Wikipedia:WikiProject Stagecraft/Terminology/List of theatre terms

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This is a glossary of terms commonly used in theatre. Those marked (*) are archaic terms, used by Shakespeare for instance.


Way of speaking used in a local area or country.
Ad Libbing
acting without having planned what to do or say. Often done to cover up for something having gone wrong or for forgotten lines. Also common in some forms of theatre such as pantomime. Also spelled adlibbing or ad-libbing.

Against type
playing a different sort of character than expected. See Typecasting.
a character that hinders the protagonist from achieving his or her goals.
an acting style in which the audience is kept aware that they are watching a performance rather than reality. (See Brechtian Acting.)
the stage area in front of the proscenium arch.
a dramatic technique in which a line is said by one character to him or herself or to the audience. The line is unheard by the other characters onstage.
People watching a drama.

Avenue Staging
the staging of a performance with the audience placed on two sides, as though the performance space is a street. Also called "alley" or "tennis-court" staging in regional variations.


Non-acting area behind the stage.
Keeping an even distribution of weight.
The acting area is not lit.
Breaking up a scene with stage directions and movement.
Body Language
Messages given by the position or movement of the body.
The action done while on stage when the attention is not on the actor.


Death Role
a character who dies.
the stage area
a reciprocal conversation between two or more persons; the speaking lines of a script.
Digital MultipleX or DMX
a communications protocol used in stage lighting; may also refer specifically to DMX512 cable
the person who leads a show. In most cases, the director has the final say on all aspects of the production.
in Brechtian performance, when actors maintain distance from their character by reminding the audience through often stylized gestures or behavior that they are simply people pretending, instead of trying to identify with their "character".
the front of the stage; in the direction of the audience.
the author of a play.
a theatrical scholar. During production a dramaturge is responsible for historical accuracy, and conforming to the vision of the absent, or deceased, playwright.
Dress circle
in some theatres, a shallow gallery level above the main seating. In UK proscenium houses, it is a (sometimes large) balcony above the stalls.
Dress rehearsal (or dress)
a practice of the play with all actors wearing full costumes. Generally, dress rehearsals also include full make-up and music (when applicable).
Dry tech
is when the running crew practices each scene change without actors onstage. This is done to ensure each scene change can be completed swiftly and quietly. This is a cue-to-cue for only staging.


Emotional memory
in Method acting, when an actor attempts to draw upon memories of prior emotions to match the emotions of their character.
Exeunt *
a stage direction calling for more than one person to exit, from the Latin exire, "to go out."
Exeunt omnes *
a stage direction meaning all the cast exit.
a stage direction for one person to leave the stage
extras in a musical who sing and dance


Face change
To change character suddenly, from theater troupes in Europe where actors would wear paint based on the character they were portraying, typically an actor played the same character all season, so his makeup was always the same. When he played a different character he would "change his face" to match the new character he was portraying
Fit Up, load in, or Get In
the process of setting up the theatre for the show.
Fourth wall
an imaginary surface at the edge of the stage through which the audience watches a performance. If a character speaks directly to the audience or walks on/off the stage, this is known as breaking the fourth wall.
French Scene
a section of a play between any entrance or exit of any character

French Scene Chart a chart that shows each character or actors involvement in each scene. Frequently used to help directors and stage managers plan rehearsals to make the most efficient use of time for all.

when an actor forgets their lines (either through stage-fright, under-rehearsal or plain absent-mindedness) and remains rooted to the spot in panic, unable to move or speak.
Front of House
refers to services including parking, concessions, ushering, and playbill distributing. Also refers to position of lighting and sound console.
Full house or Packed house
when all of the seats are filled; when the entire audience section is filled to capacity.


Gallery, Gods: The highest section of the theatre; a section at the back or sides without seats where people can stand to watch a performance, usually raised.

Ghost: a singer used as a singing voice for another actor. (See also, ghost-writer.)

Ghost Light: a light left on the stage overnight and/or when the stage is not in use for safety. It also has superstitious meaning for the run of the play.

GOTE: an acronym (Goal, Obstacle, Tactics and Expectation) used to remind actors of their most basic work in character development.

Go up: an actor forgetting lines or business.

Greenroom: area backstage where actors rest before/after a show or have visitors


The Half or Final Call : the time before a performance by which all actors must be present in the theatre – commonly half an hour before curtain up.

Ham: a bad actor; usually one who overacts or hogs the spotlight. Can be used endearingly to describe rambunctious, but good actors.

House: the theatre, the people in the theatre, the audience.


Intention: a single, temporary desire or goal that arises in a character within a scene. (Also called "Objective" and "Goal".)

Intermission, Interval: a break between acts (usually first and second, but some plays have three or more acts).

Improvisation: when an actor who is "in character" makes up action or dialogue without prior scripting. (see Ad Libbing and Improvisational theatre.)

Indicating: unrealistic acting. At its worst it is often associated with acting of the past in which realism was not ubiquitously prized and stereotyped gestures were used to "indicate" emotions rather than actually showing them.

Issue: to leave the stage.

Italian, To run an Italian: to rehearse speaking the lines rapidly, either individually or as a cast; thought to assist in committing lines and cues to memory, and assisting with timing.


Leading Lady: the actress playing the largest role in the cast performed by a female.

Leading Man: The actor playing the largest role in the cast performed by a male.

LX (Electrics): the lighting department of the crew (lighting designer, head electrician, lighting operator etc).


Manet (Manent)*: a stage direction calling for a person (or more than one person) to remain on stage as others exit, corresponding to the Latin

Mask: to block another actor, or something worn over the face, sometimes expressing emotion. (See Kabuki.)

Masking: drapery or flats used to frame the stage, and stop the audience from seeing the backstage areas.

Method acting: an acting style in which the ideal of a "true"( or "real") moment or impulse is valued most highly; the actors try to feel the emotions of the character so that the actors' choices and the characters' would be as one---i.e. inevitable. Pioneered by Konstantin Stanislavski, currently taught most formally at The Actor's Studio in Manhattan. Of note, the American Method acting of the popular imagination was based on an early, incomplete experiment of Stanislavski's. Many if not most modern teachers have moved away from the original (Stanislavskian ) "method" as it is truly difficult to teach well, has been altered by many secondary and tertiary disciples in the '60s and '70s to suit personal agendas, and can produce seemingly uninteresting and almost "masturbatory" results in younger actors. Marlon Brando and Dustin Hoffman are perhaps the best examples of masterful methodists who use and discard various parts of many schools of thought to achieve success.

Monologue: an extended set of lines spoken by one person either directly addressing the audience (as in a soliloquy) or another character (a speech).

Motivation: a character's individual desires or goals which propel them into action ;the driving force of an inciting event that starts a story's progression.


Note: an message from the director or other staff to an actor or crew member to change a specific element of their performance or job. Staff uses notes to refine the performances and appearance of the show.


Objective: a single, temporary desire or goal that arises in a character within a scene. (Also called "Intention".)

Obstacle: a force opposing a character's "Objective" (or "Intention") which gives rise to dramatic tension and conflict.

The Orchestra, The Stalls: seats on the lower part of the theatre.

Orchestra pit: where the musicians play, usually directly in front of the stage, often sunken below the seating sections.

Omnes*: in stage directions, all the cast.


Parascenium: in a Greek theatre, the wall on either side of the stage, reaching from the back wall to the orchestra.

Parquet: ground floor of a theatre, often main seating section, directly in front of the stage.

Part: a character; the portion of the script intended for one character.

Parterre: the upper part of the main seating. Usually behind a cross aisle, and almost always steeper than the lower Orchestra.

Places: a call by the stage manager that all cast, crew and orchestra should be in place immediately for the top of the show or to begin again after an intermission.

Preferred reading: the interpretation of the script that is stressed by the author or the text itself.

Promenade: a performance of a play in which the actors and audience occupy the same space, with no distinction between acting area and audience area. The audience is given the freedom to explore the space together with the performance, and there is generally an element of audience interaction in the play.

Prompt: to give an actor his/her next line when he/she has forgotten it. Also the person whose job it is to do this (also called the prompter). It used to mean the side of the stage where the prompter sat. The other side of the stage was called 'Opposite Prompt' or OP.

Prop, Property: an object used in the play, from the Middle English proppe, meaning a support, not originally related to property as in ownership; does not include scenery or costumes.

Proscenium, Proscenium arch: the boundary between the stage and the audience in a conventional theatre; it appears to form an arch over the stage from the audience's point of view. In some cases, it does create an arch over the stage.

Protagonist: the main character; the hero or heroine.

Pseudomonologue: when only one half of a dialogue is portrayed, especially either just the questions or the answers, wherein the performer is not directly addressing the audience.


Raked stage: a stage at an incline, usually with the rear side being higher (hence upstage.)

Read through: a reading of the entire play or act without blocking.

Rehearsal: practice of the play.

Rider: information sent to a venue by a touring group detailing lighting, sound, staging and dressing room requirements.

Run or run through: a practice of an entire play or act. "Run" can also mean the length of calendar time that a play is being performed in days, months or years.


Script: the text of the dialogue and stage directions of a play; to write a play.

Sense memory: in Method acting, when an actor attempts to recall memories of the physical sensations surrounding prior emotions in order to utilize emotional memory.

Signs of character: the various cues that convey a character's personality, emotion or motivation.

Signs of performance: an actor's movements, expressions and vocal tones and patterns that contribute to signs of character.

Site Specific: a play which is created or specifically modified to use the character of the performance space to the greatest advantage. Site specific spaces are usually locations which are not normally used for showcasing theatre, but have another primary function (warehouse, mansion, abandoned military bunker, etc).

Sitzprobe: (German-lit. "seated rehearsal") a term used in musical theatre and opera to describe a seated rehearsal, without blocking or dance, where the singers sing with the full pit or orchestra, with focus on integration of instrument and voice. It is often the first rehearsal where the complete orchestra and singers rehearse together and may be held at the beginning or near the end of the rehearsal process.

Small: an acting style usually for film, tv or intimate stage productions where reactions are small in scale as opposed to large reactions needed for bigger venues.

Social actor: actors who portray themselves in a performance, usually previously known to the audience.

Sold out: when the number of tickets sold for a performance is equal to or greater than the number of available seats.

Soliloquy: a monologue spoken by a character to him or herself or the audience to reveal his or her thoughts.

Stage direction: any instruction for the actors in the script of a play, or setting, or character description.

Stage door: an entrance to the theatre for cast and crew separate from entrances used by the audience. Fans will gather at the stage door to see, greet or get autographs from their favorite performers.

Stage left: the side of the stage on the left when facing the audience.

Stage right: the side of the stage on the right when facing the audience.

Stage worthy: making conscious changes to movements or gestures, usually by slight or extreme exaggeration to insure that the movement is visible to all members of the audience with the intended effect.

Standby: an understudy who is not cast in the show and is only called if needed

Standing ovation: when the audience stands and claps at the end of a performance, a higher form of praise than normal applause.

Standing room: a space where people can stand to watch a performance, especially if all the seats are filled. (See Gallery.) Most New York houses count standing room tickets in their house counts. The Lion King caused quite a stir when it didn't, and boasted more than 100 percent house counts for months.

Standing room only, "'SRO"': admittance to a performance after all of the seats are filled which requires people to stand to watch.

Strike: to remove a set piece or from the stage ("Strike that chair.") To "strike the show" is to disassemble the entirety of the set, return all equipment to storage and leave the venue as it was before the show was set up. May be used as a noun to refer to the event at which the show is struck.

Stock character: an archetypical or stereotyped character, usually originating in Roman comedy and finding its widest expression in Commedia dell'arte. Stock characters continue to be used, however, in one form or another and examples include the lover, crafty servant, the miser, the clown, etc.

Subscriber: to have fixed cards for a whole theatre seasion. Often with fixed seats.

Super, Supernumerary: extra, walk-on part, most often speaks no words.

Supporting cast: actors who are not playing major parts.

Swing: someone who will join the ensemble if someone in it can not perform


Tabs: curtains separating the stage from the audience.

Tech or Techie: a general (sometimes considered derogatory) slang term for a member of the technical crew of a show.

Tech or Technical rehearsal: a rehearsal primarily for the purpose of practicing the technical elements of a play, such as lights and sound.

Theater: building where acting takes place (also a cinema)

Theatre: the world of this type of acting, or the world of acting in general; the art itself.

Theatre in the round: any theatre where the audience is seated on every side of the stage. (See arena.)

Thrust: a stage that extends out into the audience, so that the audience is seated on three sides of it.

Typecast: when an actor becomes associated with only one type of role or character, often based on physical appearance.


Understudy: an actor familiar with another actor's role so that he or she can substitute in an emergency.

Upstage: towards the back of the stage; the half of the stage that is farthest from the audience; to outshine another's performance, especially when the other has a larger part or is more well-known. (The third meaning derives from the simplest means of "upstaging" another actor: to walk "upstage" of an actor, thereby forcing the other actor to turn his or her back to the audience while the "upstage" actor can stand full front, facing the audience. For the origin of the former two meanings, see raked stage)


Variety: an entertainment industry magazine

Verisimilitude: the trait of seeming truthful or appearing to be real, from the Latin veri similis, "like the truth."

Viewpoints: a directing technique championed by Anne Bogart. Originally it was a dance and movement technique extended to apply to the movement of actors and manipulation of a stage image by a director. It was also later extended as an acting technique.


Wardrobe: costumes, or the people responsible for them.

Wardrobe Mistress/Master: the person in charge of the costume department.

Wings: the "backstage" or parts of a stage off to the left and right not seen by the audience.

See also[edit]

ballet, Chinese opera, comedy, drama, epic theatre, farce, kabuki, melodrama, mime, musical theatre, opera, operetta, pantomime, paradigmatic structure, syntagmatic structure, suspension of disbelief, tragedy, tragicomedy, vaudeville

Category:Stage terminology