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Basic Theatrical Terms

Some common terms used during rehearsals and shows.

SR = stage right;  SC = stage centre;  SL = stage left

U = up;  C = centre;  M = mid; D = down;  O = off

ASM
Assistant Stage Manager.

AUDITORIUM
The part of the theatre accommodating the audience during the performance. Sometimes known as the 'house'.

BACKSTAGE
The part of the stage and theatre which is out of the sight of the audience. The service areas of the theatre.

BEGINNERS
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'. A similar call is given after the interval (e.g. 'Act Two Beginners to the stage please').

BLACKOUT / BO / B.O.
1) Complete absence of stage lighting.
2) The act of turning off (or fading out) stage lighting (e.g. 'This is where we go to blackout')

BLOCKING
The process of arranging moves to be made by the actors during the show.

BREAK A LEG
A superstitious and widely accepted alternative to 'Good Luck' (which is considered bad luck).

CALL
1) A notification of a working session (e.g. a Rehearsal Call)
2) The period of time to which the above call refers. (e.g. '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 - e.g. 'This is your call for the finale Mr Smith and Miss Jones')
4) An acknowledgement of applause (e.g. Curtain Call)
5) The DSM on the book is said to be 'calling the cues'.

CENTRE LINE
Imaginary line running down the stage through the exact centre of the proscenium opening.

COMPANY
The cast, crew and other staff associated with a show.

COSTUMES
Clothes worn by the actors onstage. Mainly the responsibility of the Wardrobe Department.

CREW
The technical team, or part of it, that manage the show during its performances.

CUE
1) The command given to technical departments to carry out a particular operation. E.g. 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 (e.g. the actors' cue to enter is when the Maid says 'I hear someone coming! Quick - Hide!')

CURTAIN CALL
At the end of a performance, the acknowledgement of applause by actors - the bows.

DIALOGUE
The spoken text of a play - conversations between characters is dialogue.

DOWNSTAGE

1) The part of the stage nearest to the audience (the lowest part of a raked stage).
2) A movement towards the audience (in a proscenium theatre).

DRESS REHEARSAL
A full rehearsal, with all technical elements brought together. The performance as it will be 'on the night'.

DRESSING ROOMS
Rooms containing clothes rails and mirrors (often surrounded with lights) in which actors change into their costumes and apply make-up.

DSM
Deputy Stage Manager.

FLAT
A lightweight timber frame covered with scenic canvas. Now usually covered with plywood or hardboard and consequently not so lightweight.

FRONT OF HOUSE (FOH)
Every part of the theatre in front of the proscenium arch. Includes foyer areas open to the general public.

GET-IN
The process of moving set, props and other hardware into a theatre prior to the fit-up.

GET-OUT
Moving an entire production out of the venue and into either a large waste-disposal skip, or into transport. Usually preceded by the strike.

HALF
Call given to the actors half an hour before they will be called to the stage for the beginning of a performance. Given 35 minutes before the advertised time of commencement. Subsequent calls given are the 'QUARTER' at 20 minutes, 'the FIVE' at 10 minutes and 'BEGINNERS to the stage' at 5 minutes before curtain up.

HOUSE
1) The audience (e.g. 'How big is the house tonight ?')
2) The auditorium (e.g. 'The house is now open, please do not cross the stage')

MATINÉE / MATINEE
Morning or afternoon performance of a show.

OFFSTAGE
1) A movement towards the nearest side of the stage from the centre.
2) The area out of sight of the audience.

PROPS
(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.

PROSCENIUM ARCH
The opening in the wall which stands between stage and auditorium in some theatres; the picture frame through which the audience sees the play. Often shortened to Proscenium or Pros Arch.

RUN
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.

SET
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?'

SM
Stage Manager

STAGE LEFT / RIGHT
Left/Right as seen from the Actor's point of view on stage. (i.e. Stage Left is the right side of the stage when looking from the auditorium.)

STAND-BY / STANDBY
A warning given to technical staff by stage management that a cue is imminent.

TABS
Originally 'tableaux curtains' which drew outwards and upwards, but now generally applied to any stage curtains including a vertically flying front curtain (house tabs) and especially a pair of horizontally moving curtains which overlap at the centre and move outwards from that centre.

TECH
1) Short for Technical Rehearsal. (e.g. 'The Tech took 14 hours')
2) A member of crew ('I'm the lighting tech for this show')

TECHNICAL REHEARSAL
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 (e.g. Quick changes). Often a very lengthy process. Often abbreviated to the Tech.

UPSTAGE
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.

WINGS
1) The out of view areas to the sides of the acting area.
2) Scenery standing where the acting area joins these technical areas.

Stage Positions Diagram.png
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