Glossary of Theatrical Terms

Here are some terms and abbreviations which are used in the theatrical environment.


Act (1 - General) To perform a dramatic role. (2 - General) A section of a production, often acts are seperated by intermissions.
Amp (1 - Technical) A unit of electrical current. (2 - Technical) See Amplifier.
Amplifier A unit used to increase the amplitude (e.g. volume) of a signal.
Apron The area of the stage, if any, which protrudes in front of the proscenium arch.
Aria A reflective solo (usually sung).
ASM Assistant Stage Manager
Auditorium The area from which the audience watches the production.
Backcloth A cloth hung to form the back of a set.
Bar A horizontal, flown rod or pole from which scenery, lighting and other equipment is hung.
Bar Bells Bells sounded front of house to warn the audience that the performance is about to begin.
Barndoors Adjustable flaps on the front of a luminaire used to control the beam. See also shutters.
Batten (1 - General) See bar. (2 - Staging) A wooden strip at the bottom of a cloth to keep it straight and taut. (3 - Staging) A piece of wood used to join a number of flats together. (4 - Lighting) A group of luminaires.
Beamlight A luminaire with no lens that provides an almost parallel beam of light.
Beginners The backstage call 5 minutes prior to curtain up to get the cast into position for the first scene.
Blacklight Ultraviolet light.
Blackout A period when all stage lighting is turned off.
Blocking Arranging the movement and actions of the cast on stage.
Blueout Similar to a blackout but with dim, normally blue, lights left on to provide enough light for scene changes.
Board See desk.
Bomb Tank A strong metal container used to prevent debris from maroons causing injury or damage.
Bookflat Two flats hinged together.
Booking Closing a bookflat.
Boom A vertical lighting bar.
Boom Arch Used to hang equipment from a boom.
Border Masking hung above the stage.
Box Set A set which encloses the acting space on three sides.
Brace A straight piece of wood (metal and other materials are rarely used) that supports a flat.
Bridge (1 - General) A walkway above the stage and/or auditorium which allows access to equipment. (2 - Staging) A link between two raised areas.
Bulb The glass part of a lamp.
Call The person responsible for calling the cast to position at the correct time.
Call desk The desk from which the call operates.
Cans The communication system, usually consisting of headphones and a microphone that allows co-ordination of the technical departments during the show.
Centre Line The dividing line (imaginary) between the left and right halves of the stage.
Channel A controller of one or more circuits in the lighting or sound system.
Chase A repeated sequence of lighting states.
Circuit The phsyical electrical circuit between a luminaire and the associated dimmer channel.
Cleat A fixture with two wings used for quick fastening of ropes.
CL See centre line.
Cloth A piece of fabric, often painted, that forms part of the scenery.
Clothscene A scene which takes place on the audience side of a cloth.
Colour See gel.
Colour Call A list of gels required.
Colour Frame See gel frame.
Colour Scroller A device containing a strip of different gels the position of which, and thus the gel in use, can be adjusted remotely.
Colour Wheel A revolving disc which holds a number of different gels allowing them to be changed sequentially.
Counterweight The weights used in a counterweight system.
Counterweight System A system used for flying where weights are used to balance the load and make lifting easier.
Cradle A frame used to hang equipment. In a counterweight system a cradle is used to hold the weights.
Crossfade A change from one lighting or sound state to another without darkness or silence.
Crossover (1 - Sound) A device which routes certain pitches of signal to the correct parts of the loudspeaker. (2 - Staging) The path from one side of the stage to the other which allows cast to move without being seen by the audience.
Cue The signal to do something, for example say the next line.
Cue Light A device which allows cues to be passed by means of illuminating lamps.
Cue Sheet A list of cues in a production.
Curtain Call The bows at the end of a show after the finale.
Curtain Up The time at which the housetabs rise and the show starts.
Cut Cloth A cloth which has been cut to allow the audience view to extend beyond it.
Cyc See cyclorama.
Cyclorama An undecorated set backing which is formed by either a cloth, a set of flats or the wall at the back of the stage.
dB The symbol for decibel.
Dead (1 - Staging) The point at which a piece of scenery reaches the desired stage position. (2 - General) Redundant items.
Dead Stack A pile of dead items.
Decibel A measure of the volume of sound (symbol: dB).
Desk (1 - Backstage) See call desk. (2 - Lighting) The console used to remotely control the dimmer racks. (3 - Sound) See mixer.
Diffuser A textured gel which is used to soften and spread light.
Dim Reduce the intensity of luminaires.
Dimmer The equipment that is used to set the brightness of the lighting.
Dip A hole in the stage floor containing electrical sockets.
Dock The offstage area where scenery is stored when not in use.
Double Purchase A counterweight system where the cradle travels half of the distance of the bar.
Downstage The area of the stage closest to the audience.
Dress (1 - General) See dress rehearsal. (2 - Costume) To put on a costume. (3 - Properties/Staging) To decorate the set.
Dress Parade The final check of costumes prior to the dress rehearsal.
Dress Rehearsal The rehearsal where all costumes are used
Drop Lower suspended equipment.
DSM Deputy Stage Manager
Elevation An accurate drawing depicting the side view of a rig.
Ellipsoidal A type of reflector, used in an increasing number of luminaires.
Entrance (1 - General) A gap in the set through which the cast may enter the stage area. (2 - General) The point in the script at which a person, or persons, enter the stage area.
EQ See equalisation.
Equalisation Control of the audio tone to produce the desired sound.
Exit (1 - General) A person, or persons, leaving the stage. (2 - General) The point in the script where a person, or persons, leave the stage area.
Fader The sliding control on a desk to adjust the volume of sound or intensity of light.
False Proscemium An extra proscenium arch used for decorative purposes or to reduce the size of the stage opening.
Finale The final scene of a production.
Fit Up See get in.
Flash Out Testing the operation of lighting equipment by turning them on one by one.
Flashpot A small container containing a detonator and flash powder for special effects.
Flat A piece of scenery formed with a panel. These are often constructed with a covered wooden frame and can be made to any shape.
Flies See flys.
Floats See footlights.
Floodlights Very basic luminaires with no lense which provide a fixed, wide spread of light.
Floorcloth Cloth, usually painted, used as a to cover the stage floor for effect.
Flown Suspended equipment.
Fly Suspend equipment and/or people.
Fly Floor The gallery from which the flying equipment is operated.
Flying Suspending equipment and/or cast members.
Flys The area directly above the stage used for flown equipment.
Focussing The adjustment of the light ouput by a luminaires to give a desired effect.
FOH Front of house.
Follow Spot A luminaire used to follow actors around the stage.
Footlights Luminaires set into the stage floor to provide uplighting.
Fourth Wall An imaginary wall between the cast and audience which completes the area in which a piece is set.
French Brace A fixed triangular brace.
Front of House All areas in front of the proscenium arch.
FX Effects.
Gauze A special cloth which is opaque when lit from the front but transparent when lit from the back.
Gel A coloured and/or textured medium used to alter the light produced by a luminaire.
Gel Frame The frame used to hold the gel in place.
Get In The set up of the theatre for a production.
Get Out The clearing up of all things used for a production from the theatre.
Ghost (1 - Lighting) The leakage from a luminaire. (2 - Lighting) A low intensity beam from a followspot used to find a target.
Gobo Inserted into the focal plane of a profile luminaire, these patterns allow projection of images.
Green Room The area in which cast and crew rest and wait for their next cue.
Groundrow (1 - Staging) A low piece of scenery at floor level. (2 - Lighting) A row of luminaires on the floor.
Half The backstage call given 35 minutes before curtain up (30 minutes before beginners).
Hand Prop Any handheld or handsize property.
Hang Suspend an item.
Hook Clamp A clamp used for holding equipment to bars.
Hot Lining A method of testing lighting equipment during rigging by using a single live cable.
House (1 - General) The auditorium. (2 - Opera) The theatre.
Houselights The lighting used to illuminate the auditorium.
Housetabs The main tabs which are normally used to define the start and end of acts.
Hum Interference that resembles a hum. This is often caused by lighting circuits close to audio devices.
Inset A small scene inside a larger one.
Intermission The break during a show, between acts.
Interval See intermission.
Iris Used in profile luminaires for adjusting the circular beam size.
Iron A fire proof curtain that can be dropped downstage of the housetabs in case of fire.
Jack-knife Stage Staging consisting of two rostra which pivot at one corner.
Kill Cease an effect.
Ladder A ladded shaped frame used for hanging lighting.
Lamp The light source of a luminaire, domestically refered to as a bulb.
Lantern See luminaire.
Left See stage left.
Legs Full height panels used for masking.
Level The intensity of light or volume of sound.
Limes See follow spot.
Linnebach Projector A type of luminaire used for projecting images from a gel or glass slide.
Loose Turn off lighting or sound or remove an item from the stage.
Luminaire General term (not just theatre) for a lighting instrument.
Marking (1 - General) The use of tape to mark the on stage position of items. (2 - Music) Singing without using the full volume or vocal range.
Maroon A pyrotechnic which produces a loud bang. Must always be used in a bomb tank.
Masking Preventing the audience from seeing areas of the stage.
MD Musical Director
Mixer The console used to adjust the volume and characteristics of audio signals.
Noises Off Sound effects produced off stage.
Offstage The area surrounding the stage that is not visible to the audience.
OP See opposite prompt.
Opposite Prompt Stage right. (In the US: stage left)
Out Flown items which are in storage position out of sight of the audience.
Overture The music that is played immediately before a performance.
PA (1 - General) Production Assistant. (2 - Sound) See public address.
Pack (1 - Staging) A number of flats stored together. (2 - Lighting) See Rack.
Pan (1 - Lighting) The movement of lighting or sound from side to side. (2 - Make-up) See pancake.
Pancake A water based stage make-up.
Parcan A luminaire which holds a par lamp.
Par Lamp A sealed beam unit which consists of a parabolic reflector, lamp and lense.
Patch Panel A panel which allows different circuits to be connected to dimmer channels.
Perch A lighting position hidden behind the proscenium arch.
Periactus A prism shaped piece of scenery which is revolved to show different scenes.
Plot (1 - General) The story depicted by a production. (2 - General) A list of cues or effects in a production.
PM Production Manager.
Practical An item which must do on stage what it would do in real life, i.e. a working item.
Preset (1 - General) Any item put in place prior to a performance. (2 - Lighting) A lighting state that is set up prior to being activated with a master control.
Prompt Side Stage left. (In the US: stage right)
Prop See property.
Property Any item or article used by the actors in performance other than costume and scenery.
Prosc See proscenium arch.
Proscenium Arch The arch around the front of the stage.
PS See prompt side.
Public Address An audio amplification system used for addressing the public.
Pyrotechnic Any chemical effects used on or offstage for lighting or special effects.
Q See cue.
Quarter The backstage call given 20 minutes before curtain up (15 minutes before beginners).
Rack (1 - General) A rack (often 19" wide) of equipment. (2 - lighting) See dimmer.
Rail The top or bottom batten of the frame of a flat.
Rake The slope of a stage floor.
Readthrough An early rehearsal where the script is read without actions.
Reflector A shiny material used at the back of a luminaire to reduce light wastage and intensify the beam.
Rehearsal A session where the production is practiced.
Rig (1 - General) To set up the equipment for a show. (2 - General) The equipment in position for a show.
Riser The vertical part of a step.
Rostrum A raised platform.
Run The scheduled performances of a production.
Runner A person whose job is to transfer messages between other people.
Runners A pair of tabs which part in the centre and move horizontally.
Saturation Rig A lighting rig where the maximum number of luminaires are positioned all available spaces.
Scatter The light that strays from a beam.
Scrim See gauze.
Scroller See colour scroller.
Seque Indicates that one musical number should go straight into the next.
Set (1 - Staging) The set of scenery used in a scene. (2 - General) To position an item ready for the production.
Shutters Adjustable blades, inserted into the focal plane of a luminaire, used to adjust the beam in profile instruments. See also barndoors.
Sightlines The edges of the audience view of the stage.
Single Purchase A counterweight system where the cradle travels the same distance as the bar.
SM Stage manager.
Solo A piece performed by one person.
Special A piece of lighting equipment specifically for one function.
Spiking See marking.
Spill Unwanted light on stage.
Spotlight A profile luminaire which produces a hard edged beam of light.
Stage Left The left hand side of the stage when looking from the stage towards the audience.
Stage Right The right hand side of the stage when looking from the stage towards the audience.
Stalls Floor level seating for the audience.
Starcloth A black cloth with a star effect built in, constructed with miniature lamps or fibre optics.
Strike (1 - General) Remove an item from the stage. (2 - General) See get out.
Strobe See stroboscope.
Stroboscope A luminaire which produces a rapidly flashing, intense light.
Swag Tabs gathered so they do not hang straight.
Switchboard Console from which the lighting is controlled.
Tabs Any curtains other than those used to dress the set.
Tabtrack The metal track on which tabs are hung which allows them to be opened and closed.
Teaser A short border used to mask equipment.
Tech Technical rehearsal. The rehearsal in the production venue where the technical aspects are rehearsed in the context of the show.
Theatre in the Round A production where the audience surrounds the stage area.
Throw The distance between a luminaire and the stage.
Thrust Stage A stage which protrudes into the audience.
Tilt The vertical movement of a luminaire.
Trap A hole in the stage floor covered by a door allowing access from the understage area.
Trapeze A single, short, hung lighting bar.
Treads The horizontal part of steps.
Tripe A collection of cables bundled together.
Truck A wheeled trolley or platform loaded with set.
Twofer (Elec.) An adapter allowing two plugs to be connected to a single socket.
Uplighting Illuminating a subject from below.
Upstage The area of the stage furthest from the audience.
UV Ultra Violet - Ultra violet lighting causes certain materials to fluoresce and create unusual effects.
Vomitory A passageway running underneath the auditorium to the stage.
Walk Through A rehearsal where the cast go through the movements in a production.
Ways The number of channels in a control system.
Wings The areas at either side of the stage, which are not normally visible to the audience.
Workers Dim lighting used in blueouts to allow work to take place.
Xfade See crossfade.
Xover See crossover.

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Compiled by Robin Barton.