor and may be staggered among smaller roles to allow for sharing of dressing room space, and/or make up artists.
"cans
A slang term used for communication head-sets used during shows. The head set commonly uses one ear piece and a microphone. these are connected using XLRs in to a separate patch bay, normally next to the sound desk.
cast 
The actors in a play.
casting 
The process of choosing the actors for a play.
cat-walk 
A narrow, often elevated walkway, as on the sides of a bridge or in the flies above a theater stage
character actor 
An actor or actress who specializes in playing secondary roles. Character parts are not the romantic lead, but the additional funny, scary, or otherwise exaggerated roles.
cheating 
The practice of turning one's body towards the audience even while keeping the head facing one's scene partner. Cheating is usually necessary for the audience to really see the actors and view the scene.
cold reading 
A reading from a script or other text without any prior rehearsal, usually in the context of an audition or workshop.
community theatre 
A performance by amateurs (or unpaid actors) as opposed to professional (paid) theatre. Some community theatre groups actually have registration "fees" that must be paid before rehearsals begin. This is usually to cover the cost of rehearsal space if their sponsoring Theatre does not have space.
corpse 
To laugh when on stage, as the actor, not the character, would.
cover 
Another term for Understudy
covering 
To make up dialogue and or blocking due to a mistake or accident onstage without breaking character.
crossing 
To move from one point on the stage to another, especially to a diametrically opposed point.
cue-to-cue 
When the lighting or sound crew runs through each of its cues to check for errors. This is done without actors onstage.
curtain call 
When the actors come to the front of the stage to bow at the end of a performance.

D[edit]

death role 
A character who dies.
deck 
Stage area.
dialogue 
A reciprocal conversation between two or more persons; the speaking lines of a script.
digital multiplex 
A communications protocol used in stage lighting; may also refer specifically to DMX512 cable
director 
The person who directs a show. In most cases, the director has the final say on all aspects of the production.
distanciation 
In Brechtian performance, when actors maintain distance from their character by reminding the audience through often stylized gestures or behavior that they are simply people pretending, instead of trying to identify with their "character".
DMX 
Digital multiplex.
downstage 
Toward the front of the stage; in the direction of the audience.
dramatist 
The author of a play.
dramaturge 
A theatrical scholar. During production a dramaturge is responsible for historical accuracy, and conforming to the vision of the absent, or deceased, playwright.
dress 
Dress rehearsal.
dress circle 
In some theatres, a shallow gallery level above the main seating. In UK proscenium houses, it is a (sometimes large) balcony above the stalls.
dress rehearsal 
A practice of the play with all actors wearing full costumes. Generally, dress rehearsals also include full make-up and music (when applicable).
dry tech 
When the running crew practices each scene change without actors onstage. This is done to insure each scene change can be completed swiftly and quietly.

E[edit]

emotional memory 
In method acting, when an actor attempts to draw upon memories of prior emotions to match the emotions of their character.
exeunt 
(archaic) A stage direction calling for more than one person to exit, from the Latin exire, "to go out."
exeunt omnes 
(archaic) A stage direction meaning all the cast exit.
exit 
A stage direction which specifies which person goes off stage.

F[edit]

final call 
The half.
fit up 
The process of setting up the theatre for the show.
fourth wall 
An imaginary surface at the edge of the stage through which the audience watches a performance. If a character speaks directly to the audience or walks on/off the stage, this is known as breaking the fourth wall.
french scene 
A section of a play between any entrance or exit of any character
front of house 
Services including parking, concessions, ushering, and playbill distributing.
full house 
The state of all of the seats being filled; the stae of the entire audience section being filled to capacity.

G[edit]

gallery 
The highest section of the theatre; a section at the back or sides without seats where people can stand to watch a performance, usually raised.
get in 
Fit up; the process of setting up the theatre for the show.
ghost 
To be used as a singing voice for another actor. (See also, ghost-writer.)
ghost light 
A light left on the stage overnight and/or when the stage is not in use for safety. It also has superstitious meaning for the run of the play.
gods 
Gallery.
GOTE 
An acronym (Goal, Obstacle, Tactics and Expectation) used to remind actors of their most basic work in character development.

H[edit]

the half 
The time before a performance by which all actors must be present in the theatre – traditionally half an hour before curtain up.
ham 
A bad actor; usually one who overacts or hogs the spotlight. Can be used endearingly to describe rambunctious, but good actors.
house 
The theatre, the people in the theatre, the audience.

I[edit]

intention 
A single, temporary desire or goal that arises in a character within a scene. (Also called "Objective" and "Goal".)
intermission 
A break between acts (usually first and second, but some plays have three or more acts).
interval 
An intermission.
improvisation 
When an actor who is "in character" makes up action or dialog without prior scripting. (see Ad Libbing and Improvisational theatre.)
indicating 
Unrealistic acting. At its worst it is often associated with acting of the past in which realism was not ubiquitously prized and stereotyped gestures were used to "indicate" emotions rather than actually showing them.
issue 
To leave the stage.
to run Italians 
To speak one's lines very fast, either individually or as a cast; thought to assist in committing lines and cues to memory.

J[edit]

jumper cable 
An extension cable with a stagepin head.

L[edit]

leading lady 
The actress playing the largest role in the cast performed by a female (or originally intended for that purpose).
leading man 
The actor playing the largest role in the cast performed by a male (or originally intended for that purpose).
legs 
Masking curtains hung vertically and parallel to the sides of the proscenium. Legs define the sides of the performing area and hide offstage areas from the view of the audience.
LX 
Referring to the lighting department of the crew (lighting designer, head electrician, lighting operator etc).

M[edit]

manent 
Manet.
manet 
(archaic) A stage direction calling for a person (or more than one person) to remain on stage as others exit, corresponding to the Latin manent, meaning "they remain."
mask 
To block another actor, or something worn over the face, sometimes expressing emotion. (See Kabuki.)
masking 
Drapery or flats used to frame the stage, and stop the audience from seeing the backstage areas.
method acting 
Acting style in which the ideal of a "true"( or "real") moment or impulse is valued most highly; the actors try to feel the emotions of the character so that the actors' choices and the characters' would be as one---i.e. inevitable. Pioneered by Konstantin Stanislavski, currently taught most formally at The Actor's Studio in Manhattan. Of note, the American Method acting of the popular imagination was based on an early, incomplete experiment of Stanislavski's. Many if not most modern teachers have moved away from the original (Stanislavskian ) "method" as it is truly difficult to teach well, has been altered by many secondary and tertiary disciples in the '60s and '70s to suit personal agendas, and can produce seemingly uninteresting and almost "masturbatory" results in younger actors. Marlon Brando and Dustin Hoffman are perhaps the best examples of masterful methodists who use and discard various parts of many schools of thought to achieve success.
monologue 
An extended set of lines spoken by one person either directly addressing the audience (as in a soliloquy) or another character (a speech).
motivation 
A character's individual desires or goals which propel them into action ;the driving force of an inciting event that starts a story's progression.

O[edit]

objective 
A single, temporary desire or goal that arises in a character within a scene. (Also called "Intention".)
obstacle 
A force opposing a character's "objective" (or "intention") which gives rise to dramatic tension and conflict.
orchestra 
The seats on the lower part of the theatre.
orchestra pit 
where the musicians play, usually directly in front of the stage, often sunken below the seating sections.
omnes 
(archaic) In stage directions, all the cast.

P[edit]

packed house 
Full house.
parascenium 
in a Greek theatre, the wall on either side of the stage, reaching from the back wall to the orchestra.
part 
A character; the portion of the script intended for one character.
parterre 
The upper part of the main seating. Usually behind a cross aisle, and almost always steeper than the lower Orchestra.
preferred reading 
The interpretation of the script that is stressed by the author or the text itself.
promenade 
A performance of a play in which the actors and audience occupy the same space, with no distinction between acting area and audience area. The audience is given the freedom to explore the space together with the performance, and there is generally an element of audience interaction in the play.
prompt 
To tell an actor his next line when he has forgotten it. Also the person whose job it is to do this (also called the prompter). It used to mean the side of the stage where the prompter sat. The other side of the stage was called 'Opposite Prompt' or OP.
prop 
Property.
property 
An object used in the play, from the Middle English proppe, meaning a support, not originally related to property as in ownership; does not include scenery or costumes.
proscenium 
Proscenium arch.
proscenium arch 
The boundary between the stage and the audience in a conventional theatre; it appears to form an arch over the stage from the audience's point of view. In some cases, it does create an arch over the stage.
protagonist 
The main character; the hero or heroine.
pseudomonologue 
When only one half of a dialogue is portrayed, especially either just the questions or the answers, wherein the performer is not directly addressing the audience.

R[edit]

raked stage 
When the set inclines as it goes upstage. Often used in the past (especially in Shakespeare's time) to force the perspective of the stage picture.
read through 
A reading of the entire play or act without blocking.
rehearsal 
Practice of the play.
run 
Run through.
run through 
A practice of an entire play or act.

S[edit]

script 
The text of the dialogue and stage directions of a play; to write a play.
sense memory 
In method acting, when an actor attempts to recall memories of the physical sensations surrounding prior emotions in order to utilize emotional memory.
signs of character 
The various cues that convey a character's personality, emotion or motivation.
signs of performance 
An actor's movements, expressions and vocal tones and patterns that contribute to signs of character.
site specific 
A play which is created or specifically modified to use the character of the performance space to the greatest advantage. Site specific spaces are usually locations which are not normally used for showcasing theatre, but have another primary function (warehouse, mansion, abandoned military bunker, etc).
social actor 
People who portray themselves in a performance, usually previously known to the audience.
sold out 
When the number of tickets sold for a performance is equal to or greater than the number of available seats.
soliloquy 
A monologue spoken by a character to him or herself or the audience to reaveal his or her thoughts.
SRO 
See "Standing Room Only".
stalls 
Orchestra.
stage direction 
In the script of a play, any instruction for the actors, or setting, or character description.
stage left 
The side of the stage on the left when facing the audience.
stage right 
The side of the stage on the right when facing the audience.
standing ovation 
At the end of a performance, when the audience stands and claps, a higher form of praise than normal applause.
standing room 
A space where people can stand to watch a performance, especially if all the seats are filled. (See Gallery.) Most New York houses count standing room tickets in their house counts. The Lion King caused quite a stir when it didn't, and boasted more than 100 percent house counts for months.
standing room only 
Admittance to a performance after all of the seats are filled which requires people to stand to watch.
strike 
to remove a set piece or from the stage ("Strike that chair.") To "strike the show" is to disassemble the entirety of the set, return all equipment to storage and leave the venue as it was before the show was set up. May be used as a noun to refer to the event at which the show is struck.
stock character 
A archtypical or stereotyped character, usually originating in Roman comedy and finding its widest expression in Commedia dell'arte. Stock characters continue to be used, however, in one form or another and examples include the lover, crafty servant, the miser, the clown, etc.
super 
Supernumerary.
supernumerary 
Extra, walk-on part, most often speaks no words.
supporting cast 
Actors who are not playing major parts.

T[edit]

tabs 
The curtains separating the stage from the audience.
tech 
Techie.
tech 
Technical rehearsal.
techie 
A general slang term for a member of the technical crew of a show.
technical rehearsal 
A rehearsal primarily for the purpose of practicing the technical elements of a play, such as lights and sound.
theater 
Building where acting takes place (also a cinema)
theatre 
The world of this type of acting, or the world of acting in general; the art itself.
theatre in the round 
Any theatre where the audience is seated on every side of the stage. (See arena.)
thrust 
A stage that extends out into the audience, so that the audience is seated on three sides of it.
typecast 
When an actor becomes associated with only one type of role or character, often based on physical appearance.

U[edit]

understudy 
An actor familiar with another actor's role so that he or she can substitute in an emergency.
upstage 
Towards the back of the stage; the half of the stage that is farthest from the audience; to outshine another's performance, especially when the other has a larger part or is more well-known. (The third meaning derives from the simplest means of "upstaging" another actor: to walk "upstage" of an actor, thereby forcing the other actor to turn his or her back to the audience while the "upstage" actor can stand full front, facing the audience. For the origin of the former two meanings, see raked stage)

V[edit]

verisimilitude 
The trait of seeming truthful or appearing to be real, from the Latin veri similis, "like the truth."
viewpoints 
An directing technique championed by Anne Bogart. Originally it was a dance and movement technique extended to apply to the movement of actors and manipulation of a stage image by a director. It was also later extended as an acting technique.

W[edit]

walkdown 
Curtain call.
wardrobe 
Costumes, or the people responsible for them.
wardrobe mistress / master 
The person in charge of the costume department.
wings 
The "backstage" or parts of a stage off to the left and right not seen by the audience.

See also[edit]

ballet, Chinese opera, comedy, drama, epic theatre, farce, kabuki, melodrama, mime, musical theatre, opera, operetta, pantomime, paradigmatic structure, syntagmatic structure, suspension of disbelief, tragedy, tragicomedy, vaudeville