Glossary of Technical Theatre Terms – Directing

An actor move upstage (e.g. Clive moves above the chair).

A sung performance which is not accompanied by musicians. (From the Italian A CAPELLA, meaning 'as in the chapel')

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 (!!).

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 men.

There are many different theatre shapes and styles, but the most important factor when designing a space for performance is the relationship between the audience and the actors on stage. The audience should be able to clearly see and hear all of the actors on the stage, in order to have a connection or relationship with them.
A space where the audience is close to the stage (or feels close to the stage) is known as an INTIMATE auditorium.
If the space is too big, it's harder for the audience to feel involved in the performance.

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. 

Anagnorisis is a moment in a play or other work when a character makes a critical discovery.

(From French) Facilitator of a community, education or group event (social, cultural or artistic). The Animateur may be a group leader, or may have initiated a project. They are responsible for running the event.

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 opposite of the PROTAGONIST in a drama.

Lines spoken by an actor to the audience and not supposed to be overheard by other characters on-stage.

Assistant to the Director - works on specific tasks, sequences etc. to lighten the workload of the Director.

(US) Stage direction at the start of a play text which describes the stage appearance / layout when the curtain rises (which is where the term comes from), who is on stage, and what they're doing. 

Process where the director or casting director of a production asks actors / performers to show them 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.

Australian Writers' Guild.
AWG website

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.

Singing term - refers to a voice which has not been classically trained, but can 'belt out' songs. See also LEGIT VOICE. (For example Cosette in Les Miserables needs to have both a Legit Voice and a Belt Voice)

Usually refers to the PROMPT BOOK - this document contains the full script of the show and all cues, and is used by the DSM to call the show.

A small role in a play, television production or film.

Text in a poem which has a rhythm but which does not rhyme. 

American dancer, choreographer and director.
June 23, 1927 – September 23, 1987
Wikipedia entry

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


The group of 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City, USA. Along with the West End of London, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.
Wikipedia entry on Broadway Theatre

Overacting, hammy performance, playing to the audience (from the French "Cabotin" - a strolling player / charlatan).

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.

An appearance in a small role in a play, television programme or film by a well-known performer. Celebrities sometimes take cameo roles in projects for their friends, or as a mark of respect to the creative team.

From the Italian for "Sung Story" or "Singing History" this is a theatrical form where a performer tells or sings a story while gesturing to a series of images. These images can be painted, printed or drawn on any sort of material.

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.

The process of the director choosing actors to perform the characters in the play.

A catharsis occurs when a moment of high tragedy at the emotional climax of a play is followed by an emotional cleansing for the characters and the audience.

End-On Stage Layout Plan ( (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).
Blocking Notation

End-On Stage Layout Plan ( The middle portion of the stage - has good sightlines to all seats of the auditorium.
The Stage Left side of centre stage is abbreviated to CSL, with CSR used for the stage right side. 
Also known as MID STAGE.
(NB This is the UK spelling - in the USA, Center is used)

1. The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual within the world of the play.
2. A named individual within the play (e.g. "There are ten characters in scene one, all of whom have speaking parts.").

The art of creating a character. Within the text, characters may be presented by means of description within stage directions or character descriptions which the actor must try to convey or through their actions, speech, or spoken thoughts within the text.

An actor facing too far upstage (so that they are 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.

A later stage audition for directors and casting associates to see how two (or more) actors are together on camera or on stage.

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

The art and craft of designing the moves, pace, flow, structure and execution of a piece of dance, or any other piece of rehearsed movement. This is usually carried out by a Choreographer, but choreography can be devised by a group of dancers. A stage combat sequence is also choreographed, but by a fight director.

1) In Greek theatre, a character (or group) representing an element in the drama which comments on the action, and advances the plot.
2) A sound processing effect which adds 'body' to a sound by overlapping a number of slightly delayed versions of the original sound.

The significant moment in the plot of a play, when things change, or reach a crisis point.

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).

A comic scene (or line) included in an otherwise straight-faced play to provide a relief from tension for the audience.

Italian comic form - started in the Renaissance, and still has massive influence today. A range of stock characters (Harlequin, Captain, Doctor, Pantaloon, Zanni, the Lovers etc.) were represented by stylized masks. Each character had a series of comic "lazzi" (business). The performances were based on the pre-rehearsed lazzi, but were largely improvised.
The performances took place on an outdoor raised stage (called a banco), and traditionally were performed in front of a painted backdrop depicting houses, often with 2 or 3 entrances and an openable window at higher level. 

Shortened to CSM. The Company Stage Manager acts as a liaison between the production company and the actors / performers, particularly with regard to contracts, logistics, accommodation & transport. 
See also Production Stage Manager. 

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)

A device setup by the playwright consisting of an argument, disagreement, need or inequality between characters. There are broadly four types of conflict:
1) Relational Conflict
This is the predominant type, and consists of a battle between the mutually exclusive goals of characters (often the protagonist & antagonist).
2) Societal Conflict
Occurs between an individual character (or small group) and a larger group or society.
3) Inner Conflict
A character struggling with her/himself; either trying to escape a mode of behavior (addictive) or a state of mind.
4) Situational Conflict
Involving a situation which must be escaped or resolved.

A useful technique for exploring any kind of dilemma faced by a character, providing an opportunity to analyse a decisive moment in greater detail. The class forms two lines facing each other. One person (the teacher or a participant) takes the role of the protagonist and walks between the lines as each member of the group speaks their advice. It can be organised so that those on one side give opposing advice to those on the other. When the protagonist reaches the end of the alley, they make their decision. Sometimes known as Decision Alley or Thought Tunnel.

1) A surprising turn of events or spectacular moment during a play.
2) A surprisingly successful theatrical performance. 
With correct accents: coup de théâtre

Informal (and disputed) term for the team of production and design staff around the Director (as opposed to CAST and PRODUCTION TEAM). The Creatives list consists of the Director (and Co-Directors), Composer & Author (if it's a new work), Designers (Set, Lighting, Costume, Sound etc.), Stage Manager, Choreographer, Dramaturg etc. 
The stage management team, Production Manager, set-building team etc are part of the Production Team, not the main Creatives. And that is where the problems arise. All members of the team that put on the show, including the cast, are ALL creative, not just those seen as closest to the director. It's best to avoid the term if possible, and stick to job titles, rather than drawing lines between levels of seniority. 

The moment in a drama when the essential plot point is unravelled or explained. (e.g. "So you see I couldn't have killed the gardener. Because I AM the gardener" (Loud organ music etc.)).

The spoken text of a play - conversations between characters is dialogue. See MONOLOGUE and DUOLOGUE.

The quality or style of speaking of a character within the play, consisting of components such as accent, inflection, intonation and enunciation. An actor whose words are clearly intelligible and audible is said to have good diction.

Didacticism is a philosophy that emphasizes instructional and informative qualities in literature and other types of art. The term has its origin in the Ancient Greek word διδακτικÏŒς (didaktikos), "related to education and teaching", and signified learning in a fascinating and intriguing manner.
Didactic art was meant both to entertain and to instruct.
Didactic plays, for instance, were intended to convey a moral theme or other rich truth to the audience. An example of didactic writing is Alexander Pope's An Essay on Criticism (1711), which offers a range of advice about critics and criticism. An example of didactism in music is the chant Ut queant laxis, which was used by Guido of Arezzo to teach solfege syllables. (from Wikipedia)
Wikipedia entry

A deliberate movement downstage (towards the audience) by one actor in conversation with others. This brings them closer to the audience and directs the audience to pay more attention to them. 

A dramatic device whereby the audience is aware of something that one or more characters are not, and action onstage reflects the effect of this lack of knowledge (frequently comic, but also tragic). Dramatic Irony is often used to underline plot points for the audience.
Submitted by Gregg Shanks

A brief pause (a few beats) in an actors' delivery of a line to emphasise a moment or to heighten anticipation. 
It's important that the DSM does not shout out the next line, while the lead actor is pausing dramatically. 

Part of a scene in a drama which is a scripted conversation between only two characters. See also MONOLOGUE and DIALOGUE.

The Education Director is a member of the theatre staff and is responsible for fulfilling the outreach and educational programme of the theatre or company. 
This may involve organising activities and workshops, meeting with school teachers about organising trips and workshops, managing staff, preparing and delivering an Education Plan, conceiving and directing youth performances as the outcome of workshops etc. They may also develop resources on current productions.
In some organisations they may also be known as the Education Manager, Outreach Co-Ordinator etc.

Refers to a book entitled The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht: A Study from Eight Aspects by John Willetts (1959). The eight aspects of Brecht's work that are analysed in the book are:
1) The Subject Matter
2) The Language
3) Theatrical Influences
4) The Music
5) Theatrical Practice
6) The Theory
7) Politics
8) The English Aspect.

(from Wikipedia) The eleven o'clock number is a big, show-stopping song that occurs late in the second act of a two-act musical, in which a major character, often the protagonist, comes to an important realization.
Wikipedia entry

Elocution is the study of formal speaking in pronunciation, grammar, style, and tone as well as the idea and practice of effective speech and its forms.
Wikipedia entry

An acting group. Normally used to describe a group of actors who work well together, with no-one outshining the others. A performance where the emphasis is on group work, and there are no star performers, is an ensemble performance. 

Scene or speech which follows the main action of the play and provides some insight or comment on the action. See also PROLOGUE.

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)

A speech in praise of a person or thing, often a person who has recently died or moved on to a different role / job.

(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

(Ancient Greek) The final exit of song of a performance.

1) The section of plot at the start of a play which provides essential background information about the characters, their situation, and their relationships to each other.
2) Any dialogue or narration which advances the plot or provides background information that may be relevant later in the production.

Theatre design and performance style which places greater value on emotion than realism. The trademark Expressionist effects were often achieved through distortion.

In Film & TV production, it's important that actors can concentrate on their performance - cameras capture much more detail than can be seen by an audience in theatre. If a crew member is in the actors' eye line, and is looking at the actor, the actor can be distracted, and possibly taken out of the moment (especially if the crew member is grinning or laughing). 
Many high profile actors have had crew members removed from the set for being in their eye line. If you are on set, do not stare at the actors while they are working, unless you're far enough away, or they're facing in a different direction. 

The events in a play that occur after the climax has been reached, but before the final part. 

Form of comedy play originated in France, using fast-paced physical action and visual comedy more than humour based on language.
In London's West End, following the Second World War, there were farces at the Aldwych Theatre (the Aldwych Farces, particularly those by Ben Travers) and at the Whitehall Theatre (the Whitehall Farces). 

Now obsolete term for an actor who is neither the hero, heroine, villain or confidante in a traditional drama, but is nonetheless essential for revealing important plot points. They were known as Fifth Business.

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

To hesitate - to nearly forget or fumble one's lines.

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.

Term not used in UK theatre - currently searching for a definition.

Foreshadowing or adumbrating is a literary device in which an author indistinctly suggests certain plot developments that might come later in the story.
Wikipedia entry

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.

1) A technique for allowing a character to 'step out' of a scene and reveal something to the audience, while the rest of the action freezes. The name comes from a film technique where the images is frozen in time.
2) A single frozen image in a film which replaces the usual progression of movement, usually to emphasise a dramatic moment, sometimes accompanied by a fade to blackout.

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.

Also known as Gender-Bending. Theatre continuously evolves and reinvents itself, including finding new ways to look at old work. Gender-Swapping involves changing a fictional character's biological sex and/or gender identity from the usual way the character is portrayed. 
In Marianne Elliot's production 'Company' in London in 2018 and later on Broadway, the role of Bobby was gender-swapped to be female.

A style of performance - a way of categorising different types of drama.

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.

(US) The main house tabs in a venue. Normally a variation of blue or red in colour, although a more neutral grey is often better for scenes played in front of it, or for taking colours and gobos as tab warmers.

Shock theatre form originally from Le Grand Guignol theatre in Montmartre, Paris (opened in 1897). Specialised in portraying the macabre & gruesome to the delight and horror of the audience.

Exaggerated over-acting.

A photograph of an actor, distributed to agents, directors or casting directors. Headshots are not the same as portrait photos, and are designed to show the actors' face clearly in even lighting.

When an actor stands in the correct position (usually with regard to lighting) they are said to have Hit the Mark.

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.

A technique used in interactive theatre when an actor, in character, is questioned by the audience about her/his actions.

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. 

The ingénue is a stock character in literature, film, and a role type in the theatre; generally a girl or a young woman who is endearingly innocent and wholesome. Ingénue may also refer to a new young female actor or one typecast in such roles.

1) An electrical system in a particular building (e.g. "the stage lighting installation was tested last year")
2) A piece of art designed to transform a particular room or building into something other than a room in an art gallery. Installations often use complex audio-visual equipment and can be intensely immersive experiences. (e.g. "In the studio space this week we have an installation by John Doe entitled 'Space'")

Intention is an character's specific purpose in performing an action or series of actions, the end or goal that is aimed at. Outcomes that are unanticipated or unforeseen are known as unintended consequences.

The interior (or internal) monologue is the stream of consciousness discussion a character has with her/himself whilst working through problems or issues confronting them. It can be delivered as a recorded voiceover, or possibly as an aside spoken direct to the audience.

Break between sections of a performance. During a play, the interval is normally half way through a standard length performance (approx 1 hour each half) and is usually 15 or 20 minutes in duration. Known in the US as an INTERMISSION.
For a full house, a 20 minute interval may be necessary. However, if there are no refreshments available, the interval can be shorter. 
A performance of less than 90 minutes in length could run straight through with no interval, although this wlil affect the theatres' takings for the night. 

A member of the creative team who works with the director and actors on any scenes involving nudity, intimacy or sexual contact. The role of a fight director is well-documented and a vital role when any on-stage combat is involved, to choreograph the movement to ensure the actors' safety. The Intimacy Director does the same job to ensure the actors are comfortable with the scene, and that the movements are choreographed to fulfil the directors' requirements, and that the movements do not change during the run of performances.
More about the Intimacy Director

Acronym for the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, a drama school in London training performers and technicians. 

1) The leading actor (regardless of gender) plays the main character in a play or musical. The term is sometimes genderised (the 'leading man' is the male actor and the 'leading lady' is the female actor).
2) Another word for a cable, usually a short connection between pieces of equipment.

Singing term - refers to a classically trained voice (see also BELT VOICE)

1) Permission must be obtained (and paid for) from the representatives of the author(s) of the piece of work / play before it is performed (or even rehearsed). This Performing Rights Licence grants the applicant permission to perform the work on specified dates, at a specified location. The licence requires the applicant to purchase individual copies of the play text, and it does not give permission to photocopy the text. It often also stipulates that the play must be performed in full, as written, without edits. It does not give permission to adapt, edit or rewrite any part of the work. 
In the UK and USA, Samuel French is a major publisher and rights processor for many play texts. Many other publishers exist. You can usually find out how to apply for rights in the first few pages of the play text, or using search engines (type 'Name of play' +'Performing Rights'). 
2) Licences are also required for child or animal performers, or for guns or other types of weapons in some locations. If in any doubt which licences you need, check with the venue or other local theatre professionals. 

Undesirable behaviour where an actor responds with more volume or intensity to a line delivered to them.

A theatre company or producing venue may employ a literary manager to work on reading plays that are submitted to evaluate them and decide if any are suitable to be put into production. They may also be responsible for suggesting existing plays / texts to the theatre management and artistic team. 


Stanislavskian technique which encourages actors to explore how they would feel and what would happen IF the situation in which the character they are portraying was to happen to them, or IF their personal circumstances were different.

Products applied to the face or body of an actor to change or enhance their appearance. See also GREASEPAINT. Colloquially known as SLAP. 
Make-Up Resources at

The mantle of the expert is a student-centered dramatic-inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning invented and developed by Professor Dorothy Heathcote at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the 1980s.
This approach inverts the typical teacher-to-student model of teaching by allowing the students to dictate their learning and educational process through creative drama. The students, rather than the teacher, are the main communicators in this process. (From Wikipedia) 
Wikipedia entry

1) Form of theatre where actors faces are covered with masks.
2) Early word for GOBO.

An approach to acting developed by the American theatre practitioner Sanford Meisner.
Wikipedia entry

A Melodrama is a dramatic work that exaggerates plot and/or characters in order to appeal to the emotions. It is usually based around having the same character traits, (for example, a hero, who is fearless and who the audience is rooting for, the heroine, who is usually in peril of some kind, which the hero rescues her from; the villain (usually likes the heroine too) and villain's sidekick (typically gets in the way of or annoys the villain).
The term is also used in scholarly and historical musical contexts to refer to dramas of the 18th and 19th centuries in which orchestral music or song was used to accompany the action.

Method Acting is any of a family of techniques used by actors to create in themselves the thoughts and emotions of their characters, so as to develop lifelike performances. Though not all Method actors use the same approach, the "method" in Method acting usually refers to the practice, influenced by Constantin Stanislavski and created by Lee Strasberg, in which actors draw upon their own emotions and memories in their portrayals (known as Emotional Recall), aided by a set of exercises and practices including sense memory and affective memory.

Form of performance with no spoken words. Plot, character etc. are conveyed to the audience by movement and gesture. From the Greek Mimos.

See also Physical Theatre.
Marcel Marceau Foundation for the Advancement of the Art of Mime

1) Drama exercise involving two performers facing one another, either side of an imaginary mirror line. One tries to exactly duplicate the movements of the other, as if they were a reflection of that person in a mirror.
2) (AV/IT) Function on a laptop computer where the built-in display output is duplicated on the projector output. Turning off mirroring enables software such as Qlab to display a cue list / controls on the laptop display while the projector output shows the media (still images, videos or live cameras) required for the show. 

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

Predominantly European artistic and philosophical movement that arose due to changes in society and industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The movement is also seen as a reaction against the horrors of World War 1. Characterised by a rejection of 'traditional' artistic forms; gave rise to abtract art, atonal music, stream-of-consciousness writing etc.
Initially modernist theatre was an attempt to employ naturalistic principles, as advocated by Emile Zola in the 1880s. However, a simultaneous reaction against naturalism attempted to integrate poety, painting, music and dance in a harmonious fusion.

A speech within a play delivered by a single actor alone on stage. See also SOLILOQUY, DUOLOGUE, DIALOGUE.

An allegorical performance in whcih the protagonist is met by personifications of various moral attributes who try to prompt him to choose a godly life over one of evil. Popular in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries.
Wikipedia entry

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.

Part of METHOD ACTING, influenced by Stanislavski and created by Lee Strasberg. Strasberg uses the question, "What would motivate me, the actor, to behave in the way the character does?" Strasberg asks the actor to replace the play's circumstances with his or her own, the substitution.

A traditional folk play, performed on a makeshift stage in villages aross Britain, performed by amateur actors. 
Wikipedia entry

Also known as a Miracle Play. Traditional since medieval times, the Mystery Play is a re-enactment of bliblical scenes, usually performed outdoors in a small town or village, by the community. 
A Passion Play is a cycle of plays that portray the Easter story, specifically. One of the most famous is the Oberammergau Passion Play, performed in the German town in years ending in a zero.  
What is a Miracle Play
Oberammergau Passion Play

A traditional story, which may define how a particular civilisation came into being, or a tale with a clearly defined moral code designed for social education. Myths often involve supernatural beings and may be enhanced accounts of historial events, or as an allegory for or personification of natural phenomena, or as an explanation of a ritual.

The Narrator of a piece of theatre is a performer who speaks directly to the audience to tell them part of the story, to give additional information, or to comment on the scene or the behaviour of characters. The Narrator may be a single actor throughout, or there may be a number of narrators who share the role during the performance, whilst also playing other parts.

1) Lighting Design: A naturalistic approach to lighting design requires lanterns to be placed in ways that duplicate where the light would come from in nature. For example, a sunny day outdoor scene would be lit primarily from above the acting area, with fill lighting in from the sides as if from the cloud. A dark room would be lit by moonlight through a window, and the light level would increase when a door is opened from a lit corridor or when a light fitting is turned on.
2) Performance: A naturalistic performance (following the techniques of Stanislavski) requires that the actor completely understands and inhabits every aspect of the characters' life, as well as the motivation and lines that are to be spoken. 
3) Scenic Design: The set designer aims to reproduce reality as closely as possible.

Heightened Naturalism involves exaggerating the natural elements of the scene for dramatic (or comedic) purposes. 

Stage direction to indicate a clatter / bang offstage to which the cast should react. The type of noise should be indicated by the surrounding action!
Also, a farce by British playwright Michael Frayn about life backstage, featuring a large interval set change.

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.

In acting terms, an obstacle is something which prevents a character from achieving her/his objective within the play. 

An Off-Off Broadway theatre has less than 100 seats.

1) (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'.
2) An additional cloth in variety / movie theatres, between the audience and the movie screen, which was made of oil (olio) cloth, and known as the Olio, on which there were often painted ads for local businesses. Acts were performed in front of this before the movie played. 

A person brought into a production process to give a fresh opinion on the work so far, to advise the director on how it's looking from an outside perspective.

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.

See PDs.

From Greek. A reversal of circumstances, or turning point.
The English form of peripeteia is peripety: a sudden reversal dependent on intellect and logic.

Physical theatre is a genre of performance which makes use of the body (as opposed to the spoken word) as the primary means of performance and communication with an audience. In using the body, the performer or actor will concentrate on:
The use of body shape and position
Facial expressions
Rhythmical movement, pace and the energy of the body
Physical theatre can be distinquished from dance in that it tends to focus more on narrative, character and action. However, the boundaries between the two are rather blurred.
There are various styles and genre of physical theatre. These include:
Physical comedy - where the body is the primary means of comic creation
Stomp- where the body, with external objects, is used for its percussive potential
Some forms of puppetry
The most famous institution devoted to physical theatre is the Lecoq school in Paris. Students here follow the method of Jacques Lecoq, which developed out of his experience of mask work, commedia dell'Arte and his interest in the physicality of performance.
Definition from Wikipedia - click for more
Lecoq School

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.

A short play (of around a few minutes long), performed by up to 4 people. Can help with teaching of drama and scene construction, and can be used to explore different viewpoints of a topic in a non-teaching situation.

The author of a play. Also known as a dramatist.


An occasional chance for the audience to stay in the auditorium after a performance to hear the director or actors talk about the performance, and to answer questions from the audience.

Posters by Dewynters (from Victoria & Albert Collection) (Dewynters) Advertising material for an event. The poster contains the name of the event, the date and time, cost of ticket, how to get a ticket, and where the event is taking place. It should also contain information (for example, a recommended minimum age) that may prevent a person booking. It should have an appropriate design for the type of event, and often contains a photograph or image as a background to the textual information. Some memorable posters are very simple in design. Website and social media links can also be included on the poster.
Other advertising materials could include fliers (small versions of the poster, with additional information on the back), newspaper adverts, radio adverts, TV spots, T shirts, other apparel (baseball caps, beanies) etc.
The UK design agency Dewynters is responsible for many iconic posters for West End shows - their approach is to make the poster image strong enough to be seen even if it's passing by at speed (e.g. on a bus or being seen from a car). Their most famous posters (e.g. Phantom of the Opera or Cats) are successful due to the strong 'logo' design which carries a simple message about the show, and can be recognised at a glance. 
Italian: Locardina
UK National Theatre Posters Gallery
UK Theatre Posters by Dewynters at the Victoria & Albert Museum

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.

Computerised tools which enable design teams to show directors and other members of the production team how lighting, scenery or scenic automation will look before the set is even built. See WYSIWYG.

Table in the auditorium at which director/designer etc sit during rehearsals (especially technical rehearsals). Usually has its own lighting and communications facilities. 
For small venues the desk is used by the lighting designer and her/his team so that they can see the lighting from the audiences' point of view. The lighting control desk may be moved to the production desk, or the desk and programmer may remain in the control room, and have a remote interface on the production desk, which may have a display screen showing the cue list etc, which the designer can configure. 
Larger shows (including Broadway and West End) will often remove large sections of audience seating in the stalls and install a number of production desks for all technical areas including lighting, projection, sound, scenic automation etc. 

A musical routine / song with a heavy dance component, usually performed by the majority of the cast of a musical, with a sense of showbiz and sparkle.

Short scene or speech before the main action of the play to put it into context or set the scene. See also EPILOGUE.

The leading character or 'hero' in a play who has to fight against / oppose the ANTAGONIST.
This term derives from the theatre of Ancient Greece when the Protagonist was the first actor to speak (aside from the CHORUS). As more 'lead' actors were added, they became known as the Deuteragonist and Tritagonist.

1) (Film-making) To change the focal distance setting on a camera so that an object either comes into sharp focus, or is defocussed sometimes so that something else a different distance away, comes into sharp focus. Where necessary, this activity is carried out by a Focus Puller. 
2) (Acting) To behave in such a way that the audiences' attention is pulled away from another performer. 

Short for Research and Development.
This describes an experimental phase of a project when different ideas are played with, as the piece of work is being created.

Acronym for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, a drama school training actors and technicians in London, UK. 
RADA website

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.

Realism in theatre describes a decision by the creative team to present the audience with an accurate depiction of the real world, rather than a stylized interpretation. Examples are Kitchen sink realism, an English cultural movement in the 1950s and 1960s that concentrated on contemporary social realism, or Poetic realism, a film movement in France in the 1930s that used heightened aestheticism. In the visual arts the term denotes any approach that depicts what the eye can see, such as in American realism, a turn of the 20th century idea in arts, Classical Realism, an artistic movement in late 20th Century that valued beauty and artistic skill.

(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.
Types of Rehearsal:
The initial phase consists of a Readthrough, when the entire company and technical staff hear the play read by the actors straight-through, as written in the script. 
Blocking Rehearsals follow the readthrough(s) and involve working through the play scene-by-scene with the actors and director looking at movements and on-stage positions / physical relationships of the actors. They also may involve character analysis and discussions about the emotional development of the characters as the plot progresses. The set should be marked out on the rehearsal room floor, and stand-in furniture (either generic tables & chairs, or rehearsal blocks) is used where relevant. This is sometimes known as an Acting Area Rehearsal
Once the blocking is worked out, and the actors know what they're doing, the performance is said to be 'Up on its' feet' - it is able to be run through, and the technical team and designers can watch rehearsals knowing they're seeing the bare bones of what will become the finished performance.
A Line Run (also known as Line Bash) is a speed run of just the actors' lines, to enable them to feel confident that the text is correct (and remembered). 
Polishing Rehearsals follow, once the actors are secure with their movements through the play, and look at the nuances of character and how lines are delivered in more detail, along with any physical sequences. The Director works with the actors in small groups, rather than having the entire company called to each session. 
A series of Technical Rehearsals (often shortened to Tech Rehearsal) are the first time when technical elements (lighting, set etc.) are combined with actors. The actors should be secure in their character, blocking, physical actions etc by this point, and the technicai crew work on integrating all of the technical and physical aspects of the show. 
Dress Rehearsals (or Dress Runs) are performances of the show as it will be on opening night, with all technical elements up-to-speed and working correctly, including full costume and make-up. The stage management team use these rehearsals to ensure any scene changes and technical aspects work reliably, repeatably and safely, and the actors ensure they can perform as required at full speed, and that none of the technical elements cause them any problems.

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

1) The point during a drama when the plotline reaches a conclusion, and conflict is resolved.
2) A measure of the quality of a video display / projection. Measured in the number of pixels width x height. 
3) The quality of a sound sample is measured by the sample rate (e.g. 44.1kHz is CD quality sample rate) and the resolution (either 8 bit or 16 bit normally).

A new production of a performance (long) after its' inital run of performances has ended. 
Sometimes out-of-date references are updated, questionable material may be amended, or new material may be added. 

The part of a story after the characters are introduced, where conflict or setbacks occur, to create dramatic tension as the story builds towards the climax/conclusion. 

The standard non-regional English accent as spoken in England. Also known as BBC English.

A rehearsal of the show (or a section of it). Often shortened to just RUN. See also TECHNICAL RUN, DRESS RUN, WALK-THROUGH. The first run-through with technical elements is often known as a STAGGER-THROUGH as there are usually many errors and delays.

The text of a play, containing the words spoken by the actors. Also contains stage directions and other notes.
The script of a piece of musical theatre is called the Libretto. The script for a piece of physical (or non-verbal) theatre is called the Score.

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.

A piece of performance which has been designed to work only in a particular non-theatre space. The space may have been adapted to fit into the themes or style of the production. A site-sensitive (or space-sensitive) piece, on the other hand, will not adapt the space, but work with it's style and history to create a piece of performance. See also PROMENADE, IMMERSIVE THEATRE, INSTALLATION.

(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.

Extra payment made to actors when nudity is required on stage.

1) Two pieces of wood loosely joined at one end, which make a loud 'slap' sound when used to hit something / someone. 2) Form of physical comedy where people get hit, covered in custard pies or showered with water.

(Actor audition term) When auditioning on-camera, or when recording a piece of footage, an actor may be asked to Slate their name and their agent's name, or to Slate the scene being recorded. This term is from the film industry when a piece of slate with chalk writing on it to indicate the actor being shot was filmed for a few frames before the actor, to enable later identification.

Lines delivered by an actor on stage as if to her/himself. See also MONOLOGUE, DIALOGUE.

Screen Producers Association of Australia.
SPAA website


(From German spielen: To play (music)) A slicky delivered speech / sales patter, often long and convoluted. 

(USA) Union for theatre directors & choreographers, founded in 1959, and based in New York. Abbreviated to SDC.
SDC Website

A nervous or hesitant feeling before an actor goes on stage, or a feeling of dread or panic, which may be an indication of a social anxiety condition.
Conquering Stage Fright

End-On Stage Layout Plan ( Left/ Right as seen from the Actor's point of view on stage, when they are facing the auditorium. (ie Stage Left is the right side of the stage when looking from the auditorium.)
Stage Right = OP (Opposite Prompt) Abbreviated to SR. French: Cote Jardin, Netherlands: Toneel Links (translates to Stage Left!)
Stage Left = PS (Prompt Side) Abbreviated to SL. 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.

(Acting) The way a performer stands / holds themselves when in character. 

An instruction to an actor to relax and come out of character (step out) or to concentrate and get into character, ready to rehearse.

A sterotypical character or archetype that is used regularly in a particular style of drama. Usually a fairly one-dimensional character.

(German) A proto-Romantic movement in German literature & music from 1760s - 1780s. In a typical Sturm und Drang play, the protagonist is driven to action (often violent action) by revenge and greed.
Wikipedia entry

A secondary story within a play in which events may relate to the main plot, but which feature less important characters. Used to reinforce themes, or to help move the main plot forward, or for purely logistical reasons when a break is needed in the main story for a costume change etc. 

Subtext or undertone is content of a book, play, musical work, film, video game, or television series which is not announced explicitly by the characters (or author) but is implicit or becomes something understood by the observer of the work as the production unfolds. Subtext can also refer to the thoughts and motives of the characters which are only covered in an aside. Subtext can also be used to imply controversial subjects without specifically alienating people from the fiction, often through use of metaphor.

(From Latin, supernumerarius) A paid member of the cast who has no lines and appears on stage in crowd scenes. 

The willing suspension of disbelief enables an audience to enjoy the events presented to them on a live theatrical stage as if they were real, knowing that the play is performed by actors, and that the locations and occurances depicted on stage are not real. 

A member of the cast of a musical (or a play with a large cast) who understudies multiple ensemble roles in the production. When a member of the main cast is not well, has a day off or, in some cases, is performing in a principal role for which they are the understudy, a swing performs in their place. In the cast of a musical, there will at least 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.
The actions required of a performer throughout a particular performance is known as the Track. 
Submitted by Pierce Peter Brandt

A late nineteenth-century art movement seeking to represent absolute truths symbolically through metaphorical images and language mainly as a reaction against naturalism and realism.
Subtle introduction of symbolism can add layers of complexity and sophistication to a performance concept.
Settings: A large throne symbolises power, a window symbolises the outside world or freedom etc.
Colours also play a big part in symbolism on stage.
Wikipedia entry

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.

Actor's lines that are overlapped in the original text, or a direction to do so. Used to increase the intensity of dialogue.

Theatre of Cruelty is a form of theatre originally developed by avant-garde French playwright, essayist, and theorist Henry Becque.
Antonin Artaud, some 50 years later, is also seen as a main contributor to the genre, notably with The Theatre and its Double. Originally a member of the surrealist movement, Artaud eventually began to develop his own theatrical theories. The Theatre of Cruelty can be seen as a break from traditional Western theatre and a means by which artists assault the senses of the audience, and allow them to feel the unexpressed emotions of the subconscious. While Artaud was only able to produce one play in his lifetime that reflected the tenets of the Theatre of Cruelty, the works of many theatre artists reflect his theories. These artists include Jean Genet, Jerzy Grotowski, and Peter Brook. (from Wikipedia)
Wikipedia entry

The Theatre of the Absurd is a post–World War II designation for particular plays of absurdist fiction written by a number of primarily European playwrights in the late 1950s. It is also a term for the style of theatre the plays represent. The plays focus largely on ideas of existentialism and express what happens when human existence lacks meaning or purpose and communication breaks down. The structure of the plays is typically a round shape, with the finishing point the same as the starting point. Logical construction and argument give way to irrational and illogical speech and to the ultimate conclusion—silence.
Examples of absurdist plays include Beckett's Waiting for Godot, Jean Genet's The Maids and Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
Wikipedia entry

Named after the Greek actor Thespis (considered to be the founder of Greek tragedy, and the first person to appear on a stage as somone other then himself), a Thespian is a follower of Thespis - an Actor.
Submitted by June Lathrop

Thought-tracking is a technique used in workshopped drama sessions to explore a character's thoughts during a narrative. It often takes the shape of an exercise where the action is frozen and a character is asked to speak a few words about his or her feelings and thoughts for the rest of the group.

Abbreviation for Theatre In Education. A performance aimed at a schools audience.

Tragedy (from the Greek tragos which means 'goat' and oide which means 'song') is a form of drama based on human suffering that invokes in its audience an accompanying catharsis or pleasure in the viewing. While many cultures have developed forms that provoke this paradoxical response, the term tragedy often refers to a specific tradition of drama that has played a unique and important role historically in the self-definition of Western civilization.

Tragicomedy is a literary genre that blends aspects of both tragic and comic forms. Most often seen in dramatic literature, the term can variously describe either a tragic play which contains enough comic elements to lighten the overall mood or a serious play with a happy ending.

Some audience members may be upset by particular themes that may be featured in some plays.
It's important that the creative team are aware of these themes, and how they may affect audience members, and if necessary consult with local support groups or charities that can provide advice on how to deal with the issues sensitively.
Although some venues may list the themes in advance publicity, others (such as The Old Vic in London) prefer to keep the trigger warnings unseen unless audience members ring the theatre in advance.

A frequently used recognisable theme, plot device, style of performance, which could also be called a cliche or stereotype. Tropes are sometimes used as short-cuts, to enable the audience to quickly understand a complex situation / challenge. 
Examples include the use of soliloquy in a spotlight, the villain wearing black, red light for anger etc. 

A fully-staged run of a show in a provincial location before the show opens in a higher-profile location such as the West End of London or Broadway in New York.
The tryout run allows the show to be fine-tuned, to amend (or cut) sections which are unnecessary or don't work, and can also build word-of-mouth, and enable the production to have publicity photos etc before the show arrives at its' final destination for a (hopefully) long run.
Although many Broadway shows use out-of-town tryouts (e.g. Dear Evan Hansen (Washington DC), Frozen (Denver)), there are notable exceptions. Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark was too technically complex to be set up in another venue, so the show had a hugely extended run of previews on Broadway, and suffered with many technical and logistical issues, as well as the departure of a key member of the creative team. However, shows such as Book of Mormon and School of Rock opened 'cold' on Broadway and have gone on to huge success. The cost of tryouts is increasing (see OnStage Blog) so a tryout is no longer the only option.
See also PREVIEW

1) When an actor turns on stage, they have two options - a closed turn (away from the audience, turning back to the audience) or an open turn (towards the audience). The open turn is preferred for many types of performance. A slight turn to face the audience more directly is called 'opening up'. 
2) Techie name for an Actor/Artiste. ('What time does the turn get here?')

An actor who is regularly cast in the same kind of roles is said to be TYPECAST. If an actor has played similar roles for a while (e.g. muscle-bound baddie) and is cast in a completely different role (e.g. a nanny) he's said to have been cast AGAINST TYPE.

Units of action, or units (sometimes also called beats), were first suggested by Konstantin Stanislavski as a means of helping actors determine the through line or super objective of a role. A unit is a discrete piece of action in a play-text, marked by a significant change in action. This could be a change in what the characters already on stage are doing or trying to do, i.e. a change in their objective, a new character entering the scene or those already on stage exiting.

A performance based on words taken from an interview with a member of the public, usually forming a dramatised version of real-life events.

Also known as Distancing Effect or Alienation Effect, this is a concept coined by Bertholt Brecht "which prevents the audience from losing itself passively and completely in the character created by the actor, and which consequently leads the audience to be a consciously critical observer."

(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 short impressionistic scene that focuses on one moment or gives an acute impression of a character, idea, setting, or object. This type of scene is more common in recent postmodern theatre, where less emphasis is placed on adhering to the conventions of theatrical structure and story development. Vignettes have been particularly influenced by contemporary notions of a scene as shown in film, video and television scripting.

A small acting role with no lines. Also known as SPEAR CARRIER or EXTRA. 

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.

1) A rehearsal where the performance is worked on by the actors on stage and the director in the auditorium, giving very occasional direction and notes and solving issues as it progresses. There may not be any technical elements on stage - this is a rehearsal for the actors - they know their lines, they know the blocking, they are running the performance to find nuances of character, or to problem-solve. 
2) A rehearsal which has a small audience watching it. While on tour, a group of supporters or sponsors may be invited to a rehearsal as a way of giving them exclusive access. Some dance companies (e.g. American Ballet Theatre) have a programme of working rehearsals where anyone can buy a ticket to watch part of a performance (not usually a dress rehearsal, but a rehearsal for the dancers rather than the technicians). These are sometimes accompanied by a narration on headsets where a guide explains the process, talks about the history of the art-form, choreography and dancers.

A cut-down performance with minimal technical elements, but actors who are rehearsed and may be off-book.
A workshop performance can be used to get a piece of text on its' feet, to see if it works, or to show potential funders the bare-bones of the show in the hope of attracting financial support.
See also Rehearsed Reading, Work in Progress.