A change of either scenery, lighting, costume, props or other technical elements between acts of a play or musical. Theatres with little backstage space may have to reconfigure scenery stored offstage during the interval so that the next act runs smoothly.
Victorian stretched framed and painted canvas. Used as a visual stimulation during scene changes, and to indicate that there was more to come (the end being indicated by the HOUSE TABS). There are believed to be only two operational today - an original one at Gaiety Theatre, Isle Of Man, and a 1996 reproduction at Her Majesty's Theatre, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.
Term now used to refer to any front cloth or tabs lowered during intervals. Especially pantomime / musicals.
In ballet, the act drop permitted pre-interval curtain calls to take place.
Her Majesty's Theatre
A type of deep penetrating natural dye originally made from coal tar. Water-based or alcohol-based dyes are available. As the product will stain anything it comes into contact with, protective gloves and eye protection should be used.
US equivalent of CRADLE in a counterweight flying system.
Short for Articulated Lorry. Lorries of 40 feet length (or more) are used to transport sets, costume, props and sound & lighting equipment from venue to venue. A number of companies specialise in moving theatrical and musical tours around the country / world.
Industry-standard CAD program for architects and designers. WYSIWYG contains a cut-down version of Autocad, along with visualisation tools.
1) Facility available on larger sound mixing desks allowing channel muting or even fader moves to be taken under the control of a computer to ensure accurate and repeatable mixing.
2) Describes the method used instead of stage crew for moving bits of set around shows with a big budget. See MOUSE, SPADE.
AVISTA / A VISTA
A change of setting / scenery unhidden from the audience. This technique is increasingly popular due to modern advances in scenic automation, where entire set changes can be accomplished in seconds.
(plural AXES). An individually controllable moving element controlled by a scenic automation or powered flying system. For example, a system controlling three flying pieces will have three axes of automation.
Hinge frequently used in Scenic Construction.
1) Scenic piece which goes behind an opening in the set (window etc.) to hide the technical areas beyond. Also known as a Backing Flat
2) The money invested in a commercial production (by a Backer).
A wheeled platform on stage.
Originally, a large wagon that carried the circus band in a circus procession. The term was first popularised by P.T. Barnum. Parade viewers paid a lot of attention to the band wagon, so politicians started to use a band wagon on the campaign trail. The phrase 'to jump on the bandwagon' came to mean anyone who takes advantage of a popular trend to further their own agenda.
(US) Horizontal rail along which a curtain runs (also known as a BANJO TRACK).
1) Timber at the top and bottom of a cloth. A Sandwich batten is used to carry a hanging cloth. It comprises two flat pieces of timber screwed together with the edge of the cloth between them.
2) Timber used for joining flats together for flying.
3) Compartmentalised floodlights set up to allow colour mixing. See also GROUNDROW. Low voltage battens are commonly used as light curtains & for colour washes. Known in the US as a STRIPLIGHT or BORDER LIGHT.
4) US term interchangable with PIPE for a flying bar.
A pulley on a short length of rope used to divert the pull of a working rope, or to suspend a single item in storage.
Frame in which one or more pulley wheels (sheaves) are mounted.
TO BE DEFINED.
A small seat or cradle rigged on a rope over a pulley whereby a technician may be hoisted to work at an otherwise inaccessible position.
Two flats hinged together on the vertical edge, to be free standing, and normally used as a backing for a doorway or window. They should always be 'run' with the hinged edge leading, to prevent them opening up. Book flats are free-standing when angled open, allowing quick setting and compact storage. Booking describes the action of opening or closing a book flat.
A narrow horizontal masking piece (flattage or cloth), normally of neutral colour (black) to mask the lighting rig and flown scenery from the audience, and to provide an upper limit to the scene. Often used in conjunction with LEGS.
Metal plate fixed to the stage floor into which a bolt can be screwed for fixing scenery.
(Also Bottle Strainer, Barrel Strainer) Threaded device which is used to tension a wire, or to provide an adjustable link in a cable, to fine-tune the height of flown scenery. (Known in the USA as a Turnbuckle)
Naturalistic setting of a complete room built from flats with only the side nearest the audience (the fourth wall) missing.
1) Angled strengthening timber within a flat.
2) (UK) Support for scenery (flattage) on stage
2a.) Extendible, hooking into a screw eye on the flat and being weighted to the floor (commonly known as a 'Stage Brace')
2b). French Brace, right-angled non adjustable triangular frame, made from timber, and attached to the flat with pin hinges. Known in the USA as a Jack. Often swung flush to the flat for storage or flying.
See also Jack (US for Brace).
Slotted cast iron weight placed on foot of extendible or French brace to prevent movement. Often referred to as a 'Stage Weight'
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.
An elevator which raises and lowers sections of the stage floor, usually by electrical or hydraulic means.
1) During lighting plotting, to construct a state from blackout, or to add to an existing state.
2) An increase in light or sound level. See CHECK.
3) A period of set construction ('The Build').
Style of Japanese puppetry where the puppet operator carries the puppet onstage and is visible throughout the performance. The puppeteers are highly skilled and respected in Japan, and provide the voice as well as the movements for the incredibly detailed puppets.
A U-shaped clip and saddle used for terminating wire rope. Also known as a Bulldog, Dog Grip or Wire Rope Clip.
Computer-Aided Design. Using a computer to help with 2D plans and drawings, or increasingly for 3D visualisation of how a set will look, and how lighting will affect it. See also WYSIWYG.
The wheels on a TRUCK or underneath a REVOLVE.
Imaginary line running down the stage through the exact centre of the proscenium opening. Marked as CL on stage plans. Normally marked on the stage floor and used as a reference when marking out or assembling a set. A chalked snap line can be used to mark the line in the rehearsal room and on stage.
Known in the US as CENTER LINE.
House Centre / House Center is the centre line of the auditorium (which is usually the same as that of the stage).
See also SETTING LINE.
Manually operated or electrically driven hoist for lifting scenery and lighting equipment. The chain hoists are rigged to fixed points in the venue. Commonly used to lift lighting truss into position for touring shows or concerts.
Fabric pocket along the width of the bottom of a cloth or tab holding a chain which weighs the bottom of the cloth down.
(n.) In Lighting or Scenic design (and the Art world), Chiaroscuro means the use of contrasts of light and shade, especially in order to enhance the depiction of character and for general dramatic effect. Many painters are said to be masters of Chiaroscuro (especially Rembrandt, Caravaggio etc.) From the Italian words chiaro 'clear, bright' and oscuro 'dark'. From the Random House Word of the Day website.
A slang term for a blind panel connector (also called a Butt-Joint Fastener) often used in the entertainment industry to join together stage decks or scenery in a butt joint or cabinet and lid locks on road cases. These are typically two part connectors (male and female) that draw together and lock.
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
CONSTRUCTION (DESIGN AND MANAGEMENT) REGULATIONS (CDM)
UK Regulations introduced in 2015 covering any construction project. Many live event construction projects (e.g. building set, raised stages etc) are covered by the regulations.
UK Health and Safety Executive website
Refers to an standardized shipping container, used for intermodal freight transport (intermodal means across different modes of transport, from ship or rail to road).
The most common sizes are either 6m (20 feet) or 12m (40 feet) in length, and 2.6m (8 feet 6 inches) or 2.9m (9 feet 6 inches) in height.
They can be hired for very cheap weekly rates, but have high transport costs. They're invaluable for creating dry storage at events, and are also used in the film and events industry as the support skeleton for huge sets / structures.
USA: A split pin metal fastener with two legs that are bent during installation, used to fasten metal together, like with a staple or rivet.
UK: Cotter; In mechanical engineering, a pin or wedge passing through a hole to fix parts tightly together
Short for Cyro Acrylite, this is an acrylic sheet product (trade name Acrylite).
1) A vinyl floor covering, usually kept on a plastic or cardboard tube, which is rolled out and taped to the stage floor to create a surface suitable for dance. Dance floor should be left to adjust to room temperature before being taped otherwise it will not lay flat. Many different types of floor are available, including different colours and degrees of cushioning, and the product may be known by it's manufacturer's name (e.g. Marley Floor, Harlequin Floor).
2) A wooden floor which is either naturally springy or has been constructed with rubber pads under it which absorb impact, and create a surface which performers are able to jump on without damaging knees or other joints, as the floor absorbs the impact.
A rigging point direct to the grid / beams above the stage, not to a flying bar.
A hinge used as a right-angle bracket.
Also known as DEADMAN'S BUTTON (DMB). This is a handle that has to be squeezed by a technician in order for a pre-programmed automation sequence to take place. If for any reason the relevant technician is not in position, the system does not allow the sequence to run.
1) Stage/Rostrum Floor (e.g. "Fly that flat in to the deck") [known in German as bühnenboden]
2) Tape deck/Record deck.
3) A steel-framed platform with a wooden top used with replaceable scaffold legs (Trade names include Steeldeck, Metrodeck (made by Maltbury), ProDeck).
See SET DESIGNER.
DFR (Durably Flame-Retardant)
A description of cloth which has been treated to be flame retardant, and can withstand a number of washes before needing any re-treatment. See manufacturer for full details. See also NDFR and IFR.
Scenery item consisting of a wall containing a working (practical) door.
Counterweighted flying system where the cradle/arbor travels half the distance of the fly bar, leaving the side wall of the stage under the fly floors clear of flying equipment. The cradle of a double purchase system needs twice as many counterweights as that of a single purchase system balancing the same weight.
The wire running between the cradle and the flying bar is the purchase line.
A working drawing usually drawn to scale, showing the side view of a set or lighting rig. See PLAN.
In the US, the term "elevation" refers to a Front elevation. A Rear elevation shows backs of scenic elements. A side view of a set is known as a "section".
See also PAINTERS' ELEVATION.
Traditional audience seating layout where the audience is looking at the stage from the same direction. This seating layout is that of a Proscenium Arch theatre.
Also known as Proscenium Staging.
The end-on stage can be split into 9 areas: upstage right, upstage centre, upstage left, centre stage right, centre stage, centre stage left, downstage right, downstage centre, downstage left.
See also THRUST, IN THE ROUND, TRAVERSE.
1) A part of the set through which actors can walk onto the stage.
2) The act of an actor walking onto the stage (e.g. The ghosts entrance is from upstage left).
1) A part of the set through which actors can leave the stage.
2) The act of an actor walking off the stage (e.g. The fireman exits downstage right).
3) A stage direction making it clear when a character should leave the scene. One of the most memorable is from Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale 'Exit, pursued by a bear'. The character being pursued is Antigonus, a lord of Sicilia, who has been ordered to abandon the baby Princess Perdita.
The horizon line on a piece of painted scenery.
A scenic design technique that makes a building or set appear larger than it actually is. The scale of objects that are supposed to be further from the observer is reduced to make them appear further away, even if they're not.
A frame formed by scenic canvas or vertical flattage within the proscenium arch. Used to reduce the size of the opening when putting a small set onto a large stage.
A special stage floor laid for a production. For example to allow trucks guided by tracks cut into this false floor, to be moved by steel wires running in the shallow (2 or 3 inch) void between the false floor and the original stage floor. A false stage is also required for putting a revolve onto a stage.
Short for French Enamel Varnish, a stain which is a mixture of shellac and dye, diluted in methylated spirit.
Scenery item consisting of a partial wall and a fireplace. Another BACKING FLAT is placed behind the fireplace to mask sightlines.
A natural hair paint brush, used for mottling or other faux finish painting techniques.
A treatment which can make props, costumes, drapes and any other porous materials suitable for use on stage by reducing the fire risk. An item treated with a flame retardant will limit or inhibit the spread of fire by not supporting combustion.
FLAMECHECK is a commonly used treatment, suitable for a wide range of materials.
Narrow flat hinged to a wider one.
1) The action of letting a large flat fall from vertical onto it's face so that it's cushioned by the air it displaces. Care must be taken when floating flats on dusty stages, as particles can get blown around as the flat lands.
2) See Floats.
A technique to get a set of flats to a horizontal position on the stage floor by removing weights and braces, ensuring the area is clear and that people are wearing safety goggles if there's danger of flying dust, then footing the flats, and pushing them over so they are cushioned by air pressure and land safely on the deck.
Known as Deixar caure in Catalan, souffler un decor in French, Op de wind in Dutch.
The metal bars to which scenery and lanterns are attached for flying above the stage.
High working platform at the side(s) of the stage from which the flying lines are handled. Often are also the site for socket panels for connecting flown lighting apparatus to dimmers, and also sometimes a lighting position. Known in the US as Fly Gallery.
FLY RAIL / FLYRAIL
Originally, this was the structure where the flying lines / ropes were tied off to hold scenery and other flown equipment in position. With the advent of counterweighted systems, this refers to the area where the flying system is operated. Also known as PIN RAIL or, in the UK, FLY FLOOR.
Extension of the stage walls up to allow scenery to be flown up until it is out of sight of the audience, and to support the GRID. Known as the "flies". The ideal fly tower should be more than twice the height of the pros. arch, and is said to have "full flying height". The load on the grid is transferred to the ground via the walls of the theatre. Known in the US as the Fly Loft, and in Europe as the Stage Tower.
Worn by actors who have to 'fly' as part of the action of the play (typically Peter Pan or pantomimes). The flying harness is expertly fitted to the actor, and is fully tested and certified as safe before use. Cables attach to the harness normally at the hip, or the middle of the back, via a quick release locking snap hook mechanism. There are companies who specialise in this sort of wire work, and there's no excuse for not using the professionals at all times. See also KIRBY WIRE.
Flying by Foy website
Aerial Effects website
Rigging hardware - a metal strip designed to screw into the lower rail of a flat or other piece of scenery with a ring attached to which flying wires can be connected using a shackle.
1) The action of bracing the bottom of a ladder while a colleague climbs it (e.g. 'Can you foot this for me please? I'll only be a couple of minutes').
2) Holding the bottom edge of a flat with your foot while a colleague raises the top of it to a vertical position.
The visual effect of a 3 dimensional object appearing shorter (foreshortened) when viewed at a shallow angle.
The technique can be used in scenic painting to give an enhanced effect of dimensionality, along with other techniques such as Forced Perspective.
The imaginary wall of a box set through which the audience see the stage. The fourth wall convention is an established convention of modern realistic theatre, where the actors carry out their actions unaware of the audience.
Where the cast addresses the audience directly, this is said to be 'Breaking the Fourth Wall'. See also ASIDE.
A stage curtain / drape which opens from the centre in a diagonal direction, resulting in an attractive swagged appearance. The style of movement of the curtain is known as FRENCH ACTION.
A scenic flat which is flown into position, usually with French braces. Consists of a number of flats fixed together with battens. Also known as a Frenchman.
A cloth flown well downstage in front of which short scenes are played while big scene changes are 'silently' carried out upstage. (Common in musicals and pantomime).
Hydrous aluminium silicate, used in chemistry as a filter and as a binder when mixing powder paint for use on textiles.
Draperies made up with deep 'gatherings' have fullness - usually requiring not less than 50% additional fabric, measured at head and foot.
1) The point of focus in a profile spot where the shutters are positioned and where an iris or gobo can be inserted.
2) A single base section of a folding rostrum system.
3) See NOISE GATE.
Cloth with a relatively coarse weave. Used unpainted to diffuse a scene played behind it. When painted, a gauze is opaque when lit obliquely from the front and becomes transparent when the scene behind it is lit . Many different types of gauze are available;
Sharkstooth gauze is the most effective for transformations, because it is the most opaque.
Vision gauze is used for diffusing a scene and for supporting cut cloths.
Also known as a Scrim.
See also Lighting With A Gauze / Scrim
The process of moving set, props and other hardware into a theatre prior to the fit-up. (aka LOAD IN (US) and BUMP IN (Aus.) and PACK IN (NZ.))
A means for an actor to get off a rostrum, high level etc. out of view of the audience. Usually treads. Also known as ESCAPE STAIRS
Moving an entire production out of the venue, and into either a large waste-disposal skip, or into transport. Usually preceded by the strike. (aka Load out (USA) or Bump out (AUS.) or Pack Out (NZ).)
A combination of a glass mat and a resin which can be formed into a strong shell. Used in prop-making.
Glossy finish applied as a final coat to a painted stage floor (also available as a Matt / Flat finish).
See GRAND CURTAIN.
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.
Any flying piece raised as high as possible into the flys, i.e.to the limit of travel of the flying lines, is said to have been gridded.
A scaled plan (overhead) view of the theatre stage area or of a set design, to enable all technical departments to ensure that everything will fit correctly into the space available. The groundplan shows all items standing on the stage floor and any permanent items which will affect the production, and the position of any flown pieces. The set design groundplan enables the lighting designer to be clear about exact location of all items, and will have the walls of the stage drawn on it so that the stage management team and production manager can plan furniture and set moves offstage.
Typical scales are 1:24 (.5' to 1 foot) or, metrically 1:25 (1cm to .25m). Venues have a base plan showing proscenium, walls, seating etc on which individual set and lighting plans can be drawn.
1) A long piece of scenery positioned at the base of a backcloth usually to mask the very bottom of a cloth or lanterns lighting a cloth.
2) Compartmentalised floodlight battens at floor level used to light the bottom of skycloths etc.
Ironmongery fitting fixed at the bottom of the back of a flown flat to which the suspension wire is secured.
An engineered wood product made from highly-compressed wood fibres. It's cheap and hard-wearing. Oil-tempered hardboard is more resistant to wear and tear and is more waterproof, and is used as a stage floor surface. One brand name in the US is Masonite.
The head of the carpentry team that builds the wooden portions of the set.
The head of the fly crew who are responsibly for lifting scenery or other objects above the stage.
HEADS ON STAGE
A shouted warning (often just 'Heads!') for staff to be aware of activity above them. Also used when an object is being dropped from above.
A type of rope used for flying, made from fibres found within the bark of the cannabis plant.
The simplest flying system consisting of a series of hemp ropes threaded through pulleys on the grid, and tied off on the fly floor on a cleat. The usual arrangement is for three ropes to be attached to a flying piece, named by their position relative to the fly floor (short, centre and long). These names are used when levelling the flying piece, and giving it a dead. The three ropes are pulled or let in together, sometimes requiring more than one person to operate. A theatre using a hemp flying system is known as a Hemp House.
See PIN HINGE, BACKFLAP HINGE, MARIE TEMPEST HINGE.
A Hollywood is a double-sided timber flat with a much wider edge than normal. Hollywood flats are mainly used in the film/tv business. The thicker edge gives the flat extra stability, can be easily clamped to adjacent flats, and looks more like a real wall on camera. Also known as a TV Flat.
A system of controlling machinery or moving scenery using oil or water under pressure to move a piston or 'ram'. Used in many large-scale shows to automate scene changes.
IFR (Inherently Flame-Retardant)
A description of cloth which is inherently flame-retardant and will remain so for the life of the cloth. The flame retardant qualities are a feature of the material, not a treatment applied afterwards. See manufacturer for full details. See also NDFR and DFR.
IN THE ROUND
Theatre in the Round is a form of audience seating layout where the acting area is surrounded on all sides by seating. There are often a number of entrances through the seating. Special consideration needs to be given to onstage furniture and scenery as audience sightlines can easily be blocked.
Stage managers and directors often use the idea of a clock face to describe actor positions on stage (e.g. the aisle nearest the technical point is described as the 12 O'clock position, with other aisles described as 3, 6 and 9 O'clock.)
See also THRUST, END ON, TRAVERSE.
A small scene set inside a larger one.
A plastic CYCLORAMA, used because of it's light transmission properties. When lit from behind, the source of light is not visible through the plastic, making complex silhouette work possible.
When used in conjunction with a BOUNCE cloth (light directed onto the bounce is reflected onto the rear of the isora) very smooth coverage is possible.
1) Segmented audio connector. Mono Jacks have two connections - tip and sleeve, and are unbalanced. Stereo jacks have three connections - tip, ring and sleeve.
B-type jacks (also known as Bantam jacks) were originally designed for use in telephone exchanges and provide a high quality (and expensive) connection in jackfields.
A-type jacks are cheaper and more common, but more fragile. A type jacks are available in 2 sizes : quarter inch and eighth inch.
2) (US) A hinged brace. In the open position, it holds up a flat or other unit of scenery. A Tip Jack is a combinaton of a jack and castors so scenery can be supported or rolled. When it is in position, it is tipped to vertical. When rolling, it leans backwards.
Inigo Jones (July 15, 1573 - June 21, 1652) is the first significant British architect of the modern period, and the first to bring Italianate Renaissance architecture to England. He left his mark on London by single buildings, such as the Banqueting House, Whitehall, and in area design for Covent Garden square which became a model for future developments in the West End. He also made major contributions to stage design by his work as theatrical designer for several dozen masques, most by royal command and many in collaboration with Ben Jonson.
He is credited with introducing movable scenery and the proscenium arch to English theatre.
Method for dropping a cloth from a flying bar. It consists of a bar which attaches to a standard flying bar, and is able to spin around. The bar has prongs welded to it on which the drop is hung (drop has grommetted holes in the top which hook onto the prongs). Normally these prongs are above horizontal, so the drop stays hung. On cue, the pole is rotated so that the prongs point downwards, and the drop consequently falls.
The total width of the incision in a piece of wood or metal (etc.) made by a saw blade.
Wire used to fly an actor.
Named after George Kirby, who devised the first pendulum artiste flying system (in 1898). His company Kirby's Flying Ballet is still supplying flying equipment now.
See also FLYING HARNESS.
Kirby Flying - History page
1) Climbable piece of access equipment to reach a working platform or for short light-duty work at height. See ZARGES.
2) Non-climbable structure in the shape of a ladder from which lanterns can be hung in a vertical 'stack'.
A three layer plywood made from coarse grained tropical woods. Suitable for backing, filler or light duty bracing; not suitable for structural uses or where a smooth paintable finish is desired. Also known as Phillipine Mahogany.
Vertical drape set as masking piece at the side of an end-on acting area. Usually set up in pairs across the stage and used in conjunction with borders to frame the audiences view. Legs are hung from flying bars, and are usually fairly narrow in width (1.5m - 3m).
One of many possible origins of the phrase 'Break a Leg', meaning to take an extra encore from the legs after a successful performance.
French: Pendrillon (also used for wider tabs, but not full-width stage curtains)
More information on Break A Leg
See RATCHET STRAP.
Access into the theatre for scenery and other equipment. Also called the Get In, or the Loading Dock.
A short stick used by scenic painters to steady the hand by resting its padded end against the surface being painted.
MARIE TEMPEST HINGE
Door hinge that has been reinforced by a screw lever to keep the door from opening by itself on a raked stage. Named after the actress Dame Marie Tempest (1864 - 1942).
Neutral material or designed scenery which defines the performance area and conceals the technical areas. (e.g. a masking flat is designed to block the audiences view of backstage).
German Masking consists of 3 sets of flats or drapes lining the edges of the performance space (ie the 2 sides at 90° to the proscenium arch, and the rear of the space masked parallel to the pros. opening.) This type of masking is sometimes known as "Up and Down Masking" as it runs up- and down-stage. This term seems to be rarely used now.
Italian Masking consists of a set of legs and borders which are set up in a configuration similar to forced perspective. The downstage legs are furthest apart, and each set of legs moving upstage is moved onstage, with the upstage set narrowest. The exact distances involved vary according to the size of the space, and the acting area required. The same applies to the borders.
A piece of solid scenery used to prevent audiences seeing backstage (or unwanted) areas. See also BORDER, MASKING.
Paper sticky tape used to mark out the boundary of a surface to be painted or sprayed.
MDF / M.D.F.
Medium Density Fibreboard. Dust masks must be used when cutting MDF, as the resins used for binding the board can be dangerous.
Mobile Elevated Work Platform (MEWP)
(often abbreviated to MEWP) A piece of access platform with a wheeled base, which can sometimes be self-propelled by the operator. The best known manufacturer is GENIE.
A scale model provided by the set designer to help all the technical departments to co-ordinate and plan a production. Used as a reference when building, painting, dressing and lighting the set. The first stage of model-making is the WHITE CARD model which shows the form of the set, but not the detail of painting / texture / colour. When that's been approved by the director, and has been roughly budgeted, the final model is produced which should look identical to the finished set on stage. This is used as a reference by scenic artists and lighting designer etc.
Making White Card Models
1) A wooden box representing the walls of a theatre space in which cardboard scale models can be placed by the set designer. See also MODEL.
2) UK-based CAD in Theatre specialist. Lighting symbols for CAD programs are available as a free download.
Also known by the trade name DUVETYNE, Molton is a medium-weight cotton fabric which is opaque, absorbent and has a brushed finish on both sides, making it a cheap substitute for wool. Can be fire-treated, but is not inherently fire retardant. Available in many colours from theatrical / scenic suppliers.
A stick threaded at one end with the line used to cleat two adjacent flats together, enabling the flats to be quickly and silently joined or separated. The stick remains attached to the line and flat of which it forms part.
Moving part of a scenic automation system. Mice run on cables under the stage floor, and can be made useful by inserting a metal SPADE through a wheeled piece of scenery into the mouse, which then pushes or pulls the scenery with it. The scenery sometimes has additional guide pins which move in guide tracks which allow the scenic piece to move in more complex directions.
A lightweight cotton cloth in a plain weave.
NDFR (Non-Durably Flame Retardant)
A description of cloth which has been treated to be flame retardant, but will need to be re-treated after the cloth is washed. See manufacturer for full details. See also DFR and IFR.
International Organisation of Theatre Scenographers, Technicians and Architects.
A way of rigging a cloth / backdrop with no flying space. The cloth is attached to a flying bar at the top, and to a roller at the bottom. Operating lines around the roller allow the cloth to be rolled up as the roller is lifted up, so that it reveals whatever is behind it.
Also known as a ROLL DROP.
The side of the stage (either stage right or stage left) where the fly lines are operated from.
Short for Oriented Strand Board, also known as Aspenite or Flakeboard. A type of engineered sheet timber / lumber similar to particle board, formed by adding adhesives then compressing layers of wood strands (flakes) in specific orientations (from Wikipedia).
In flying, means up (out of sight).
An extendible leg to increase the stability of access equipment (eg Tallescope, Scaffold tower).
Large vertical wooden frame from which cloths are hung for painting. The frame is often winchable for easy access.
A detailed working drawing of the paint job needed on every scenic piece or prop for a production. Each item is shown to scale, front-on, so the required paint job can be clearly seen. Scenic Artists use the elevation as a layout and color guide.
1) The folding frame that forms the base of a readily portable platform.
2) The opposite of SERIES when referring to wiring two loads into one outlet. The two loads share the available current, but are both given the same voltage.
UK trade association for the mobile access tower industry. The acronym stands for Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ & Manufacturers’ Association Ltd.
A narrow strip of cloth or wood at the top of a door or window to hide the fittings. A PELMET CLIP can be used to fix a pelmet into place above a window on a piece of scenery.
(Greek) Term for three-sided flats mounted on a rotating base. Used in rows to produce easily changed backings. Sometimes informally known as Tobelerones (or Tobes) due to the resemblance to the triangular shape of the chocolate bar.
Small handheld motor controller that plugs into a cable connected to a winch or other motorised system.
Hinge with removable pin used to join two pieces of scenery together (ie one half of the hinge is on each piece of scenery).
US term for the bars on which scenery and lanterns are flown.
A scale drawing showing a piece of scenery, the whole set, lighting layout etc from above.
Lighting plans are usually drawn onto the theatre's groundplan.
A view from the side of the set (or a piece of scenery) is known as an ELEVATION.
Short for Plywood.
A system using pressurised gas to create mechanical motion. In theater, pneumatic systems are used to move heavy objects such as seating platforms or permanent scenic features on air castors. Older theaters may have pipe organs which operate pneumatically, or inflatable structures for specific productions. Pneumatic tools such as paint sprayers and nailguns are also used.
Also known as Beadboard (US) or Styrofoam (brand name), this lightweight synthetic material is ideal for carving rough shapes for use on stage. It should be treated with a fire-proofing product before being used on stage. Products such as Rosco Foamcoat add this fireproofing as well as providing a primed surface which is ready for painting.
('Royal Door') The central entrance in the scaenae frons, the permanent architectural background to the stage of a Roman theatre.
An archway made by combining wings/legs and border. Also a decorative framing, columns and pediments or filigree or other that frames the stage.
In Dutch, the portaalbrug (portal bridge) is a heavy-duty portal consisting of a horizontal bridge with a lighting bar mounted below it, along wtih two vertical legs.
A pounce is a craft paper stencil with small holes punched (or pounced) through it following the lines of a design or layout. The stencil can be applied to a piece of set, and a piece of chalk or charcoal or powdered paint is rubbed onto the stencil so that colour is transferred through the pin holes. Alternatively, a pounce bag (coarsely woven cloth bag containing chalk or charcoal) is repeatedly applied to the stencil so that the chalk or charcoal is transferred through the stencil to the scenic piece.
(UK - Health & Safety) Abbreviation of Personal Protective Equipment. The equipment that's needed depends on the task and risk assessment but could include: steel toe-capped boots / shoes, protective headgear, gloves etc.
Any object which appears to do onstage the same job it would do in life, or any working apparatus (eg light switch or tap). A window within the set which has to open is a practical window.
Light fittings which have to light up on the set are called Practicals.
1) A type of lantern with at least one plano-convex lens which projects the outline of any chosen shape placed in its gate, sometimes with a variable degree of hardness/softness. Profiles include four beam-shaping metal shutters, a gate to take an iris or gobo and an adjustment to make the beam smooth and even ('flat') or hot in the centre ('peaky'). See Bifocal Spot, Zoom Profile.
2) Shaped piece of scenery added to the edge of a flat instead of a straight edge. Also known as a cutout.
Types of Lantern
PROPERTY MASTER / PROP MASTER
Member of the creative team who has responsibility for all of the PROPS used in the production (US).
The task, often performed by stage management in the UK, or by the scenic designer in a small company, of going around finding / borrowing / buying props for the production.
It's essential that a clear record is kept of the source of the props so that they can be efficiently returned at the end of the show. Reference books are used to ensure the items are correct for the time period of the production.
(Properties) Furnishings, set dressings, and all items large and small which cannot be classified as scenery, electrics or wardrobe. Props handled by actors are known as hand props, props which are kept in an actors costume are known as personal props.
(Aus) Main set of tabs at the proscenium arch.
Also known as RAGGING. A painting technique used by scenic artists to quickly get a complex textured paint effect over a large area. A base coat is applied first, which is allowed to dry, then a contrasting colour is applied, and while still wet, a scrunched up piece of rag is dabbed at the area to remove the still-wet top coat in a random pattern. Alternatively, an unevenly tied rag around a paint roller can be run over the wall to achieve the same effect.
1) See flat.
2) Same as Flyrail. In US theatres, a RAIL CUE is the same as a FLY CUE in the UK.
Woven strap with a ratchet tensioner used for securing a load in a lorry. Also known as a LOADSTRAP.
1) (3D Design) The process of producing a real-world style image within a 3D design program. Depending on the computer power, a fully rendered image can look as good as a photograph of the real world equivalent. Rendered images are used by lighting, scenic and multimedia artists to present ideas to other members of the production team.
2) (Design) The art of creating an illustration on paper showing how a design concept will look when built.
1) Flats joined to the DS edge of flats of a set or unit that 'return' into the wings. They help mask and also keep the DS edge of a set from looking raw.
2) A financial report given to theatre management staff by the box office manager on a daily or weekly basis setting out the takings for performances.
3) Route for an auxiliary signal back into a sound mixer (see also SEND).
A range of adjustable steel wire fittings which can be used to suspend a static load and adjust the height easily. Available from Doughty Engineering.
Doughty Engineering website
A return which is at right angles to a flat, and suggests the thickness of a window, wall, doorway etc.
REVERSE AND REPEAT
A shorthand used on scenic design drawings for simplifying the drawing of complex or detailed objects. Instead of trying to accurately reproduce a hand-drawn series of details, a centre-line is drawn and the other side of the object is drawn as just an outline with 'R&R This Side' written next to it. When building the item at full scale, the details will be identical (but reversed) on both parts.
A turntable built into the stage floor on which scenery can be set and then driven into view. Can be electrically chain driven either as part of an automation system or via simple start/stop controls, or manually rotated. A revolve can also be built on top of an existing stage.
A partial revolve with a stationary centre section is known as a DOUGHNUT REVOLVE.
See also WAGON STAGE, JACKKNIFE STAGE.
1) The construction or arrangement of lighting equipment for a particular production.(noun)
2) Installing lighting, sound equipment and scenery etc for a particular show.(verb)
General term for the systems and equipment that suspends lighting and scenic equipment above the stage or performance space. Riggers are responsible for setting up the equipment initially, and there should be rigorous (no pun intended) systems in place to test and check all flown equipment regularly.
1) Any platform on stage. For instance, the series of platforms for choral presentations are called choral risers, the rostrum on which a drumkit and drummer is positioned is the drum riser.
2) The vertical portion of a step which gives a set of treads its height.
3) A microphone which can be raised through a small trap in the stage floor to a convenient height for an actor. Usually positioned just upstage of the footlight position, centre stage.
ROLL DROP (US)
See OLEO DROP.
A system whereby cloths can be rolled up/down instead of flying in/out in a theatre where there is no fly tower, or limited flying height.
(plural ROSTRA) A portable platform, usually in the form of a collapsible hinged framework (Gate) with a separate top (Lid).
(pronounced ROOSH) A pleating or gathering of cloth / drapes.
1) A pair of curtains parting in the centre and moving horizontally, particularly those used in a downstage position in variety and revue productions.
2) Persons employed as production assistants to do odd jobs and errands during a production period.
3) Strips of carpet used backstage to silence actors' shoes during performance.
Safe Working Load. The maximum weight that should be put onto a lifting device or suspension point. Now superseded by WLL (Working Load Limit)
A safety sensor on the edge of a piece of automated scenery (usually a moving platform) that the automation system uses to detect something or someone out of place and take appropriate action.
A canvas bag or sack, sealed at one end and tied at the other end, used to act as a weight. A sand bag can be attached to an unused flying spot line to stop it running back through the pulleys, and to enable it to fly in without fouling adjacent equipment.
Society of British Theatre Designers.
TO BE DEFINED
Traditionally, a mixture of glue size, water and pigment. Modern practice has also adopted PVA (emulsion glaze) as a bonding medium which can be used when scenery has got to be washed and used again.
A scissor lift is a type of aerial work platform (AWP), also known as an aerial device, elevating work platform (EWP), or mobile elevating work platform (MEWP). The AWP is a mechanical device used to provide temporary access for people or equipment to inaccessible areas, usually at height. The MEWP can usually be driven around the work area by the operator at height to provide safe access to a wide area, on a flat floor. Scissor lifts have also been used in scenic automation to provide a moveable platform, often built onto a moving base. The scissor lift is used because it is a self-contained device which requires no construction for it to operate within, and which does not extend beyond the horizontal dimensions of the platform.
The mechanism to achieve the vertical lift is the use of linked, folding supports in a criss-cross X pattern, known as a pantograph (or scissor mechanism). The upward motion is achieved by the application of pressure to the outside of the lowest set of supports, elongating the crossing pattern, and propelling the work platform vertically. The platform may also have an extending bridge section to allow closer access to the work area, because of the inherent limits of vertical-only movement.
The contraction of the scissor action can be hydraulic, pneumatic or mechanical (via a leadscrew or rack and pinion system). Depending on the power system employed on the lift, it may require no power to enter descent mode, but rather a simple release of hydraulic or pneumatic pressure. This is the main reason that these methods of powering the lifts are preferred, as it allows a fail-safe option of returning the platform to the ground by release of a manual valve.
A threaded metal ring screwed to the rear of a flat for securing a stage brace.
1) A coarse gauze
2) A fine metal mesh used to reduce the intensity of light from TV lanterns without affecting colour temperature.
3) Plastic gauze-like material used to line Heras fencing at festivals and other events to act as a partial sight-screen, and also to make the fencing tone in with surroundings.
See also Lighting With A Gauze / Scrim
A scenic artist technique for adding atmosphere and texture to a painted surface, by applying a thin layer of partially transparent GLAZE. The glaze layer can vary between being transparent or opaque, but best results are obtained with opaque light colours over a dark base. This can produce a cloudy effect because it allows some of the painted surface below to remain visible, but not all of it.
1) To prepare the stage for action. (verb) - e.g. 'Have you set the chairs for Act 1?'
2) The complete stage setting for a scene or act. (noun) - e.g.'What's the set for the finale?' French: décors.
Member of the artistic team for a show who works with the director to create the scenic 'look' for the stage throughout the show and any accompanying props. She/he sometimes also designs the costumes.
The set designer works with the production manager to ensure the design stays within the budget. Many theatres have a stock of scenery which means that items can be reused by recovering or repainting in a different production
In Europe, the set design is sometimes called 'D?cor'.
See also MODEL, SCENOGRAPHER.
Member of production staff who is responsible for the props and furniture that are required on the set. This position only exists in larger organisations. Set dressing is often the job of the stage management department.
Imaginary line running across the width of the stage, in line with the proscenium arch, which is marked on the groundplan and is used as a reference when planning furniture layouts etc. Usually the furthest downstage anything can be set without fouling the house tabs.
Known in some theatres as the PLASTER LINE - this refers to the upstage edge of the proscenium wall.
See also CENTRE LINE.
The wheel in a pulley block which carries the wire or rope.
Front cloth painted with a design specific to a particular show, sometimes containing the show logo or title.
Contruction industry term for the process of looking at a completed building and making lists of problems, breakages or imperfections in the result. These 'snags' are then addressed by the building company so that there are none by the time the building is occupied by its' end users. Term could also apply to the same process of checking for problems around a set build before the actors are let loose on it.
A plastic or metal 'S' hook used to hang tabs etc. A sprung catch prevents the hook becoming detached.
Chalked piece of string which, when stretched tight and 'snapped' is used for marking straight lines on stage or on scenery as a painting aid.
Long narrow cloth bag fixed between two flying bars filled with artificial snow. When one of the bars is flown in and out the snow is shaken out onto the stage.
US term. To sieze the lines on a flying piece to prevent it's movement, either with another rope or with a mechanical line locking device.
Thick metal blade which is inserted through a piece of moving scenery into a MOUSE to allow the movement of the scenery to be controlled by an AUTOMATION system.
SPADING UP / SPADED UP
The act of preparing an item of scenery to be moved by a scenic automation system using a MOUSE / SPADE system.
(Trade Name) Sling and safety equipment manufacturer, whose name is often generically used for a roundsling. Spanset were the originator, and popularised the modern day roundsling.
Additional information submitted by Chris Higgs.
A scenic artist technique for breaking down a painted surface to make it look more interesting, by taking a paint brush and flicking it to throw random spatters of paint.
A scenic artist's technique to apply a textured paint finish to a piece of scenery or a prop, achieved by dipping a natural sponge into paint and then applying it to the scenery.
Member of the fly crew who's responsibility is to check it's safe to fly an item on cue. Sometimes this role is taken by the flyman / fly operator him/herself. It's essential there's ALWAYS visual confirmation it's safe to move any flown object. A stage manager might not have time to check the stage is clear before giving the cue to fly so it's important someone else has the authority to NOT FLY if there's someone or something in the wrong place.
TO BE DEFINED
STAGE LEFT / RIGHT
Left/ Right as seen from the Actor's point of view on stage. (ie Stage Left is the right side of the stage when looking from the auditorium.)
Stage Right = OP (Opposite Prompt) French: Cote Jardin, Netherlands: Toneel Links (translates to Stage Left!)
Stage Left = PS (Prompt Side) French: Cote Cour, Netherlands: Toneel Rechts (translates to Stage Right!).
NB: The Netherlands, Portugal and Germany use the opposite to the rest of Europe; i.e. Stage Left UK = Stage Right. The directions are seen from the director's and audience's perspective, NOT the actors. In Portugal Isquerda (left) is the equivalent of UK Stage Right and Direita (right) is the equivalent of UK Stage Left.
TO BE DEFINED
See BRACE WEIGHT.
Brand name for a system of metal framed wooden-topped platforms for building platforms, risers and stages which use scaffolding legs at any height.
The system was invented by Philip Parsons in 1986, and his company PL Parsons Ltd launched the product onto the market.
A sponge used by a scenic artist to apply a random pattern of paint blobs to a piece of scenery. This technique is known as stippling.
Standard items of scenery used in a number of different performances. Many theatres have a stock of flattage or rostra platforms which are repainted and reconfigured for many different productions.
SVOBODA, JOSEF / JOSEF SVOBODA
Czech scenographer (1920 - 2002)
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.
Track for suspending and operating horizontally moving curtains. May be hand or winch operated.
1) Originally "tableaux curtains" which drew outwards and upwards, but now generally applied to any stage curtains including a vertically flying front curtain (house tabs) and especially a pair of horizontally moving curtains which overlap at the centre and move outwards from that centre.
[French = Rideau (a narrow stage curtain used for masking is Pendrillon) / Italian = Sipario].
2) TABS was a journal published by Strand Electric between 1937 and 1986, about stage lighting and other equipment produced by the company. The Backstage Heritage Collection archive has a complete collection of TABS journals for you to read online.
(Trade Name) A retractable alloy vertical ladder on an adjustable wheeled base. The platform at the top is just large enough to hold one person. Used for rigging lanterns, focusing etc. Collapsible enough to fit through a standard doorway. Outriggers are used to stabilise the tower from falling sideways. Two people are used to move and steady the tallescope. Sometimes known as a 'TALLEY'.
Aluminium Access Products - Tallescope Manufacturer and Service
(slang) Small (but still useful) offcuts of cloth or wood.
Border, usually black, set behind the proscenium and linked with tormentors to form an inner frame to the stage, and to mask lighting bars and the upper parts of the fly tower. (Known in the USA as a VALANCE)
TEMPORARY DEMOUNTABLE STRUCTURE (TDS)
(UK Health & Safety) Any structure built for an event, whether it's staging, seating or a marquee or similar outdoor structure.
UK Health and Safety Executive website
Protective metal or plastic loop used to reinforce and protect the eye at the end of a wire rope. Specifications vary according to use, but all conform to basic rules of proportion in forming the correct size loop for the rope diameter/type.
Submitted by Chris Higgs
A rope used to hold adjacent flats together as one via cleats.
A series of exploratory or explanatory small sketches which help to show design concepts and how parts of them may appear when built. Often contains views from different angles, and may be highly detailed, but only show a small part of the overall design.
TO BE DEFINED
1) Metal structure with rails on which curtain runners are placed to enable curtains to open and close smoothly.
2) A sideways movement of a flying piece, or flown actor. See FLYING HARNESS.
3) Separate audio recording channel. Most playback / recording devices have two tracks - left and right. Some are used for MULTITRACK RECORDING and allow either four or eight tracks to be recorded onto standard media (see also DIGITAL RECORDING). Many more tracks can be recorded onto computerised systems. The most important feature of a multi-track system is the ability to record and playback at the same time (e.g. Recording vocals on track two with a pre-recorded piano on track one.)
An opening through the stage floor.
A grave trap is a lowered rectangular section used in Hamlet etc.
A cauldron trap is a simple opening through which items can be passed into a cauldron on stage.
A star trap is a set of triangular sprung flaps in the stage floor through which an actor can be propelled from a lift below stage.
The Vampire Trap was invented for James Planché's 1820 adaption of Polidori's The Vampyr. It involved two spring leaves that parted under pressure and immediately reclosed. Placed in the floor or stage wall, it could give the impression a figure was passing through solid matter.
The Corsican Trap, made for Dion Boucicault's 1852 adaption of Alexandre Dumas' The Corsican Brothers, involved an ascending track, on which a wheeled cart could be run, rising up out of the stage through a 'bristle' trap - a trapdoor covered with bristles painted to match the scenery. Once on the stage and in view, the track was covered by a sliding arrangement reminiscent of that of a roll-top desk; towhit, nothing was seen except the ghost rising up through the floor and gliding across the stage. This trap is also sometimes called a Ghost Glide. (Vampire Trap and Corsican Trap definition from 'The Cabinet of Dr Casey')
More about Traps
A motorised horizontally-moving belt at stage level used for moving scenery or actors on / off stage. Direction and speed are easily controlled. Can be used for spectacular transformations, and are often used on Pop / Rock shows and as a way of rapidly moving furniture or actors across the stage without complicated automation.
Form of staging where the audience is on either side of the acting area.
Also known as ALLEY or AVENUE staging.
See also IN THE ROUND, END ON, THRUST.
TO BE DEFINED
TO BE DEFINED
General name for any stage staircase or set of steps. The step of the staircase is called the tread, and the height of the staircase depends on the number of risers. The length of the staircase is called the going. Treads can be either open or closed string - meaning whether the riser is solid or not.
French term meaning 'deceive or fool the eye'. Technique used by scenic artist to create the illusion of a three-dimensional scene or object on a two-dimensional piece of scenery. The effect is often used in the form of FORCED PERSPECTIVE, where a set that partially exists on stage appears to extend into the distance.
1) Wheeled platform on which a scene or part of a scene is built to facilitate scene changing. (e.g. "This scene happens on the balcony truck")
2) (TV/film - verb) To move a wheeled camera sideways.
A type of woven cloth with a pattern of diagonal ribs (in contrast with a satin or plain weave). Twill is often used for theatrical curtains because it drapes well and hides surface soiling / dirt / dust because of the complex pattern. BOLTON TWILL is a twill produced in the UK town of Bolton. It can be produced in various flame retardant types including NDFR and DFR.
UNIFIED DESIGN CONCEPT
Architectural term that refers to a document or series of drawings that shows how the various aspects of a design project are all linked thematically and/or stylistically. Theatrically, a unified design ties each scenic piece along with props, costumes and even publicity materials. Shows such as The Lion King have a very strong unified design concept.
1) The part of the stage furthest from the audience.
2) When an actor moves upstage of another and causes the victim to turn away from the audience he is 'upstaging'. Also, an actor drawing attention to himself away from the main action (by moving around, or over-reacting to onstage events) is upstaging.
United States Institute of Theatre Technology.
(also known as TRUCK). A large wheeled platform which can be moved around the stage either manually by crew or by a scenic automation system. See also WAGON STAGE.
(US) In theatres with reduced flying height, West Coasting is the act of bundling up a cloth or backdrop and tying it to a flying bar during a scene change so that it can be flown out of sight. Believed to originate on the west coast of the US, where rapid expansion of variety theatres with low fly towers meant this technique was universal.
A painting technique for combining two colours into a subtle blend, used to create shadow or shading effects. The first colour is applied, then immediately the second colour is applied on top, before the first has dried. The brush is then used to blend the colours together as desired.
WING AND DROP SET
A set consisting of painted backdrop and accompanying painted wing curtains. When the location changes, both the backdrop and set of wings are flown out and replaced with another set. This is common in opera, ballet and (UK) pantomime performances.
Flats which mask the entrances at the sides of the stage (wings).
Plans from which carpenters and other technicians can build the scenery.
Acronym of 'What You See Is What You Get'. Mainly used in the context of a software tool for lighting design and production administration. Capable of stunning 3D rendering of lighting states, and direct connection to a lighting control desk. Enables accurate pre-visualisation of lighting designs and greatly increases the understanding between director / producer and lighting / scenic designer in the early stages of a production.
WYSIWYG product details
(Manufacturer) German manufacturer of a range of ladders. Commonly refers to the 3-part ladder used on many stages around Europe.
Term used in artistic rendering (illustration) of a theatre set or prop. The zinger is to the brightest part of a highlight, which gives the illusion of a 3d object accurately lit.