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Ad Lib: Any lines or actions improvised by the actor.
Apron: The part of the stage floor that extends beyond the proscenium arch.
Backstage: The whole area behind the stage, including wings, dressing rooms, control booths and green room.
Blocking: The precise moment-by-moment movement and grouping of actors on stage.
Call (noun): The warning a stage manager gives to the actors about the exact amount of time left before the curtain rises. The most common call times are half-hour, fifteen minutes, five minutes, and places. A call can also be a notice of rehearsal or performance posted on the callboard and reiterated by the stage manager.
Call (verb): The verb describing the stage manager's directions given to the crew throughout a performance to ensure all cues take place at the right moment. This is known as "calling" the show.
Callboard: Bulletin board located backstage in the green room on which the stage manager posts important information for cast and crew. Examples of posted items are scene breakdown; rehearsal schedule; performance schedule; performance running times; sign-in sheet; ticket request forms; reminders of social events; messages from the public.
Canadian Actors' Equity Association: The association representing actors, directors, stage managers, dancers, choreographers and singers.
Collective Creation: The process by which theatre artists work together as a group to create a play. The group may be made up exclusively of actors, or it may also include a director, playwright and designers.
Control Booth(s): A room or rooms, usually above and behind the audience, from which the play's sound and lights are controlled. The rooms have a window to allow the stage manager and technical crew to watch the performance on stage.
Corpse: Theatre slang. To "corpse" for an actor means to lose control onstage during a performance or a run-through and laugh uncontrollably. It is often contagious among actors onstage. This is considered unprofessional conduct!
Cue (noun): The execution of a lighting or sound effect. An actor's cue is the dialogue line that comes before their next line.
Cue (verb): To "cue" means to signal by word or by light that a technical cue or actor move must be carried out.
Cue Light: A light that when turned on warns a crew or cast member to perform a cue or to make an entrance. The light going out signals "go."
Cue Sheet: The listing of cues to be called by the Stage Manager or taken by the technical crew. Usually the Stage Manager has a master list and each crew member their own list.
Cue-to-cue: The technical rehearsal that coordinates the technical aspects of the production to the play as it has been rehearsed. Only the dialogue that precedes (and sometimes follows) the actual cue is spoken.
Curtain Call: The reappearance of the cast after the end of the play during which they acknowledge the audience's applause.
Cyclorama: Also called a "cyc" (pronounced "sike"). A large light coloured backdrop, sometimes curved, located at the back of the stage and lit to produce various effects such as sky, fire, coloured washes. Can also be used as a surface for projected scenery and effects.
Deck: The floor of the stage.
Downstage: The front of the stage. Historically, many stages were built on a "rake," a rising slope away from the audience.
Dramaturg: The theatre professional primarily responsible for managing the literary aspects of a play's production. The word comes from German and is pronounced with a hard "g".
Dressers: Members of the wardrobe crew who help actors in and out of their costumes, launder costumes, distribute them for each performance and assist with any quick changes that may need to happen.
Drop: A flat piece (or pieces) of fabric, usually painted for a scenic effect, and most often hung from the fly floor. A "backdrop" would be hung in the farthest upstage position.
Dry: Theatre slang. When an actor "dries," he/she forgets all lines and/or blocking, and wishes he/she were anywhere else but onstage.
Exit Line: Last line spoken by an actor before leaving the stage.
Flat: A flat piece of scenery consisting of a wooden or steel frame covered with wooden paneling or canvas. The surface is painted or decorated as required by the set design.
Fly Floor: The level above the stage from which drops are hung, and any scenery needing to appear from above (flies) can be flown.
Focus: For an actor or director, the focus in a scene is where the audience should be directing its attention. The production staff refers to the "focus" as the time during which the lighting designer tells the electrical crew where on stage to aim and shutter each lighting instrument.
Front of House: Generally used to refer to members of the theatre staff who sell and handle tickets and make reservations. It also refers to the ushers and other house attendants. Commonly abbreviated as F. O. H. Also used to describe the part of the auditorium that is in front of the proscenium or where the audience is seated.
Gel: A colour filter for a lighting instrument made of heat-resistant coloured resin used to change the colour of the lighting.
Gobo: A thin metal plate that has had a design cut into its center, which can then be projected by a lighting instrument. (The effect of a leafy forest floor or bars in a jail could be conveyed using a gobo.)
Green Room: A room backstage used by actors and crew members to wait for their entrances or cues.
House: An abbreviation of Front of House; also used to describe the audience.
House Lights: Lights used to illuminate the auditorium.
IATSE: Stands for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. IATSE is the union for stagehands and dressers, as well as some technical theatre and film professions.
Masking: Any flats or curtains that hide the backstage area from the view of the audience.
Notes: The term used to describe the communication between the rehearsal hall and the various designers and other production staff. The stage manager is the main communicator of the notes to all the various departments. The director also has a "notes" session, usually after a rehearsal or performance, to give the actors, designers and production staff feedback on their work, analyze progress, request changes or suggest improvements.
Off Book: The point in rehearsals when actors need to know all their lines and are no longer allowed to carry their scripts.
Panned: A play that has been panned has been given a very negative review by the theatre critics.
Preview: A performance with an audience, which takes place before the official opening of a play. Playwrights, actors and directors use the preview to gauge audience reaction to various parts of the performance.
Preset: The placing of props, costumes, scenic elements, etc. in place prior to the beginning of a rehearsal or performance. Also refers to actors being in place for their entrances.
Prompt Book: The master copy of the script that contains all the actors' moves on stage and all the technical cues for the production. Used by the stage manager to coordinate the running of the production. Sometimes called the prompt script or simply "the book".
Prompter: A person designated to give an actor his or her line when it has been forgotten.
Props: Short for "properties". All articles on stage except the scenery are known as props. Furnishings and other large items are known as set props. The objects handled by an actor during his or her performance are called hand props. Props carried on an actor's person such as pipes, watches or fans are known as personal props.
Proscenium: The arch that forms a frame at the front of a stage.
Rake: A stage or a riser that is built on an incline or slant. This may be done to help with visibility, or create a scenic effect.
Rehearsal: Period before the performance of a play during which the director and the actors agree on the meaning of the lines, discover how to tell the story of the play, develop interesting characters and set the blocking.
Riser: A platform of any size used on stage to differentiate areas or create focus.
Run-through: A rehearsal in which the actors perform the play from beginning to end without interruption. Run-throughs are usually done toward the end of the rehearsal process when the actors' characterizations and onstage movements are virtually set. Early attempts to run through the whole play are sometimes called "stagger-throughs" because they tend not to go smoothly.
Running Time: The length of time it takes to perform the play, not including intermissions. The running time can vary somewhat from performance to performance depending on the speed and energy of the actors and audience response on any given night.
Scrim: A drop made of a special weave and used to achieve revelations or other scenic effects. When lit from the front, a scrim is opaque; when an actor or object behind a scrim is lit, the scrim becomes transparent revealing the actor or object.
Soundscape: All the music and sound effects in a production considered as a whole.
Stage Directions: Indications in the script of specific exits, entrances, bits of business, etc.
Stage Left: Left side of the stage as determined by the actor standing in the center of the stage facing the audience.
Stage Right: Right side of the stage as determined by the actor standing in the center of the stage facing the audience.
Subtext: The motivations and feelings underlying the words a character speaks.
Technical Rehearsal (Tech Rehearsal): The rehearsal(s) during which all physical elements of the production and all performed elements come together.
Thrust Stage: A stage that extends out into the auditorium with the audience surrounding the actors on three sides.
Turntable: A platform or a part of the deck that can revolve. A turntable can be used to move actors and scenery in and out of the view of the audience. It can also be used for special effects.
Traps (Trap Doors): A part of the stage floor that can open and close allowing actors (or objects) to appear or disappear.
Understudy: An actor who learns the lines and blocking of one of the principal characters in the play. Should one of the principal actors be unable to perform, the understudy would step in at a moment's notice. Understudies are rare in all but the largest theatre companies.
Upstage: The back of the stage. To "upstage" another actor is to move upstage from him/her so he/she must turn away from the audience to address you, or to move or draw attention away from another actor.
Vomitory: An auditorium entrance or exit that emerges from the theatre's seating area to connect a thrust stage with the area below the seating. Dates from ancient Rome where it was a common architectural feature of coliseums. View a thrust stage configuration with three vomitory entrances/exits.
Wings: Curtains or flats at the sides of the stage that mask the offstage area from the audience; also, those areas offstage and to the sides that have been masked. The term is used in a general way to describe all areas at the sides of the stage.