Thanks for visiting the Stage Management Glossary page – don’t forget to check out our other Stage Management resources before you leave!
10 out of 12
(USA) A contractual term for a long all-day actor (or crew) call. A typical contract will have at least one of these days, when the actors may be kept at work for 10 hours out of a maximum of 12. During the 12 hour period covered (e.g. 9am to 9pm) there will be either two 1 hour breaks or one two hour break for food, and a total of 10 hours of work. Whilst the work day is long, the intensity allows a great deal of progress to be made. American Actors's Equity only allows a period of 10 out of 12 rehearsal during the 7 days before a performance opens.
An actor move upstage (e.g. Clive moves above the chair).
The Association of British Theatre Technicians, which was formed in 1961 as a charity, to provide a forum for discussion among theatre technicians, architects and managers of all disciplines, and disseminate information of a technical nature, to all its members.
1) Subdivision between sections of a play. A short play is a 'One-Act-er', a play with one interval has two Acts etc. Acts are subdivided further into Scenes.
2) The thing Actors can do which makes them different from Techies (!!).
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.
That area within the performance space within which the actor may move in full view of the audience. Also known as the playing area
This term is also used to describe the smaller subdivisions of the main stage area which are lit separately by the lighting designer (e.g. 'The stage is split into 6 acting areas, 3 downstage and 3 upstage').
(Also the name of an early Strand down-lighting floodlight - known as 'Ack Ack').
Published copy of a script containing notes for the actor and technicians, often credited to the design team of the premiere production not necessarily the playwright.
A hand-held practical prop used by an actor for combat or for a specific purpose.
Person (male or female) whose role is to play a character other than his/her own. Although the term 'actress' is sometimes still used for a female actor, many women prefer to have the same title as the men.
From Latin Ad libitum meaning "at one's pleasure".
The presence of mind by an actor to improvise when;
1) another actor fails to enter on cue
2) the normal progress of the play is disturbed
3) lines are forgotten
4) It may also be a bad habit developed by some actors whereby unnecessary "gags" are introduced into the dialogue.
In the past, any business or words that were not in the scripted act 'as known' would be seen as a breach of contract by some No.1 Managements.
Member of a theatre company which is not professional.
Short for Amateur Dramatics.
A scenic item, prop or costume which is from a different time period than that being portrayed on stage. Usually, it's a modern item that shouldn't be seen in a period piece.
In seventeenth century theatre and street performances, the Announcer would greet the audience, and give the play some context, either in terms of political or social background, or just to fill in some background detail to help the audience understand.
The act of modifying furniture or props by shortening the upstage legs etc. so that they can stand level on a raked stage. Known as COUNTER RAKE in the US. See also Raked Stage.
A small wooden box used as a temporary step or to lift an item (or actor) up to make it visible. Named after the standard-sized fruit packing crate. Used in the motion picture industry.
Form of stage where the audience are seated on at least two (normally three, or all four) sides of the whole acting area.
See END ON, THRUST, IN THE ROUND.
A solo performance in an opera used to highlight the emotional state of the main character(s).
Lines spoken by an actor to the audience and not supposed to be overheard by other characters on-stage.
Assistant Stage Manager.
ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER
Usually shortened to ASM, the assistant stage manager is the most junior member of the Stage Management team, and is often in charge of sourcing and running Properties during the run of a show. She or he is also a member of the stage 'crew'. See also STAGE MANAGER and DSM.
Process where the director or casting director of a production asks actors / actresses / performers to show him/her what they can do. Sometimes very nerve-wracking, but auditions can be a fairly painless process if handled properly. Performers are often asked to memorise a monologue from a play they like to perform for the director. Books full of suggested monologues are available. You may be asked to do a 'Cold Reading' which tests your own response to a piece of text you've not prepared. Some audition processes have pages of text available outside the audition room for actors to familarise themselves with before the audition.
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.
Session with opera performers in a new venue (or on a new set) to check the balance of voices and orchestra is correct, and that the performers can hear the orchestra enough. Foldback can be used to increase the volume of certain key instruments (e.g. piano / keyboard) on stage for the performers.
British Association for Performing Arts Medicine. Specialist health and safety support for performers and technicians.
British Association for Performing Arts Medicine website
The horizontal metal (steel or alloy) tube (usually 48mm in external diameter, but can be up to 60mm) hung from flying lines (or forming part of a grid) from which lighting equipment and scenery etc. may be suspended. Also known as a BARREL. When vertical, known as a BOOM. Sometimes known as a PIPE in the US, although many curse that usage, and demand the use of Batten ; 'A pipe is what you smoke; a batten is what you hang your instruments from.'.
Language, especially in theatre, is rarely universal! In German, ZUGSTANGE.
Bar Bells are rung in public areas of the theatre to warn the audience that the performance is about to start/continue. Usually operated from the prompt corner and sometimes followed by Front of House Calls. The bells are also used as a warning to FOH and bar staff that the interval is about to commence or that the show is about to end.
BASTARD PROMPT CORNER
Used when the Prompt Corner is Stage Right instead of the usual Stage Left. This may be for architectural reasons in a theatre with no wing space Stage Left, or may be because of the layout of set pieces which obscure a view from Stage Left, or because the band is on Stage Left and the Deputy Stage Manager can't hear her/himself cueing!
BASTARD SIDE (B.S.)
Terminology used to describe Stage Right when there is a Bastard Prompt. Stage Left is then known as Opposite Bastard (O.B.)
(German) A rehearsal on the stage where a show is to be performed, with a basic set laid out, so the director and designer can work on any staging issues to do with the size of the scenery, before it is built.
1) In acoustics, a periodic variation in amplitude which results from the addition of two sound waves with nearly the same frequency. Also affects radio reception.
2) A deliberate pause for dramatic / comic effect.
3) A measure of time when cueing (e.g. "The LX cue needs to go four beats after the door is closed" or "Leave it a beat after the blackout, then play the sound cue").
4) A unit of action, as suggested by Stanislavski to help actors determine the through-line of a role.
A call given by Stage Management to bring those actors who appear in the first part of a play to the stage. e.g. "Act One Beginners to the stage, please". The actors/actresses are then called by name.
A similar call is given after the interval (e.g. "Act Two Beginners to the stage please"). See also HALF, QUARTER.
See Calls and Cans
A live sound effects board on which are mounted a number of different types of doorbells / phone bells etc. Usually operated by stage management. The switch or bell push to operate the doorbell (or even the whole bell board) can easily be mounted on the set if the director wants the actors to operate it themselves.
An actor move downstage of an object (or other actor) (e.g. "Clive crosses below the chair and exits downstage left").
Part of the communication ('cans') system in a theatre, the Beltpack contains the controls and circuitry to drive the HEADSET worn by crew members. Each beltpack connects into the headset ring and back to a PSU (Power Supply Unit) which is powered from the mains.
See also CANS.
BEST EIGHT BARS / BEST SIXTEEN BARS
(US) A section of a musical number, which shows off a performers' singing voice well, and is the excerpt used in auditions. The bar count is a rough guide rather than a stipulation.
A 16 bar cut is expected to be around 30-45 seconds, and a maximum of 1 minute.
BISCUIT POTTERY / BISQUE POTTERY
Eathernware product that has been fired once but not yet glazed. It can easily be painted / decorated and can be used for plate / cup smashing scenes on stage as it breaks more easily / gently than a fully glazed product. However, breakaway cups or plates made from wax are the only really safe solution, as even biscuitware can have sharp edges.
For a long-running show, or for a more controllable effect, consider using a glazed plate / cup and pre-smashing it, then using filler or glue to 'fix' it so it holds together. It will break far more easily, so minimum effort will be required.
Any breakaway or pre-smashed item will need a sound effect 'smash' to make it fully believable.
Ensure that use of any ceramics / crockery on stage is fully risk-assessed.
A small role in a play, television production or film.
A kind of flexible studio theatre where the audience and actors are in the same room, surrounded by black tabs (curtains). Doesn't necessarily describe the audience layout, which can be easily reconfigured.
A comedy play with a distinctly disturbing quality. It may have a macabre theme, or relate to the more unpleasant side of life. Also a play by Peter Shaffer with unusual lighting requirements.
1) Complete absence of stage lighting. Blue working lights backstage should remain on and are not usually under the control of the board, except during a Dead Blackout (DBO), when there is no onstage light. Exit signs and other emergency lighting must remain on at all times.
2) The act of turning off (or fading out) stage lighting (e.g. "This is where we go to blackout")
1) Black clothing worn by stage management during productions.
2) Any black drapes or tabs, permanently or temporarily rigged. Used for masking offstage and technical areas.
Running Blacks are full stage width black tabs with a split half way, which are usually fitted to a tab track so that they can be opened and closed horizontally AND flown in and out. The tab track control can either be operated from stage level or from a fly floor (when they're flown out). Hard Blacks are black-covered scenic flats used as masking.
Blacks flown vertically at the edge of the stage are known as LEGS. Blacks across the top of the stage are BORDERS.
The process of arranging moves to be made by the actors during the play, recorded by stage management in the prompt script. Positions at the start of scenes are noted, as are all movements around the stage (using terms such as 'Gardener X DSL' meaning the Gardener crosses to downstage left.) It must be described in minute detail, but simple enough to enable anyone to read and understand it. As well as being used to 'run the show' the prompt book is also used for the rehearsal of the understudies.
Stages which are not end-on must often use alternative notation, sometimes based on the clock face or the points of a compass.
Blue lights used backstage in a performance situation. See also working lights.
Slang term for the stage floor. (e.g. "How long have you been treading the boards?").
1) See PROMPT BOOK.
2) The script of the show. (e.g. Actors need to be off book in 2 weeks)
3) The action of opening or closing a BOOK FLAT.
4) The non-sung text of a musical is known as the Book. The sung text is called the Libretto.
1) Diffuse light that has been reflected from the stage, walls, cyclorama etc.
2) 'Bounce' is sometimes used for a flat (non-curved) cyclorama. Strictly, a bounce is a white or light blue cloth onto which light is bounced to backlight another cloth. A bounce doesn't need to be seamless, whereas a cyclorama should be.
3) Describes the fast in/out movement of 'bouncing' flown house tabs, traditionally used during curtain calls. This can also apply to the fast blackout/lights up cues that happen at curtain calls. When taking curtain calls, the Stage Manager would instruct the head flyman 'On the Bounce Please' for all calls prior to the final call, which was always 'Hand over Hand', i.e. slowly.
4) This facility was available on many multitrack tape machines. Describes the mixing down of multiple sounds from different tracks onto one track, hence freeing up the other tracks to be re-used. It allowed many sounds to be recorded onto one tape. The term now refers to the digital equivalent - taking multiple audio tracks and mixing them together at their set levels onto a single (pair of) tracks.
A horizontal rope, wire or chain attached at either end of a piece of scenery or lighting bar pulling it upstage or downstage of its naturally hanging position to allow another flying item to pass, or to improve its position. See also BREAST LINE.
In a hemp house, to 'Brail' a static piece a single dead line was put round the 'short' and 'long' line to move the piece to a new position. A running brail was a breast which allowed the flown piece still to fly in or out, in its new position.
BREAK A LEG
A superstitious and widely accepted alternative to 'Good Luck' (which is considered bad luck). More available at the link below.
More on Break A Leg
Prop or item of furniture designed to break/shatter with impact. Breakaway furniture and some props are usually capable of restoration to be 'broken' again.
A form of brail running horizontally across the width of the stage, passed across the fly bars' suspension lines and attached at the fly floors to brail the scenery up or down stage, to create a larger space between adjacent pieces.
1) A walkway, giving access to technical and service areas above the stage or auditorium, or linking fly-floors.
See also CATWALK.
2) A lighting position above the auditorium, commonly with a catwalk above it to access lighting equipment and electrical systems is known in Dutch as a Zaalbrug.
3) A section within a song which provides a break from the previous verse / chorus, to prepare for the final chorus or climax, and can also provide a contrast with the previous lyrical tone or style.
British Sign Language.
British Sign Language website
A piece of unscripted or improvised action, often comic in intention, used to establish a character, fill a pause in dialogue, or to establish a scene. An author may simply suggest 'business' to indicate the need for some action at that point in the play.
C.C.T.V. / CCTV
Closed Circuit television. A video relay system, used in the theatre to give a view of the stage to remote technical operators (especially stage managers). Also used to give musical performers a view of the conductor (and vice versa) to help in keeping time. It's called Closed Circuit because the signal is not being broadcast anywhere - there's a direct link between camera and monitor.
Wiring, temporarily rigged, to carry electrical current. Depending on the size of the cable (current carrying capacity), cables are used to supply individual lanterns, whole dimmer racks, or carry signals from a microphone etc.
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.
1) A notification of a working session (eg a Rehearsal Call, Band Call, Photo Call)
2) The period of time to which the above call refers. (eg "Your call for tomorrow nights show is 6.55pm")
3) A request for an actor to come to the stage because an entrance is imminent (these are courtesy calls and should not be relied on by actors - eg "This is your call for the finale Mr Smith and Miss Jones")
4) An acknowledgement of applause (eg Curtain Call)
5) The DSM on the book is said to be "calling the cues".
6) The Colour Call is a list of lighting gel required for the lighting rig.
7) The Final Call is also known as The Half - 35 minutes before the performance starts, and the latest time when the cast and crew should be in the theatre.
A noticeboard backstage in the theatre which is used to post the actor call times for the next rehearsal period.
A notice sent to a mailing list or posted on social media, looking for cast, crew or helpers for a project.
Following an audition, the director may ask to see a shortlist of actors again - they are called back for an additional audition to enable the director to make her/his decision.
CALLING THE SHOW
The process of giving verbal cues to the lighting, sound, fly operators and stage crew during the performance. Usually done from the prompt corner by the DSM or Stage Manager over cans.
Often regarded as a courtesy to the Artist, they are given by the Stage Management on a 'count back' from the 'Beginners Call'. Prior to 'Beginners' the stage is the domain of the stage crew for setting up etc. After 'Beginners', the stage is the actors domain. On a musical, the Act 1 call is for 'Overture & Beginners', and the Act 2 call is for 'Entr'acte & Beginners'. On a production with a large orchestra, the first 'Members of the Orchestra' Call is for the 'Strings' sections to tune up together, the second call is for the remainder of the orchestra to join them in the pit. The 'leader' if not seated already is then welcomed into the pit followed by 'The Maestro' or 'MD' (depending on his/her status in the music world). The Cue for the Overture to commence is given from the corner, by means of a cue light.
The Half (hour), the quarter (hour), five minutes as well as (Overture) Beginners, are all given five minutes earlier than the actual call as named.
See Calls and Cans
1) Headset earpiece, microphone and beltpack used for communication and co-ordination of technical departments during a performance. (e.g. "Electrics on cans", "Going off cans", "Quiet on cans!").
A commonly used system in the UK is produced by Canford Audio under the TechPro brand. In the USA, ClearCom is commonly used.
2) Any headphones.
3) Short for PARCANs.
Used to cover flats as a less heavy alternative to plywood.
The members of the acting company. The Cast List contains the names of the actors and the characters they'll be playing.
Dramatis Personae is a Latin term for a list of the characters in a play.
Part-time temporary technicians (paid by the hour).
Old term for an open audition for chorus roles in a musical or large entertainment spectacular. The performers tend to be treated as cattle and kept together in a large room and called in groups to audition. The Broadway musical "A Chorus Line" depicts such an audition.
An access walkway to equipment. Unlike a BRIDGE, not necessarily across a void.
(CENTER CENTER in the USA) - the position in the centre of the stage space. Downstage Centre (DSC) is the position at the front of the stage, Upstage Centre (USC), and Centre Stage (CS) or CENTRE CENTRE is the centre. House Centre / House Center is the centre line of the auditorium (which is usually the same as that of the stage).
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.
Adult who takes responsibility for a group of young people while they're away from their parents. A legal requirement when working with children (and a relief for the stage management team!)
An actor movement (or lighting change) which happens without the audience being aware of it, or a change to improve the situation even though it may not be totally natural (e.g. "CHEAT OUT").
An actor facing too far upstage (so that he/she is invisible to the audience) may be requested by the director to "cheat out", and turn downstage slightly, to improve audience sightlines. "Out" in this sense means towards the audience, and rather than being a derogatory term, "cheat" simply means to improve the situation (sightline in this case) without anyone realising it's not a totally natural position.
CHEWING THE SCENERY
An actor who gives a completely hammy and over-the-top performance is said to be Chewing the Scenery.
See the link below for more.
More about Chewing the Scenery
A claque is an organized body of professional applauders in French theatres and opera houses. Members of a claque are called claqueurs.
Auditorium working lights. Used for cleaning and setting up the auditorium before the house lights (usually more atmospheric) are switched on.
Message passed to Stage Management from the Front of House Manager that the house is ready for the performance to begin. (ie everyone is in their correct seat and there are no coach parties coming through the doors). Announced as 'We have Front of House Clearance'.
A long, often bamboo, rod used to rescue flying objects or to prevent them from becoming entangled by guiding flying scenery past obstructions. Often marked out with measurements to aid the levelling or deading of the bottom of a flown drape or masking.
CLEARS / GIVING CLEARS
(Stage Management) A crew member (often an ASM) gives a 'clear' to the DSM on the book to let them know a particular flying piece is safe to fly, or a particular item of scenery has passed a danger point.
Piece of timber or metal for tying off a rope line by taking a turn around it, followed by a series of figure eight turns and a locking tuck(s) made in the final turn. Used when flying or for holding scenic pieces together with a cleat line.
Submitted by Chris Higgs
Means of fixing two flats together with one cleat hook and sash line (approx. 18” from the top of the flat) and a lower pair at waist height. It was a challenge to any member of the stage crew to throw the 'cleat line' over the top hook ' in one' i.e. at the first attempt. Many a pint has been won, with the challenge 'bet you a pint you can't throw it in one!' The old hands would loudly count the number of failed throws.
A ring of metal which is used to join several flying lines or wires to a single pulling wire.
An actor who is turned away from the audience is said to be in a 'closed position'. See also OPEN POSITION.
A piece of scenic canvas, painted or plain, that is flown or fixed to hang in a vertical position.
A Backcloth (or Backdrop) hangs at the rear of a scene.
A Floorcloth is a painted canvas sheet placed on the stage floor to mark out the acting area, or to achieve a particular effect.
A Frontcloth hangs well downstage, often to hide a scene change taking place behind.
Cut cloths have cut-away open areas and are normally used as a series, painted in perspective.
A Star Cloth (also Star Drop or Starcloth) (usually black) has a large number of small low-voltage lamps sewn or pinned through it which gives a magical starry sky effect. (See also FIBRE OPTICS).
In the US, a cloth is known as a Drop (from backdrop).
In Spanish, a flown cloth is a Bambalina.
In German, a floor cloth is a Bodentuch
Invaluable hitch that every technician should know.
Nowadays believed to be an acronym of Crew On Display, but in fact dating back to Victorian times, when it meant a 'spoof' of something, the Cod Panto is a tradition in many British theatres that have pantomimes over Christmas. Including performances by (sometimes) all of the technical staff and (usually) none of the actual cast, the panto is written and rehearsed towards the end of the run and is performed in the last few days of the panto, and is often followed by a party. It's performed for the actors and any remaining crew and sometimes friends and family, but usually has an 18+ rating. Jokes refer to any incidents during the run of the show, and send everything up with no holds barred.
Usually known as NON-TRADITIONAL CASTING, this is the casting of ethnic minority and female actors in roles where race, ethnicity, or sex is not specified, or against that specification. (e.g. an adult plays a child, a black actor plays a part previously played by caucasian actors, a woman plays a previously male role).
The time the show finishes (e.g. 'What time does the show come down this evening?') This relates to the curtain coming down at the end of the show. See also GO UP.
TO BE DEFINED
A comic scene (or line) included in an otherwise straight-faced play to provide a relief from tension for the audience.
Short for Complimentary ticket. Free of charge ticket issued to company members or special guests. Each venue has their own policy about numbers of comps that cast / crew may be entitled to. There are often House Comps, which are good seats not sold to the public until others are sold out, which are used for VIP guests.
In the past it had to be initialled by the General/House/Company Manager to ensure its authority, and a record kept by the Box Office Manager.
The cast, crew and other staff associated with a show.
In a touring theatre company, the Company Manager is responsible for the well-being of the cast and crew of the show; ensuring their arrival at the venue, dealing with their payments, dealing with any disputes, and generally ensuring all is well and happy. The CM is also the representative of the producers in that he/she is responsible for collecting payments from the venue management.
In a building-based theatre company, the role is more administrative, dealing with payroll and other matters connected with the cast and crew of the current production(s).
A non-traditional style of directing, which involves taking a text (play, musical) only as a starting point to express an idea or opinion, which may be unrelated to that of the original author of the text. Conceptual Directors of note include Jerzy Grotowski, Elizabeth LeCompte, Robert Wilson and Anne Bogarte (list from Theatre in Your Life by Robert Barton, Annie McGregor)
1) (UK) A reduction in ticket price given to some eligible patrons (e.g. unemployed, students)
2) (US) A merchandising stand in the foyer of the theatre. ('The concession stand').
Metal or plastic pipe used to carry electrical conductors as part of a permanent electrical installation. See also Trunking.
Also used to add weight to the bottom of a flown cloth.
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
1) A list of names and contact details (phone numbers, addresses) for cast and crew.
2) A sheet showing all of the frames from a roll of film to enable a choice to be made about which to enlarge properly.
An alternative plan of action if a piece of technology fails to operate. Large-scale productions have to continue wherever possible to avoid having to give the audience refunds. So if a small piece of the set fails to work or gets stuck (particularly automated scenery) the cast and crew will have rehearsed an alternative choreography to work around it while the crew repair it. For example in The Lord of the Rings The Musical in London, when the revolving stage with multiple lifts had a safety sensor triggered, the automation went into 'E-Stop' mode, a thunderclap sound effect was triggered, the stage lifts went to a flat floor (once it had been found safe to do so) and the actors for the next scene were rushed into new positions, while the actors on stage immediately adopted a new choreography.
It's vital that contingencies are worked out in advance so that as soon as something goes wrong, the show can continue, and the audience will hopefully be unaware.
Room at the rear of the auditorium (in a proscenium theatre) where lighting and sometimes sound is operated from. Known in the US as the BOOTH. The stage manager calling the cues is very often at the side of the stage (traditionally stage left) but in some venues he/she may be in the control room also. The control room is usually soundproofed from the auditorium so that communications between operators cannot be heard by the audience. A large viewing window is obviously essential, as is a show relay system so that the performance can be heard by the operators. Obviously if sound is being mixed, the operator should be able to hear the same as the audience, so some control rooms have sliding or removable windows, or a completely separate room for sound mixing. Where possible, the sound desk is moved into the auditorium so that the operator can hear the same as the audience.
Also known as the BOX.
Triangular piece of plywood used to hold the stile upright to the top/bottom rails of a wooden flat, when 'butt' joints were used. Sometimes a 'wiggle pin' or corrugated fastener was hammered into the joint before the plate was glued and nailed in place. John Toogood, when the junior apprentice in the workshop, made these plates by the dozen for the 'boss' Roger "Two Hammers" Winkley, (one to cool down while he used the other!).
An actor who collapses into uncontrollable laughter during a rehearsal or performance is said to be Corpsing. There are numerous ways of covering the laughter, mostly involving the actor turning away from the audience and covering his mouth with his hand.
Some British pantomimes have an outbreak of rehearsed corpsing, when something appears to go wrong, but is in fact carefully planned. This helps to lift the audience's spirits and make the show seem more alive.
(UK Health and Safety) Acronym for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. Requires employers to prevent or reduce their workers' exposure to substances that are hazardous to their health.
As well as dangerous chemicals and solvents, COSHH also covers ANY substance that is hazardous, including dust particles in a set-building environment.
HSE COSHH website
A measure of time used to add space between cues (for example, LX cue 12 goes on a count of 3 after the actor sits down).
See ANTI RAKE.
A standard weight (60 or 30 lb.) used in a counterweight flying system. Known in German as KONTERGEWICHT.
Method of flying scenery which uses a cradle containing weights to counterbalance the weight of flown scenery. See Double Purchase, Single Purchase, Flying, Dead.
From the French coté cour meaning Stage Left.
More about Cour / Jardin
Metal frame in which counterweights are carried in a flying system. Known in the US as an Arbor. See also SINGLE PURCHASE and DOUBLE PURCHASE. In German, GEWICHTSSCHLITTEN.
Sealed metal box filled with broken crockery which can be dropped or thrown offstage to simulate breaking glass / damage etc.
US for saddle and 'U' cable clamps (from the manufacturers name).
Crosby Group website
CROSS FADE / CROSSFADE
Bringing a new lighting state up whilst bringing the previous one down, so that the new one completely replaces the old one. Also applies to sound effects / music. Sometimes abbreviated to Xfade or XF.
A DIPLESS CROSSFADE occurs when the lighting doesn't dip significantly between states, which results in a more subtle transition.
1) A route leading from one side of the stage to the other, out of the audiences view.
2) An electronic filter in a sound system that routes sound of the correct frequency to the correct part of the speaker system. Different speakers handle high frequencies (tweeters) and low frequencies (woofers). Sometimes known as a crossover network.
An active crossover splits the signal from the mixing desk into high, mid and low frequencies which are then sent to three separate amplifiers.
Company Stage Manager
1) The command given to technical departments to carry out a particular operation. E.g. Lighting Cue, Fly Cue or Sound Cue. Normally given by stage management, but may be taken directly from the action (i.e. a Visual Cue).
2) Any signal (spoken line, action or count) that indicates another action should follow (i.e. the actors' cue to enter is when the Maid says "I hear someone coming! Quick - Hide!")
3) A journal published between 1979 and 1988. A complete collection of CUE journals is available on the Backstage Heritage Collection website to read online.
System for giving technical staff and actors silent cues by light. Cue lights ensure greater precision when visibility or audibility of actors is limited. Sometimes used for cueing actors onto the set. For technical cues, lights are normally now used just as a backup to cues given over the headset system. In the UK, a flashing Red light means stand-by or warn, green light means go. The actor / technician can acknowledge the standby by pressing a button which makes the light go steady. In the US, a red light means warn, and when the light goes off, it means GO. The UK system seems to be more secure, but it depends what you're used to.
Also known as a PLOT SHEET. A tabulated list of actions that must be taken by a technical department at a particular point in the show. Cues are numbered, and called by the DSM on the book from the prompt script.
CUE TO CUE
(also known as 'Topping and Tailing')
Cutting out action and dialogue between cues during a technical rehearsal, to save time. (e.g. "OK, can I stop you there - we'll now jump to the end of this scene. We'll pick it up from Simon's line "And from then on it was all downhill" in a moment. OK - we're all set - when you're ready please.")
There is a standard sequence for giving verbal cues:
At the end of a performance, the acknowledgement of applause by actors - the bows.
1) Imaginary line across the performance space marking the point where the front tabs / curtain is flown. See also SETTING LINE, CENTRE LINE.
2) The final spoken line of the play.
Introduction given by director or theatre owner (etc.) from the stage just before the performance starts. Often replaced with a recorded announcement 'Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to the (insert name) Theatre. May I remind you to please switch off mobile phones and pagers as they can prove distracting to other members of the audience and the performers. Flash photography is also not permitted. We hope you enjoy the show!'.
Call made by Stage Management to the rear of house PA system to say that the performance has started. (e.g. "Curtain Up on Act One"). An alternative call is "Lights Up on Act One".
Usually shortened to just cyc (pronounced sike). The Cyclorama is a curved plain cloth or plastered wall filling the rear of the stage or TV studio. Often used as a sky backing to a traditional set, or as the main backing for a dance piece etc. The term is often loosely applied to a blue skycloth, or any flattage at the rear of the stage. Although strictly a cyc should be curved, most cycs are flat with curved wraparound ends. A more effective backing can be obtained by hanging a sharkstooth gauze just in front of the plain white cyc which gives a hazy effect of distance.
From Greek Cyclos (circle) and Horama (view or vision).
The first plaster cyclorama in the UK is believed to be at the Festival Theatre, Cambridge (1929)
See also BOUNCE, ISORA. The German equivalent term is operafolie.
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.
The process of removing lanterns & cabling from flying bars or grid - returning the venue to it's normal state, or as preparation for the next production.
1) A pre-plotted height for a piece of scenery or lighting bar - 'that bar's on its dead'. The positional indicators on the rope (either PVC tape, or more traditionally cotton tape passed through the strands of the rope) are called DEADS. Sometimes flying pieces are given a number of extra deads, that may be colour coded, in addition to the 'in dead' (lower) and 'out dead' (higher - out of view). In the US, TRIM has the same meaning. Fluorescent ribbon is often used, through the fibres of the rope. The fluorescent colour shows very clearly under UV light, which is often used to light fly floors.
2) Scenery or equipment not needed for current production - 'that table's dead'.
3) An electric circuit that has been switched off or has failed - 'the circuit's dead, you can change the lamp now'
Submitted by Chris Higgs
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).
DEPUTY STAGE MANAGER (DSM)
Usually shortened to DSM, this is a member of the Stage Management team. In the UK, the DSM is often "on the book" - that is, they are in charge of calling all of the technical and actor cues during the show, usually using a headset communications system and/or a system of cue lights. The DSM is often also in rehearsal working with the director to prepare the prompt book. Known in some places as a Stage Director.
See also PROMPT BOOK, STAGE MANAGER.
DEUS EX MACHINA
Latin for God in the Machine. A mechanical device used in Greek classical and medieval drama to lower an actor playing God from the flies above the stage to resolve the conflict in a play.
The mechanical crane that carried the DEUS EX MACHINA was known as MECHANE.
The term sometimes refers to a character which has a similar function in a more modern drama.
Colloquial term for short-term accommodation for actors during the run of a show. Originally short for diggings, the term appeared in the UK publication The Stage in 1893.
Reduction of lighting level for a scene change, that isn't quite a BLACKOUT.
See SCENE DOCK.
A small wheeled platform used to move heavy items. (E.g. a piano dolly).
Also refers to a wheeled camera trolley running on tracks used in the film industry.
An object or tool that you're not sure of the correct name for. For example, 'Pass me the doofer so I can sort this thingy'.
A small wooden box with a heavy door and various bolts and locks used to simulate slamming and other door sound effects offstage.
Moving scenery and other equipment more than necessary because it wasn't properly sorted or positioned in the first place.
Stage Curtains. See also TABS.
System of pipes arranged at the top of a safety curtain to drench it with water in the event of fire.
Review by director/designer/wardrobe staff of all costumes worn by cast and paraded under stage lighting. Any defects, misfits etc. are noted or corrected before the first Dress Rehearsal.
Also known as a Costume Parade.
A full rehearsal, with all technical and creative elements brought together. The performance as it will be 'on the night'.
German: hauptprobe (final rehearsal)
DRESSING (the set)
Decorative props (some practical) and furnishings added to a stage setting are known as Set Dressing. See also TAB DRESSING.
1) The effective travelling distance of a suspension barrel between the lowest it can reach with the scenic piece attached and the underside of the grid. The drift will be variable depending on the depth of a scenic piece suspended beneath the barrel. ie the comment 'there isn't enough drift' will usually mean that a piece cannot be flown out sufficently high to mask.
2) The wire that is used to achieve the drift (e.g. 'pass me a 2 metre drift, please').
1) See CLOTH.
2) A mechanism for dropping items from the fly tower onto the stage (e.g. Petal Drop, Leaf Drop etc.) Normally consists of a bag or box with a lid / section which can be released either by removing a pin via a control line (piece of string) or electrically using a solenoid (electromagnet).
A wooden box with a lid which can be opened remotely, which is used to drop (lightweight) objects (e.g. paper) onto the stage on a specific cue. The lid usually opens downwards, and can be secured by a hinge pin. The pin can be pulled out with a piece of string through a small loop or eye, which stops the pin being lost. An electric release can also be used, involving an electromagnetic device called a solenoid to either pull out the pin. See also DROP BAG.
Canvas or cloth used to mask and/or protect a floor.
1) An actor forgetting the words of his script.
2) To record a sound without using any effect or other processing is to record it 'dry'. Recording with an effect is recording 'wet'.
A practice run, usually a Technical run without actors.
See TECHNICAL REHEARSAL.
Abbreviation for DOWNSTAGE.
DSC or DC
Short for DOWNSTAGE CENTRE - the prime location in the middle of the stage, nearest the audience.
Abbreviation for Downstage Opposite Prompt. Refers to the area nearest the audience on stage right. (Prompt side or PS is stage left).
Tape or material used to cover the seams between flats or to cover hinges, prior to painting.
The member of the lighting team on duty for a particular event. Also known as DUTY LX.
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.
A type of mechanised stage which has sections that can be raised or lowered.
An extension of the performance due to audience demand. This usually applies to music concerts or stand-up comedy shows, where the performer will have an extra song or routine ready if there is a lot of applause. From the French which means "again" or "more".
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.
Any technical or practical craft used in the creation of live events or experiences. As the definition of 'live events or experiences' includes music concerts, theatre, theme parks, visitor attractions, museums and sports events, the skills needed are very broad. It's not necessary for anyone to be highly skilled in all of the crafts, but an understanding of the whole picture is very helpful, and knowing when to call in a specialist (and where to find them) is vital.
The crafts involved in entertainment technology include, but are not limited to:
Lighting (stage lighting and architectural lighting)
Sound (live and recorded)
Video and Media (projection or display)
Scenic Construction and Automation
Props and Masks
Make-Up and Prosthetics
Any technical or practical craft used in the creation of live events or experiences. As the definition of 'live events or experiences' includes music concerts, theatre, theme parks, visitor attractions, museums and sports events, the skills needed are very broad. It's not necessary for anyone to be highly skilled in all of the crafts, but an understanding of the whole picture is very helpful, and knowing when to call in a specialist (and where to find them) is vital.
An 'overture' to begin the second part or act of a performance. Often used now to describe any interval music.
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).
Short for British Actors' Equity (or American Actor's Equity Association, founded in 1913, is the labor union representing actors and stage managers in the legitimate theatre in the United States). The trade union of actors, directors, designers and stage managers.
Shortened to AEA in the USA, and usually just Equity in the UK.
Equity website (UK)
Actors Equity (USA)
See GHOST LIGHT.
More on Ghost Light
American equivalent of Get-Off treads.
(Latin) Stage direction meaning 'they leave'. Used to indicate that more than one person leaves the stage. The direction for a single person is simply Exit.
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.
Usually illuminated sign, of standard size, which should always be visible, showing an audience member and the company the nearest exit.New legislation in Europe means that the word 'EXIT' has been removed from these signs to be replaced by 'Running Man', known more politically correctly as 'Person moving purposefully'.
A member of the cast with no speaking role who provides background interest in a crowd scene. Term originally derived from the film industry.
The events in a play that occur after the climax has been reached, but before the final part.
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.
1) See Swag
2) Describes tabs which adopt a sculpted shape.
3) A length of cable incorporating a number of lamp holders used for outdoor party lighting etc. Available in multi-circuit form so that the lamps can be 'chased'.
Short for French Enamel Varnish, a stain which is a mixture of shellac and dye, diluted in methylated spirit.
A warm-up and rehearsal of fight choreography held before each performance.
Choreographer of fight scenes on stage. Works intensively with actors training them how to avoid hitting (and hurting) each other, how to use weapons safely etc. Fight directors are highly skilled and trained and should not be substituted for someone 'who once saw Gladiator' and thinks they can repeat it!!
Society of American Fight Directors
British Academy of Stage and Screen Combat
See SAFETY CURTAIN.
Particular exit(s) from a building designated by local authority fire officer to be the correct means of escape from a part of the building in case of fire. It is the responsibility of all staff and performers to ensure that all fire exits are kept clear, unlocked and accessible at all times.
Essential tools of the pyrotechnician's trade ! In the UK, they used to be colour-coded according to content (Carbon Dioxide (Black), Water (Red), Foam (Cream), Halon Gas (Green) Powder (Blue)) but now, they're all red with a small label saying what they are. Another great leap forward !.
Treatment given to fabric, timber, drapes etc. to retard flammability. Many scenic materials require regular re-application of fire proofing treatment.
Initial assembly on stage of a production's hardware, including hanging scenery, building trucks etc.
A flaming torch, often handheld and used in a procession.
A silk-effect flame (with light and fan) is much safer, and can give an excellent effect if the rest of the lighting is suitably dim / atmospheric.
See also SILK FLAME, SCONCE.
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.
A lightweight timber frame covered with scenic canvas, or plywood. Flats are used to provide a lightweight and easy to move and re-configure backdrop to a stage set. Flats sometimes have windows or doors built into them to provide extra flexibility, for use in realistic settings. Masking flats are used to hide areas the designer does not want the audience to see, or to provide actors with an exit, or somewhere to store props.
(UK) A flat is supported by a stage brace and brace weight, connected to the flat using a screw eye.
Hardboard is sometimes used, but is unnecessarily heavy and will lose it's shape in time. Most theatres have a range of stock flattage made to a standard size, and re-used many times.
A Rail is a horizontal batten within a flat.
A Stile is a side or vertical piece within a flat.
A Sill is the bottom rail of a flat.
See also BOOK FLAT, HOLLYWOOD.
See FLY TOWER.
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.
Strips of canvas attached to a handle for dusting flats or scenic pieces prior to painting.
To hesitate - to nearly forget or fumble one's lines.
Verb - the action of lifting an item up (out) or down (in) when attached to the Flying system.
A FLY CUE is given by stage management to a flyman or fly operator to fly an item in or out. In the US this is known as a RAIL CUE.
A flyng piece of scenery can be flown in (down) or out (up) on a particular cue given by the DSM to the fly operator on the fly floor above the stage.
See FLY FLOOR.
The cables and ropes which form part of the flying system.
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.
See FLYMAN, FLYING HARNESS, KIRBY WIRE, HEMP SET, COUNTERWEIGHT SYSTEM, SPOTTER, DOUBLE PURCHASE, SINGLE PURCHASE.
1) A fencing blade, rectangular in cross-section (the Épée has a triangular cross-section, with a groove running down the length of the blade, and is heavier).
2) A subsidiary character who emphasizes the traits of a main character.
FOLLOW-ON CUE / FOLLOW CUE
A cue that happens so soon after a previous cue, that it doesn't need to be cued separately. The follow-on can be taken by the operator once a previous cue is complete, or a lighting or sound cue can be programmed to happen a specific time after a previous cue. Fly follow-on cues are often taken as soon as the operator has completed a previous cue. Often abbreviated to F/O.
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.
Term not used in UK theatre - currently searching for a definition.
A performance space that wasn't designed to be one. Performances that take place outside the theatre (e.g. in historic buildings, factories, public areas) are said to be using found spaces.
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 scene division within a play marked (as in French drama) by the entrance / exit of an actor. These divisions can be useful in splitting up rehearsal schedules, and for marking lighting changes etc.
FRONT OF HOUSE CALLS
Announcements made by stage management or FOH staff calling the audience into the auditorium, or informing them when the performance begins. Calls are normally made at the Half (35 mins. before curtain up), the Quarter (20 mins before), the Five (10 mins), and calls normally accompanied by bar bells at 3, 2 and 1 minutes before the performance begins.
UK: "Ladies and gentlemen (boys & girls) Welcome to the __ theatre. This evenings (afternoons) performance of ____ will begin at 7.30pm (2.30pm). There will be one interval of 15 minutes, and drinks can be ordered at the bar prior to the performance."
A set of black tabs (curtains) that cover the entire width of the stage (or set).
Actor position - facing the audience.
GAFFER TAPE / GAFFA TAPE
Ubiquitous sticky cloth tape. Most common widths are .5 inch for marking out areas and 2 inch (usually black) for everything else. Used for temporarily securing almost anything. Should not be used on coiled cables or equipment. Originally known as Gaffer's Tape, from the Gaffer (Master Electrician) on a film set. Also known as Duct Tape. See PVC Tape.
(US slang) Anything on stage that isn't of interest to the technical staff (e.g. music stands, chairs, water bottles).
(Trade Name) A range of mobile access platforms or lifting devices with either hand-cranked or compressed air lifting mechanisms.
Genie Industries website
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).)
GHOSTLIGHT / GHOST LIGHT
(US) A light left burning overnight on stage to keep friendly spirits illuminated and unfriendly spirits at bay. Also believed to keep the theatrical muse in a 'dark' theatre, and to stop people tripping over bits of scenery when they come into the theatre in the morning.
The ghost light consists of a vertical pole with a bare light bulb on it, and is placed on stage. Care should be taken that the cable doesn't create a trip hazard, and that the light bulb is protected with a metal cage.
The type of bulb is not critical - it should be chosen so that enough light is emitted to enable people on stage to see furniture / other items to stop them tripping over. Where possible an energy-saving lamp should be used.
Also known as the 'Equity Light'. See link below for more information.
Could also refers to the light emitted by a lantern when a dimmer has not been 'trimmed' correctly, and is leaking.
More information about Ghost Light
Luminous yellow self-adhesive tape used to mark floors so that positions can be found in blackouts. A staple is often used to secure the tape to a floor where it might move.
The action word used by stage managers to cue other technical departments. The word GO shouldn't be spoken by others on headsets (especially when the crew is on STANDBY) as they may assume it's the stage manager speaking.
The time the show starts (e.g. 'What time does the show go up this afternoon?') This relates to the curtain going up at the start of the show (even if the theatre doesn't have a curtain). See also COME DOWN, LIGHTS UP.
A PA system setup for a director to use in a large venue to talk to everyone on stage without shouting, during rehearsals and technical periods. Also used in some small or experimental spaces for tech crew to talk to actors or other crew, if no headset comms system or radios are available.
Colloquial name sometimes given to a junior member of the crew, who is given instructions to fetch and carry equipment / tools etc. (i.e. 'Go For a wrench')
1) See DARK.
2) Warning to people on stage that the lights are about to be switched off. Normally said during lighting plotting sessions or technical rehearsals. Obviously should not be done if there is any risky work on stage, or if anyone is up a ladder / using power tools / working on platforms / rehearsing choreography etc.
See GRAND CURTAIN.
The theatre community is very close, and news/rumours often spread via unofficial routes. This so-called GRAPEVINE means that people are often well-informed about latest news. It is also very important to make a good impression on everyone you meet in the business, as bad impressions will be spread around the grapevine very quickly. Modern tools such as Twitter have made the grapevine even more widely spread, and great care must be taken to not publish anything on Twitter that you wouldn't say to someones face.
Name refers to make up supplied in stick form, for application to the face or body. Needs special removing cream.
1) The support structure close to the top of the fly tower on which the pulleys of the flying system are supported. Constructed from metal or wooden beams. (Italian: gratticia / graticciata / graticcio)
2) Arrangement of scaffolding from which lanterns are hung in a performance space with no flying facilities. Grid is short for GRIDIRON.
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.
(US) Member of stage crew responsible for moving items of scenery during the show. Usually wears black. A group of grips is a GRIP CREW. This term is borrowed from the film/tv industry, where a grip handles and sets up camera equipment and lighting.
Poorer members of the audience in an Elizabethan theatre who occupied the open-air sections of the theatre at ground level, just in front of the performance space.
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.
The Half is a call given to the actors half an hour before they will be called to the stage for the beginning of a performance. It is given 35 minutes before the advertised time of commencement (in the UK). On Broadway, the Half is given 30 minutes before the start time.
Subsequent calls given are the 'quarter' at 20 minutes (UK), 'the five' at 10 minutes (UK) and 'beginners to the stage' at 5 minutes before curtain up (UK). See also FRONT OF HOUSE CALLS, QUARTER.
Also known as Final Call.
See Calls and Cans
(US) Short for Stage Hand (member of Stage Crew).
HANGING AN ACTOR
A difficult effect to pull off successfully on stage, and must absolutely not be attempted without professional supervision, for obvious reasons.
Harnesses can be obtained which are designed for this effect, but standard safety harnesses are not suitable. The rope must have a safety-rated rope built into it, which is suitable for suspending the shock load of the actors' weight, which must be attached to the harness in such a way that it's not possible for the fake noose to ever tighten around the actors' neck. The hanging must take place with other members of the company present, who have been trained in how the system works under professional supervision.
Simply using a rope with a weak point (e.g. using weak cotton to connect the noose to the rest of the suspending rope) is no longer recommended as there are situations where it may not break, and any chance of this will not be acceptable to a risk assessment process.
A far safer way to hang an actor is to do it offstage, or use a blackout or blinding light along with a sound effect to misdirect the audience into thinking they've just seen a hanging.
The head of the fly crew who are responsibly for lifting scenery or other objects above the stage.
The head of the sound department, which deals with any recorded music, sound effects, vocal reinforcement and music amplification required in the production.
See also NO.1 SOUND.
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.
1) General term for theatre communication equipment.
2) A headphone and microphone combination used in such communications systems with a beltpack.
See also CANS.
HIT YOUR MARK
When an actor stands in the correct position (usually with regard to lighting) she/he is said to have Hit the Mark.
HOLDING FOR A LAUGH
A risky practice, this involves the actors and director pre-planning where the audience will laugh, and inserting suitable pauses in the action, or ensuring that nothing important will be missed if the audience is in stitches. However, if the audience fails to laugh, the pause will slow the pace of the performance. The actors must learn to react to the audience as they react. An even more dangerous practice is to assume that the audience of the show tonight will laugh at the same points as the audience of the previous show.
1) The audience (eg 'How big is the house tonight ?')
2) The auditorium (eg 'The house is now open, please do not cross the stage')
The auditorium lighting which is commonly faded out when the performance starts.
IATSE / I.A.T.S.E.
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (USA) Stage employees union.
A comment or behaviour by an actor or group of actors that is not rehearsed or prepared (or, sometimes, authorised by the director). If the improvisation helps the performance move forward, appropriately, due to a technical or other issue, then improvisation can be helpful. If, however, it's put in to raise a laugh or breaks character or the mood of the scene, it is frowned on.
See also AD LIB.
IN IS DOWN, DOWN IS FRONT
First line of a poem called Theatrical Logic, designed to highlight the complexity of technical theatre jargon!
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.
Also known as a CORPORATE. An event or performance staged by a manufacturer or company in order to launch a product or celebrate a milestone of some kind. Such events are often spectacular.
A small scene set inside a larger one.
A numbered packing list which itemises all single pieces travelling on a tour; all cartons, flightcases, crates, baskets together with quantities and descriptions of contents. Extremely important if touring abroad to satisfy customs. Dimensions/weight/value may also require recording.
(Colloquial) A speed run where lines and action are delivered at a much faster pace than usual. It's a good way to help with pacing problems, and to help actors to get back into the swing of a fast-paced show (comedy / farce) or to break the ice for a more dramatic show.
Also known as a 'Russian Run'.
French for Garden. See STAGE RIGHT.
More about Cour / Jardin
A stage musical show that has been constructed from pre-released existing songs, usually from one artist or genre. Examples are The Buddy Holly Story, Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You.
The most significant role in a play or film that is performed by a young actor / actress.
Short for 'Juveniles' - child members of the company.
A brand of fake blood used on stage and in movies, named after a London street. It was manufactured by a retired British pharmacist, John Tynegate, during the 1960s and 1970s, in the village of Abbotsbury, Dorset. Many varieties of blood, having various degrees of viscosity, shades and textures were available. Since Tynegate's death, the name "Kensington Gore" has become a generic term for stage blood. Kensington Gore was used in the film The Shining. Director Stanley Kubrick had several thousand gallons of it gushing out of an opening elevator during the elevator door scene.
To switch off (a light/sound effect); to strike/remove (a prop).
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'.
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
Text of an opera, or other long musical vocal composition. The script of a musical.
The process of recording information about each lighting state either onto paper or into the memory of a computerised lighting board for subsequent playback. (in USA, this term is used for a lighting plan and a lights session is when lighting states are set up.)
A run of performances in a particular venue with a definite end date.
See GET IN.
Access into the theatre for scenery and other equipment. Also called the Get In, or the Loading Dock.
(also known as LOADING PLATFORM) this is a high level platform above the fly floor at the side of the stage where the fly lines are operated, where weights can be loaded into the cradles of the counterweight system. It is at high level so that weights can be loaded when the bar is at the lowest point (usually a few feet above stage level).
The part of the flying system in the theatre where the brakes and rope locks are applied to the ropes to ensure that a fly bar cannot move once set.
Abbreviation for Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (UK Health & Safety Executive).
HSE LOLER page
(US) League Of Resident Theatres. It is an agreement with Actor's Equity regarding payment/treatment of actors. Prior to this agreement, Equity basically dealt with Broadway type productions and nothing else.
Short for Electrics. The department in the theatre responsible for stage lighting and sometimes sound and maintenance of the building's electrical equipment. Lighting cues in the prompt book are referred to as LX cues (abbreviated to LXQ).
M.U. / MU
M.U. is short for Musicians Union (UK).
Musicians Union website
Sticking tapes to the floor of the rehearsal space to indicate the groundplan of the scenery. Also for marking position of furniture etc. within a set. Always be aware that some tapes may damage or mark some wooden floor surfaces! (sometimes known as the markup).
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.
MATINÉE / MATINEE
Afternoon performance of a show. (From the Latin for 'of the morning', but who does theatre in the morning?)
The number of people that can be in a given room at any time. This is determined by the fire department, or a fire officer, making use of local regulations about the amount of space required for each person, and by the number of fire exits (and the size of exit walkways) and the number of toilets etc available.
Obviously, the number must not be exceeded, as if there is an incident or accident, the insurance cover for the event / building may not be valid.
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
A motif is any recurring element that has symbolic significance in a story. One example is the flute sound in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.
Often used as a code word for fire over a public address system (e.g. 'Mr Sands is in the foyer' means there's a fire in the foyer). Many theatres have their own code words.
Following a rehearsal (or an early performance in a run) the director will give notes to the cast and crew about where to make changes, improvements, cuts etc.
NUMBER ONE TOUR
A tour (of a show) that is booked into the best venues available in each area.
Opposite Prompt side of the stage. Stage Right. (ie Actors right when facing audience).
An actor who no longer needs to refer to his/her script during a rehearsal is said to be 'off book'. Directors and stage managers will often set a deadline for performers to be off book, and actors are expected to learn their lines in good time.
1) A movement towards the nearest side of the stage from the centre. (e.g. 'Focus that spot offstage a bit please')
2) The area out of sight of the audience (e.g. 'Get that donkey offstage !')
(from Spain / Portugal - ollo a spicy stew consisting of different meats and vegetables)
A collection of different acts (e.g. comedy, songs, dance, puppetry), or an act which isn't part of the main show, inserted to fill a gap, to cover a scene change or as an encore after a dramatic play. Example usage: 'The event was an olio of poetry, dance and songs'.
ON THE BOOK
1) An actor who needs to refer to the script during a scene is said to be "on book". The ideal situation is for the actor to be "off book" as quickly as possible!.
2) See PROMPT BOOK.
A movement towards the centre of the stage from the sides. The opposite of OFFSTAGE.
The start of the run of a show in a venue. (e.g. 'When does the new musical open at the Variety Theatre?' or 'The show opened a few weeks ago - it's had some great reviews'.)
An actor position where she/he is facing towards the audience, or mostly facing the audience.
See also CLOSED POSITION.
OPEN THE HOUSE
Clearance given to FOH staff by stage management that the stage is set and the audience can begin to take their seats. When this clearance is given, the backstage call 'The House is now open, please do not cross the stage' is made.
In flying, means up (out of sight).
Introductory musical piece played before a musical which contains many of the musical motifs and themes of the score.
The speed at which actors deliver their lines and perform their actions. A speed run can be useful to warm-up actors and to really make sure everyone is on form. The pacing of the show can have a real effect on how the audience react to it - it's a very tricky thing to maintain, especially as everyone gets more familiar with the show.
A fast-paced scene takes energy and concentration, and can slow down as familiarity sets in, and a slow-paced scene may speed up. Directors often wish to cut down on unnecessary pauses and delays, but also to maintain the moments of silence between speeches when needed.
The act of holding a tab etc. back to allow large items or actors offstage. Also preventing microphone etc cables from getting entangled by pulling / releasing them from offstage as performer walks around.
See TECHNICAL REHEARSAL.
PARKING AND BARKING
(US Colloquial) A choir or other choral group that stands on a stage ('parking') and sings traditional songs ('barking'). The term implies a disdain for this familiar style, but it's perfectly appropriate in many cases...
Parodos (also parode and parodus, plural parodoi, Ancient Greek) is a term used in the theater of ancient Greece, referring either to a side-entrance, or to the first song sung by the chorus after its entrance from the side wings.
(Abbreviation for Per Diem, Latin for Daily) A daily payment by an employer to touring technicians to cover daily living expenses. This is additional to the monthly / weekly wage.
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.
A manual or electrically driven system for lifting performers off the stage and allowing spectacular stunts and aerial sequences to be performed.
Rehearsal in costume and with all technical facilities but using a piano as a substitute for orchestra, so that the director can concentrate on technical problems rather than musical ones (and not pay the orchestra !). Also known as a PIANO REHEARSAL.
A vocal score, or piano-vocal score, is used by singers in a musical or opera (or operetta). The vocal parts are written out in full, but the detail of the accompaniment is reduced and adapted for piano, so it can be used in rehearsals, and easily followed.
Protective net across the orchestra pit to prevent any objects (or actors) falling from the stage and injuring musicians.
Call by Stage Management for actors to take their places for the start of a scene / show. 'Places please everybody'.
See also BEGINNERS.
See Calls and Cans
1) A poster advertising a forthcoming variety show, originally shown with a list of the acts performing.
2) Brochure produced for American theatres as a wrap around for the programme of a particular show. The wraparound content is the same for all theatres across the country and contains news, features and advertising.
3) Also used as a generic name for the programme of a theatre production (listing scenes, cast, creative team, and possibly an article by the creative team about the creation of the show etc.)
The amount of physical stage-space available for performers. This excludes the offstage areas.
1) List of preparations and actions required of technical crews during the performance (eg Sound Plot = list of sound cues and levels in running order.) In the US, the term plot refers to a plan. (eg Light Plot = scale plan showing lighting instruments). See also RUNNING PLOT, STATE PLOT.
2) The basic story thread running through a performance / play which gives the reason for the character's actions.
Time during which the plot for each department is prepared (eg Lighting Plotting session)
Short for PRODUCTION MANAGER.
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.
A cue inserted during / after plotting between two existing cues. (eg 8.5 is inserted between cues 8 and 9). Most computer lighting desks have the ability to either insert an additional cue in a sequence, or to link to another cue out of the sequence, and then link back again. Inserting cues into a plotted sequence on a manual lighting desk is more awkward, because it is a running plot (where only the changes between cues are noted down). Stage Management may prefer to call 8A instead of 8.5, but this is down to personal preference.
Sound cues which relate to an already-running cue within a sequence should have lettered cues (e.g. 8A is a fade up of Cue 8 and 8B is the fade out).
(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.
Planning phase of production before actors rehearse (or sometimes have even been cast) and before sets are built. Brings together the production team in discussions about style, possibilities and budgets.
1) Anything in position before the beginning of a scene or act (eg Props placed on stage before the performance, lighting state on stage as the audience are entering.)
2) An independently controllable section of a manual lighting board which allows the setting up of a lighting state before it is needed. Each preset has a master fader which selects the maximum level of dimmers controlled by that preset.
Table in the auditorium at which director/designer etc sit during rehearsals (especially technical rehearsals). Usually has its own lighting and communications facilities.
Form of staging where the audience moves around the performance space and sees the play at a variety of different locations.
Master copy of the script or score, containing all the actor moves and technical cues, used by stage management to control the performance. Sometimes known as the 'book', Prompt Copy or Prompt Script. The member of stage management (often the DSM) cueing the show is said to be 'On the Book'. (e.g. 'Clare's on the book for the next show').
As well as the script and/or score of the show, the prompt book also contains contact lists for all concerned with the production, information about the venue(s), show reports, local amenities, emergency procedures and any other information that may be needed during the run of the show. It's rightly known as the production 'bible'.
See PROMPT BOOK.
Area, traditionally on the stage left side of the stage, from which the stage manager (or DSM) controls ('prompts') the performance, from the prompt desk.
The control centre of the show. The desk should contain most of the following: a clock, low level lighting, a flat surface for the prompt script, communication facility to other technical departments, a phone for emergency, rear and front of house calls system and cue light controls.
See PROMPT BOOK.
PROMPT SIDE (PS)
Usually stage left side of the stage, containing the prompt corner.
Person whose role is to follow the text of a play, and be ready to remind the actors of their lines if they forget them. In many older theatres, there is a prompt box downstage centre sunk into the stage, so that only the prompter's head is above stage where she/he can see the actors.
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.
Table in convenient offstage area on which properties are prepared prior to a performance and to which they should be returned after use.
Proxemics means the distances between character/actors in a play. It shows their relationships and feelings. e.g. if two characters stood far apart from each other you could assume that they either did not know each other at all, or had fallen out and were no longer speaking to each other.
PUSH AND PULL
Actors who have to move scenery / furniture around the stage, earning them extra money. Slang term is Pickfords, after the UK Furniture removals company.
British Army term, short for Rest and Recuperation - time away from the front line to "recharge" with family and home life.
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.
A box or tray containing dried peas etc which produces a rain sound effect when inclined.
A meeting with all cast and (sometimes all) creative team members to read through the script. Usually happens at the start of the rehearsal process, to orient the cast and help them get to know each other and the text.
Session with the musical director for opera performers, to rehearse the sung dialogue for the coming performance.
Musical terminology for a sung dialogue passage, in the rhythm of ordinary speech, during an opera, operetta or oratorio. Often shortened to RECIT.
(from Latin hirpex - 'large rake used as a harrow'. Rehearse means 're-harrow', or to 'go over again'. It originally meant 'to repeat' (mid 14th century). It wasn't until the late 16th century that it came to it's modern meaning.)
A session when actors are called to work through some scenes from the play in private. A TECHNICAL REHEARSAL is the first time when technical elements (lighting, set etc.) are combined with actors. A DRESS REHEARSAL is a performance of the show as it will be on opening night.
A Relaxed Performance is one specifically modified to help audience members with special needs to feel at home in the theatre, and to enable them to feel able to make noise and comment on the performance when they wish to. They are designed for audience members with autism, learning disabilities and sensory or communication needs. The sound level is often reduced, complex lighting changes are simplified, and the cast and company warn families when unexpected noises will occur. Often the house lights are left on, and the audience is given a pre-show tour of the theatre so that they are familiar with the environment. The performances sit alongside special measures for audio-description and signed performances for those with sight or hearing impairments, and were introduced to the West End in mid 2013.
Guardian article on Relaxed Performances at the National Theatre, UK
Society of London Theatre Relaxed Performances information
Répétiteur is an accompanist, tutor or coach of ballet dancers or opera singers.
In a musical, a repeat of a song or dance number (sometimes with variations in lyrics to reflect what's happened since the last time it was sung) later in the show.
A cue to resume or return to any previous state, setting or function. (e.g. 'at the end of the dance number we restore to a warm general cover').
Submitted by Bert Morris.
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
Abbreviation for Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, 2013 (UK Health & Safety Executive)
Reporting Accidents and Incidents At Work - A Brief Guide (HSE)
(Technical Rider) Information sent to a venue by a touring group detailing lighting, sound, staging and dressing room requirements. Ideally arrives before the group !
Also known as Colophony or Greek Pitch, Rosin is a solid form of resin obtained from pines and some other plants, mostly conifers, produced by heating fresh liquid resin to vaporize the volatile liquid terpene components.
It is semi-transparent and varies in color from yellow to black. At room temperature rosin is brittle, but it melts at stove-top temperatures. It chiefly consists of different resin acids, especially abietic acid.
It is used in a number of applications for it's friction-increasing properties. Ballet, flamenco, and Irish Dancers are known to rub the tips and heels of their shoes in powdered rosin to reduce slippage on clean wooden dance floors or competition/permanence stages. - it was at one time used in the same way in fencing and is still used as such by boxers.
1) A sequence of performances of the same production. (e.g. 'How long is the run of this show?' or 'This show runs for two weeks')
2) A rehearsal of the whole show or a section of it (e.g.'This afternoon's rehearsal will be a run of Act II followed by notes'). Run-throughs early in the rehearsal schedule are sometimes known as STAGGERS as actors are unsure of their lines.
See also ITALIAN RUN, RUSSIAN RUN, CUE TO CUE, SPEED RUN
In a contract, this phrase refers to a way of displaying the credits of a number of people in a single block of text, one after the other, rather than each having a separate line. The producer may insert this clause so that, although they may try wherever possible to credit each member of the creative team separately, sometimes, due to lack of space, it may not be possible.
A rehearsal of the show (or a section of it). Often shortened to just RUN. See also TECHNICAL RUN, DRESS RUN. The first run-through is often known as a STAGGER-THROUGH as there are usually many errors and delays.
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.
A plot sheet giving details of the changes between cues, as distinct from a state plot which gives the whole state of the system at any time. For example, a lighting plot on a manual board is normally a running plot. It is difficult to start a running plot half way through; often the operator has to go back to the beginning and work through until the required point is reached. However, it contains the minimum information necessary to perform the cues, and is therefore more efficient on a manual lighting desk or complex sound setup.
Also used by the stage management team to keep track of prop moves and changes during the show. A preset sheet contains the status of everything at the start of the show, then the running sheet / running plot lists everything that has to happen during the show, in order.
SAFE SYSTEM OF WORK
UK Health and Safety terminology. Can be defined as 'the integration of people, articles and substances in a suitable environment and workplace to produce and maintain an acceptable standard of safety. In this system, due consideration should be given to foreseeable emergencies and the provision of adequate facilities'
Submitted by Chris Higgs
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.
TO BE DEFINED
A listing of the scenes (or even pages) in the script, stating what events happen in them. This can be a useful exercise to get to know the play, but is also useful to be able to remember when in the play a particular event happens, and is a useful rehearsal room reference.
Act 1 Scene 1: We meet the family, Claire states her wish to leave the company.
Act 1 Scene 2: We meet Claire's boss and it becomes clear how much she is depended on.
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 wall-mounted light fixture, where the light is directed upwards. Also refers to a wall-mounted flaming torch.
See also FLAMBEAUX.
The text of a musical or play. Also contains stage directions and other notes.
Musical term for an immediate follow-on. Now often used as jargon for any kind of immediate follow-on.
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.
To reset technical systems to a particular point in the show in order to repeat a sequence or scene during rehearsals. (e.g. 'Can we set back to the entrance of Lady Bracknell')
1) Artistic lighting design can (sometimes) be about what is not lit as much as what is. Light and Shade together make up the overall picture.
2) A lampshade is positioned around a light fitting to direct the light as desired and to improve its' appearance.
3) Actors strive for a variation of tone and emotion - the terms light and shade are sometimes used to describe the tonal variety.
See also CHIAROSCURO
A heavy-duty canvas bag filled with lead shot, used as a weight to hold scenery in place on stage. See also BRACE WEIGHT.
A false floor built on top of the theatre stage, which contains technical elements such as automation tracks or revolves, concealed lighting or smoke effects. In some large shows, the show deck completely replaces the existing theatre stage, which is put back into position when the show has finished it's run.
A written report by stage management giving problems, running times, show staff and audience numbers for the previous days' performance(s). Copies are circulated to the technical departments and management staff and a copy is filed in the prompt book. Also known as a Performance Report.
The Show Report
When an emergency situation means the performance cannot continue, a SHOW STOP is announced. The stop would be called most often because of a safety issue (e.g. a piece of scenic automation is stuck in a dangerous position, or is blocking the stage or flytower in such a way that the show cannot continue. Or a performer has been injured). The audience may be asked to leave the theatre (and be issued refunds) or be asked to remain in their seats while the situation is corrected. For example, if a trapdoor is stuck open, the show must be stopped until it can be closed and made safe.
A heavily automated show should have a pre-recorded announcement, but it may be more human / theatrical to have a member of the stage management team or the company manager to walk on stage with the houselights up and make an announcement along these lines: 'Ladies and Gentlement, sorry to interrupt the performance, but we've had to pause the show here for a few moments while we reset some technical equipment to enable us to continue safely. Please remain in your seats - the performance will continue shortly'. Obviously if there's a major failure and it's unlikely the performance will be able to continue, the procedure should be to apologise to the audience, to give them information about how to obtain a refund or another ticket, and then to ask them to leave the auditorium.
The member of the stage management team who is calling the cues. In the UK this person is known as the DSM on the book.
A less-formal performance, used as part of the development process of a piece of theatre, for an audience connected to the developers in some way rather than being a full public performance. A SHARING is similar, but is for a more defined audience - usually the group that is working on the piece, and other members of a creative team.
SIGHTLINES / SIGHT LINES
A series of lines drawn on plan and section to show how much of the stage can be seen by the extreme seating positions in the auditorium. Often marked in the wings as a guide to the actors and crew to stay out of view.
A piece of flat iron screwed to the bottom rail of a door flat which holds it together, and ensures that the flat doesn't warp. Invisible to the audience.
Counterweight flying system where the cradle travels the same vertical distance as the fly bar. The counterweight frame therefore occupies the full height of the side wall of the stage. See also Double Purchase.
(German for seated rehearsal). The first rehearsal between Opera singers and the orchestra. No attempt is made to act or move the production at this rehearsal.
A bonding medium used with pigments and water to make an economic paint. Size is produced by boiling animal connective tissue, so it's known as Animal Glue. It's similar to Gelatin, also an animal glue, which is used in foodstuffs. See also SCENIC PAINT.
Extra payment made to actors/actresses when nudity is required on stage.
A large wicker basket or box, often wheeled, which stores costumes and/or props for touring.
SMA / S.M.A.
(UK) Stage Management Association who also publish the Freelist - a list of stage management available for work.
Many theatre buildings have complex fire alarm systems installed. Some theatre spaces have smoke detectors in them, which trigger a fire alarm when the space fills with smoke. The use of SMOKE MACHINES in these spaces can (and does) result in expensive call-outs of the fire department and evacuated auditoria.
There are special heat-sensitive detectors called RATE OF RISE detectors which trigger a fire alarm when the temperature rises faster than it should normally. Properly calibrated (and regularly tested) these can be as effective than the smoke detectors (which work by 'seeing' smoke particles in the air). If it's not possible to get Rate of Rise detectors installed in your theatre space instead of smoke detectors, you may be able (subject to local building regulations and local fire department advice) to isolate the smoke detectors for the duration of the performance when you use smoke effects. Properly designed alarm systems incorporate timed isolation, so that smoke detectors are only off for a specific period, and automatically come on after that period.
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.
1) (vb.) To mark the position of an item of set/furniture on stage or in the rehearsal room.
2) (n.) A mark on stage (e.g. 'put the chair on the spike')
Spike Tape is normally thin gaffa tape, although other weaker tape (e.g. masking tape) is used on precious floors. Sometimes, any securing of cable etc to floor is known as 'Spiking'.
Where precision is required during blackouts, GLOW TAPE is often used to spike positions.
On large productions with show decks installed above the main theatre stage, small embedded LED bulbs can be used to mark specific positions. These can be switched on and off as required.
See also SPIKE MATRIX.
A document listing positions of spike marks needed for a show, to aid in the transferring of marks from rehearsal room to stage. Especially useful when touring. The positions are defined by a distance from the center line and from the setting line (usually the proscenium arch line / front of the stage). The table should also include the colour of tape to be used, what the mark is representing, and which scene it appears in.
A temporary line dropped from the grid to suspend something in an exact special position.
Abbreviation for Sound Cue, used by stage management in the prompt book. The equivalent for lighting cues is LX. Avoid using abbreviations such as SX or FX for sound effect cues, as they sound similar to LX. When cueing the show, the member of stage management on the prompt book should say 'Sound Cue 12' rather than 'S. Cue 12', for clarity.
Member of the Stage staff who is responsible for moving props and/or scenery during the show, and for ensuring that items under their responsibility are working correctly and properly maintained. Stage Crew (also known as Stage Hands) are often employed on a casual basis for a specific production, and may not be part of the theatre's full-time staff. They also may be touring with a particular production.
Instructions given by the author about how a play should be staged, when actors should make their entrances and exits and how lines should be delivered. Some well-known stage directions include "Exit, pursued by a bear", from Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. Some stage directions are notes on one possible staging, others are essential to the integrity of the playwright's vision, such as those written by Samuel Beckett - these MUST be followed as a condition of being allowed to stage the play.
French: indications scéniques
See STAGE CREW.
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.
The Head of the Stage Management team comprising the deputy stage manager (DSM) and assistant stage manager (ASM). The DSM is normally "on the book" calling the cues from the prompt corner. The ASM supervises props. Depending on the needs of the production, there may be a team of stagehands, usually casual employees.
German: Inspizient (also Theatermeister or Bühnenmeister)
A large screw which is screwed through the 'foot' of a stage brace to secure it to a strong wooden floor. Only suitable for use in theatres with non-precious wooden floors !
See BRACE WEIGHT.
A loud whisper uttered by an actor on stage, intended to be heard by the audience but supposedly unheard by other characters in the scene. See also ASIDE.
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.
The first tentative attempt to run through the whole show. Very rarely runs smoothly, hence the name.
The lowest audience seating area, usually just below the level of the stage, in a proscenium theatre.
STAND-BY / STANDBY
1) A warning given to technical staff by stage management that a cue is imminent. The member of the stage management team calling the cues will say "Standby Sound Cue 12". Technicians acknowledge by saying "Sound Standing By".
In the US, the word "Warning" replaces "Stand-by".
2) A member of the cast of a musical or play who understudies one (sometimes more) of the principal roles but is NOT also in the chorus. A standby often will not even be required to be at the venue at each performance unless he/she is called in to perform in the role for which he/she is an understudy.
See also ALTERNATE, SWING, UNDERSTUDY.
Additional information submitted by Pierce Peter Brandt
(from the Latin 'ovo' - I rejoice) Seated audience members stand while applauding to congratulate the cast and crew of a particularly excellent performance, usually during the curtain call at the end of the performance.
See RUNNING PLOT.
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 side or vertical piece within a FLAT.
A type of payment to the cast and crew to help towards expenses incurred during the production process. The amount is usually based on the total money the show brings in, but sometimes it can be a set amount.
From Middle English stipendium (from Latin) meaning a fixed sum of money paid periodically for services or to defray expenses.
Submitted by Amy McIntire
1) To disassemble a stage set ("strike the set"), to remove props from the stage. (e.g. "How many crew do you need for the strike", "Strike the armchair after scene 1" etc.)
2) The act of turning on a discharge lamp (e.g. "Make sure you strike the followspot at the half")
SUPERSTITION / SUPERSTITIONS
Theatrical people are notoriously superstitous. There are many rules which some people swear by related to working in the theatre.
1) Backstage whistles were originally used to give instructions to the sailors who (because they knew the best knots) had the job of operating the theatre's flying system. Nowadays, whistling is forbidden backstage because it might result in a lost sailor cutting a rope and dropping something on somebody.
2) Mentioning 'Macbeth' in a theatre is said to invoke the curse of the Scottish Play. The only way to break the curse is for the offender to spin on the spot and then spit. This is an approximation to a purification ritual. The spin turns back time, and the spit expels the corrupting poison. This particular play is always called The Scottish Play.
3) Saying 'Good Luck' is not allowed backstage. The term 'Break a Leg' is used. See the separate page about this!
4) Peacocks are seen as evil (their feathers display an 'evil eye' and their flesh was believed to be poisonous) , and are not allowed near theatres.
More information about Break A Leg
1) A particularly artistic way of drawing a set of tabs diagonally up at the same time as flying them out. Looks much better than it sounds.
2) Souvenirs given to crew following a particular show or event, usually in the form of T-shirts, posters, & coffee mugs.
A member of the cast of a musical (or a play with a large cast) who understudies multiple chorus roles in the production. When a chorus member is not well, has a day off or, in some cases, is performing in a principal role for which he or she is the understudy, a swing performs in this chorus member's place. In the cast of a musical, there will be a male swing who understudies all the male chorus roles in the cast, and also a female swing who understudies all the female chorus roles. In larger casts, there might be two or more swings for each gender. Swings are members of the cast who are in addition to those called for by the script, so in a performance where all of the chorus members and all the actors playing principal roles are present, the swings will not be performing in that particular performance -- although in most cases they will be waiting backstage to be available in the event they are needed.
See also ALTERNATE, STANDBY, UNDERSTUDY.
Submitted by Pierce Peter Brandt
Safe Working Load.
Used by some as a shorthand for SOUND, in the same way LX is a shorthand for Lighting. However, when calling cues, stage management should always say 'Sound Cue 12 GO' rather than 'SX Cue 12 GO'. 'Sound' has one less syllable to say, and SX sounds too similar (no pun intended) to LX.
SXOP can be shorthand for Sound Operator. Many venues use FX in the same way, but this can also refer to Stage effects like smoke, pyro etc.
A brief summary of the plot of a play, film, opera etc.
An initial read-through of the script of a show, with actors and creative team sitting around a table. It allows the whole team to become familiar with the script, and each other in a non-threatening environment.
To be confirmed. In a cast list, this can be taken to mean To be cast.
1) Short for Technical Rehearsal. (e.g. 'The Tech took 14 hours')
2) A member of (amateur) crew ('I'm the lighting tech for this show')
The week leading up to the first performance when the technical elements are put into place, alongside the actors. Involves lighting focus, lighting plot, sound plot, scene change rehearsals, full technical rehearsals and finally dress rehearsals.
(also known as the TECH RUN, or just TECH). Usually the first time the show is rehearsed in the venue, with lighting, scenery and sound. Costumes are sometimes used where they may cause technical problems (eg Quick changes). Often a very lengthy process. Often abbreviated to the Tech.
A DRY TECH is without actors to rehearse the integration of lighting, scenic changes etc. It follows that a WET TECH is a full technical rehearsal with actors and all technical elements, although this term isn't used as often as DRY TECH.
A PAPER TECH is a session without the set or actors when the technical and design team talk through the show ensuring everything's going to work as planned. Stage Managers can use this session to ensure all is written correctly in the Prompt Book.
(Italian for TIME) Musical term for the speed or pace at which a piece of music should be performed. A fast-paced piece is known as UP-TEMPO, and a slow piece is DOWN-TEMPO. Modern music defines tempo in terms of beats per minute (BPM). Before the invention of the METRONOME to measure and time BPM, classical music used descriptive Italian terms (such as ADAGIO (slow), ALLEGRO (fast), PRESTO (faster)) for speed. The original Italian terms contain additional nuances (e.g. ALLEGRO as well as meaning fast, also implies the piece should be performed joyfully).
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
A musical performance (especially in musical theatre and opera) is said to be through-composed if the musical content is continuous, rather than being a series of songs interrupted by recitative pieces and/or dialogue. The term applies in particular to composers such as Stephen Sondheim or Andrew Lloyd-Webber. A piece such as Les Misérables is said to be through-sung as there is no spoken dialogue.
Long series of channels down which wooden cannonballs are rolled to give a realistic thunder rumble effect. Built into the roof of some older theatres, but mostly now unused (for safety reasons).
The Bristol Old Vic has restored their Thunder Run in 2016 for their 250th anniversary.
History of Sound Effects for the Stage
Large suspended steel sheet with handles which produces a thunder-like rumble when shaken or beaten.
Theatrical Management Association (UK) has since 1894 represented and supported theatrical organisations all across the UK. In 2014 the organisation changed it's structure and membership plans and is now known as UK Theatre.
UK Theatre Website
TOP AND TAIL
Rehearsal where dialogue without technical cues is cut, and only run where there are cues or scene changes etc.
Also known as CUE TO CUE.
TOPPING AND TAILING
1) See Cue to Cue.
2) The practice of reversing 'hemp' lines in a theatre to spread wear over as great a length of rope as possible. Over a period of time this practice can considerably increase rope lifetime, especially if lines are rotated between sets as well as positions in the grid (The short of set 1 becomes the long of set 40, for example)
Additional information submitted by Chris Higgs
(Stage Management) The act of helping actors or other crew members off stage using a torch to guide them. Often the role of the ASM.
Narrow masking flats adjacent and usually at right angles to the proscenium arch. So named because they stop people in the boxes being able to peep beyond, into the secrets of the wings, where there may be dancers (for example) warming up or actors doing costume changes. Used in addition to a teaser, the first border behind the proscenium arch.
A lighting instrument in this position (just upstage of the proscenium arch) is known as a Torm Light.
An instant scene change, often effected by exploiting the varying transparency of gauze under different lighting conditions.
See also Lighting With A Gauze / Scrim
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
The area directly below the trapped part of the stage. Used for accessing the traps.
Curtains or scenic pieces moving across the stage on horizontal tracks.
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.
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.
US for DEAD on a flying piece. (e.g. 'The Out Trim on this piece is 14 feet from the deck')
Term used to describe a performer who excels at the three skills; acting, dancing and singing. They are a threat to other performers who may only be excellent at one or two of those skills.
US for TUMBLING a cloth that can't be flown out of sight.
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.
Flying a cloth from the bottom as well as the top when there is insufficient height to fly it directly out (up) in the normal way. See TRIPPING.
Techie name for an Actor/Artiste. ('What time does the turn get here?')
The changeover between one show and the text. It's important that the administration team scheduling the performances takes into account the time it will take to reset the stage back to 'clear' and then set up for the next show, ideally not involving overnight work!
Derogatory (or not ?) term for performing members of a ballet group.
Short for UPSTAGE CENTRE - the middle of the stage furthest away from the audience.
US Term. A type of steel snubbing device, also called a LINE-LOK, named after its' alleged inventor.
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.
Vacuum forming is a process of reproducing architectural and textural relief detail on sets by forming a thin plastic sheet into the required shape by a suction process.
US term for a TEASER attached to the main house tabs. Sometimes known as GRAND VALANCE.
Musical term. A vamp is a repeating musical section played until ready. A vamp may consist of a single chord or a sequence of chords played in a repeated rhythm. The term frequently appeared in the instruction "Vamp till ready" on sheet music for popular songs in the 1930s and 1940s, indicating that the accompanist should repeat the musical phrase until the vocalist was ready. An elongated vamp section is used to cover an action on stage of variable length, or to accompany ad-libbed action or vocals.
(From Wikipedia) Viewpoints is a technique of composition that provides a vocabulary for thinking about and acting upon movement and gesture. Originally developed in the 1970s by choreographer Mary Overlie as a method of movement improvisation, The Viewpoints theory was adapted for stage acting by directors Anne Bogart and Tina Landau.
A cue taken by a technician from the action on stage rather than being cued by the stage manager. Often abbreviated to "Vis".
An auditorium entrance or exit up through banked seating from below. Often abbreviated to Vom.
From the Latin VOMITORIUM (plural VOMITORIA), which was an architectural feature of Roman coliseums etc. Many vomitoria were used to enable the coliseum to be emptied of people very quickly, safely and efficiently.
(Short for Video Tape) A pre-recorded video clip that is played in during a live performance.
(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.
Mechanised stage where the scenery is moved into position on large sliding trucks (wagons) as wide as the proscenium opening, from storage in large areas to the side and rear of the main stage. This system enables incredibly complex and otherwise time-consuming scene changes to occur almost instantly.
The Royal Opera House in London contains a massive series of lifts and platforms which enable the complex programme of multiple performances in the repertoire to be interchanged seamlessly.
See also REVOLVE, JACKKNIFE STAGE.
Session on stage just after the set has been built (or reassembled) when actors and crew can go through moves to ensure all is as it should be, and to identify any problems before the performance. Particularly applies to opera performances in rep when sets are reassembled and struck daily.
A small acting role with no lines. Also known as SPEAR CARRIER.
The general name for the costume department, its staff and the accommodation they occupy.
The Warm-Up prepares the actor's body for the performance by exercising (literally warming up) muscles, stretching limbs, and getting the cast to focus on the performance and to forget about anything outside the walls of the theatre.
US equivalent of the UK's 'standby' for stage manager's cues. (e.g. 'Warn Light cue 12'?.'Light cue 12 GO')
See Counterweight and Brace Weight. Also, instruction given to rookie stage crew on errand to hardware supplier ; 'Go and get me a long weight'.
1) See DRY (Sound)
2) See TECH (Wet Tech).
See TECHNICAL REHEARSAL.
WHAM / W.H.A.M.
Abbreviation for Wigs, Hair and Make-Up Department.
Backstage whistles were originally used to give instructions to the sailors who (because they knew the best knots) had the job of operating the theatre's flying system. Nowadays, whistling is forbidden backstage because it might result in a lost sailor cutting a rope and dropping something on somebody. See Superstition.
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.
The distance between the edge of the performance space that the audience can see, and the wall of the theatre. A lot can be achieved with very narrow wing space, with careful planning and well choreographed stage management team, but you need at least 12 feet to make things possible, and a lot more than that if there are large set pieces to move.
In the London production of Sunset Boulevard, a car had to appear from the stage right wing, and as the theatre didn't have enough space, the car had to be stored hanging vertically from the fly floor above. It was winched down into position, with its' rear wheels still in the air, and the actors stepped into it. As the front of the car moved on stage, the rear was able to be fully lowered into position, and the audience were unaware of the complexities.
1) The out of view areas to the sides of the acting area (known as FLÜGEL in German). The wings are best identified by their position on stage (e.g. "Clive exits through the downstage left wing") but they can be identified by number if there are too many exits, with the downstage wing starting as 1, with stage left and right added to identify the side (e.g. "Sarah exits 2L").
2) Scenery standing where the acting area joins these technical areas.
Single curtain moving across the stage on a single track (wipe track) rather than paired curtains on a tab track.
Fine steel wires woven into a rope to give great strength. A kink or a knot in wire rope greatly reduces the strength.
1) High wattage lights used in a venue when the stage / auditorium lighting is not on. Used for rehearsals, fit-up, strike and resetting.
2) Low wattage blue lights used to illuminate offstage obstacles and props tables etc. Known as 'Wing Workers', 'Blues' or 'Running Lights'.
Stage management abbreviation for 'crosses to'. (e.g. Simon X armchair) Many such abbreviations are used when writing the Prompt Book.
US term for yellow plastic cable ramp sections.
(Manufacturer) German manufacturer of a range of ladders. Commonly refers to the 3-part ladder used on many stages around Europe.
Thanks for visiting the Stage Management Glossary page – don’t forget to check out our other Stage Management resources before you leave!