Glossary of Technical Theatre Terms


A flammable solvent used in some prop/costume-making processes. Used by make-up artists to remove skin adhesive from the netting of wigs and moustaches by immersing the item in an acetone bath, then removing the softened glue residue with a stiff brush. Also one of the primary components of some nail polish removers.

Redundant term, in use theatrically between approximately 1884 and 1960 in the UK, it originated on the railway system. The Baggage Master is part of a touring theatre company, and is responsible for all personal and company luggage, and has to check all luggage (including props, costumes, scenery etc.) is packed and ready when the show leaves for a new venue.

The upper part of a womans dress, close-fitting and covering the chest and back above the waist.

Treatment given to freshly painted or newly made props, scenery or costume, to make it look either aged, lived-in, or less "new". Ofter involves spattering with paint to add interest and texture to areas lacking it.
Breaking Down Props and Costumes

Form of Ancient Greek clothing.
Wikipedia entry

During the run of a show, costumes need to be regularly cleaned.
A show that uses modern costumes may require no specialised care, and cleaning could be part of the duties of an ASM, or on a larger show, a Costume Assistant, or Wardrobe Manager.
On a show with period costumes, or more delicate costumes, an 'inner shield' or 'costume shield' is sometimes used, which is an easily washable removable inner costume layer, which is worn between the actors underclothing and the main costume. The main costume, which may require dry cleaning, can be cleaned far less frequently.

The science behind the way colour works can help lighting, costume and set designers to make their work as vibrant (or dull) as the play requires. See the link below for information. 
Choosing and Using Colour

(Greek) Platform shoes worn by heroes of Greek theater to raise them above other characters.

First meeting between the actor and his/her costume. Enables wardrobe staff to ensure a correct fit, and to enable the actor to see if all necessary movement is possible.

(USA) Term for a store of theatre costumes, particularly where there are costume hire facilities.


Member of the costume team that supervises the construction of costumes that are made from patterns. She/he is also responsible for creating the patterns from the Costume Designers' sketches / designs. 

Rooms containing clothes rails and mirrors (often surrounded with lights) in which actors change into their costumes and apply make-up. Dressing Room doors have a list of the actors contained within.
See also GREEN ROOM.

Electro-luminescent Wire. Requires an alternating current power supply of between 90-120 volts, but this is usually generated by an oscillator circuit powered by a few AA batteries. The wire is very efficient and robust. The weak points tend to be the connections between the wire and the power supply, so ensure these are well-protected if the wire is being used in/on a prop or costume.

(Costume) An enclosed easily transportable costume rail with removable side which enables large shows to manage huge quantities of costumes, wigs etc easily.

Prior to 17th century actors dying on stage, a green baize cloth was laid down on the stage to save their costumes from needing cleaning. This was also a useful anticipation builder for the audience, especially if the cloth was laid during the interval halfway into the performance.
See also GREEN ROOM.

Radio Mic Pouch, from Canford Audio (UK) A small fabric pocket that can contain a radio microphone transmitter pack. The pocket is often made of a slightly elasticated material (e.g. lycra) in black, and is attached to an elastic belt, or has a belt loop built in, if it's to be worn on the outside of a pair of trousers under (e.g.) a jacket. 
Mic Pouches from Canford Audio, UK

Although the term literally "placing on stage" in French, the Mise en Scene refers to much more than the setting of a performance or event. The term describes all of the visual aspects of a setting - props, lighting, costume as well as set design, and how the details can contribute to the telling of the story.

Term used by costume designers. Describes a (simple) technique to carry out a quick costume change by simply adding a costume on top of an existing one. This layering technique depends on the costume being light-weight and/or the original costume not being too bulky. Once the result of the quick change has been seen by the audience, it may be necessary to remove the original costume or refit the new costume, especially if the actor is involved in choreography, to avoid overheating. 

A change of costume that needs to happen very quickly takes place close to the side of the stage. Costume designers need to know about the need for a quick change so that the costume is made incorporating elements such as velcro and zips rather than buttons. A quick change room is often erected at the side of the stage to enable changes to take place in privacy. Dressers may be available to help the actors with very quick changes. 

Area adjacent to the stage containing lighting, a mirror and a costume rail in which actors can make costume changes quickly, sometimes with the aid of a dresser.

Member of the wardrobe department who operates sewing machines and carries out other sewing tasks.

Silamide is a pre-waxed two-ply twisted nylon thread. It has a great texture and is strong and resiliant. It can be used for all beadweaving stitches including loom work and bead embroidery.
Sold on cards of 40 yards (approximately 36.5 m). (Definition from Robins Beads - see link below)

SKIP (Costume/Props)
A large wicker basket or box, often wheeled, which stores costumes and/or props for touring.

A clothing pattern based on exact measurements of a particular person. The sloper can be used with any existing pattern to ensure a perfect fit.

Stagecraft refers to any technical aspect of theatre production (and also sometimes refers to film / TV production). It includes working in technical areas such as lighting, sound, scenic construction, costume & prop construction, stage management and makeup. It usually does NOT refer to the creative / design aspects of those technical areas. 

Standard costume items which can be used in a number of different performances. Many theatres and theatre companies have a stock of costume items from past productions, which can be reused and adjusted / adapted for future shows. 
See Sustainability. 

1) To disassemble a stage set ("strike the set") (e.g. "How many crew do you need for the strike?") In amateur theatre, the strike at the end of a run of shows is sometimes followed by a strike party. 
2) To remove props from the stage. ("Strike the armchair after scene 1", "Make sure the mushroom prop is struck after the forest scene" etc.). 
3) The act of turning on a discharge lamp (e.g. "Make sure you strike the followspot at the half")

Gel Swatch Books - Rosco Supergel and Lee Filters A sample of fabric to demonstrate the material to use on a costume or set design, or a sample of lighting gel. A catalogue of all the gel colours made be a particular manufacturer is called a SWATCH BOOOK.

A technique used by costume designers to enable a quick change easily by layering costumes. Underdressing involves having another costume variation on underneath a previous costume. The costume change involves removing the top layer of clothing to reveal the new costume underneath. 

Small cutter designed for unpicking a sewn seam. Useful for undoing alterations to a costume following a production.

Trademark. The concept of hook and loop fasteners was invented in the late 1940s, and the company Velcro was founded in 1952 in Switzerland. 
Velcro website

The general name for the costume department, its staff and the accommodation they occupy.
German: Kleiderschrank

Actor-by-actor, scene-by-scene inventory of all the costumes in a production, with a detailed breakdown into every separate item in each costume.

IATSE Scheme in the USA where a touring theatre or dance company would send their local wardrobe crew requirements to the next venues on a tour, to ensure there were enough union staff available to run the show. 
The scheme was originally based on physical cards, but converted to an electronic system in 2013.
See also Yellow Card. 
White Card Forms on IATSE website