Plays are often divided into ‘acts’. These are the major divisions within a play. Plays generally have between one and five acts. A very short play is sometimes referred to as a ‘one-acter’. Acts are typically made up of different scenes.
This is the name given to the part of the stage juts out into the auditorium. In a proscenium arch theatre this would tend to be the part of the stage which is on the auditorium side of the curtain.
When a director is casting a show, s/he often has a formal audition so that s/he can get an idea of the type of talent that is available for the production. Sometimes the actors are required to learn a monologue from the play or are teamed up with another actor to perform a scene. Occasionally directors ask performers to prepare a monologue of their choice. It is a good idea to have a few monologues prepared which can demonstrate that you can work in a variety of dramatic styles (eg a Shakespearean and a contemporary piece). If you need help selecting a monologue there are many books available to help you.
The space within the theatre where the audience sits (or stands) for the duration of a performance. Sometimes it is referred to as the ‘house’.
This refers to the area in the theatre which is unseen by the audience. It includes the space in the wings as well as the dressing rooms.
This term is used to describe a moment during a performance when all of the stage lights are turned off.
This term is often used to describe the ‘costume’ worn by the technical crew during a performance. Black clothes are worn because this is the colour that will be least obtrusive during a performance and it allows the stagehands to move set pieces on stage without distracting the audience.
Blocking is usually a major part of the rehearsal process. It refers to the process of arranging the moves of the actors on stage. Often the stage manager will write down the blocking in the prompt book.
This is often used in the production of naturalistic plays. It describes a set which is a ‘realistic’ room with three walls and it is as though the fourth wall has been removed so that audience members feel as though they are observing real action.
Break a leg
There is a superstition which suggests that it is bad luck to wish an actor “good luck” prior to a performance so the term “break a leg” is commonly used in its place.
This is the process of preparing the theatre for a particular production. It includes building the set, introducing props and costumes, and rigging the lights.
This is the process of dismantling the set at the conclusion of a production. It includes the removal of all set pieces, costumes, and lighting.
A “call” is the name given to the time that a performer is required to be at the theatre. Actors are often told that their “call” for a rehearsal or performance is at a particular time. For example you may be told that “Tomorrow night’s call is 7pm”.
The performing members of a theatre troupe are referred to as the ‘cast’.
This is the name given to the process of selecting actors to play the different roles in a play. Sometimes this requires actors to participate in an audition.
This refers to the cast, the crew, and other people who are connected with a show.
The directive given to technical people to do something during the performance. This includes sound and lighting cues. Sometimes this is a verbal instruction given by the Stage Manager. For example, “Bring up the house lights”. But other times it might be a visual cue taken from the stage action. For example, “When the actor crosses the stage play the telephone sound effect”.
Cue to cue
This is the process that is often adopted during a technical run. It means that most of the dialogue and action are omitted and the cast jumps between technical cues and entrances/exits so that the lighting and sound cues may be perfected. This is sometimes referred to as “topping and tailing”.
When a performance has finished often the actors acknowledge the audience’s applause by coming on to the stage and bowing.
This is the term used to describe the parts of a play text when there is more than one character talking. Conversations between characters are referred to as dialogue. [This is in contrast to a monologue].
This refers to the area on the stage that is closest to the audience.
This is a full run of a performance. It is often the final rehearsal prior to opening night. All elements of the performance (blocking, lighting, music, etc) are presented as they are meant to be in the final performance.
A flat is a versatile set piece. It is usually a rectangular frame that is covered with fabric or plywood. Most theatre companies have a range of stock pieces that are used in many different productions. For this reason flats are often black so that they can be used in different plays. Sometimes flats are painted with background images for a particular production.
This refers to the idea that an imaginary fourth wall has been removed from the set of a play so that the audience can watch the action. This concept often is used with regard to naturalism.
Front of House
The front of house is generally regarded as any areas that are accessible to audience members. This includes the foyer, the bar, the box office, and the auditorium.
This is a short break in the performance. A play can have multiple intervals if there are large set changes that are required. However, there is usually only one interval of 15 to 20 minutes. It typically is positioned mid-way through the performance.
This is usually one of the jobs for the Stage Manager. S/he uses masking tape on the rehearsal room floor to indicate the plan of the flats, set pieces, and props so that the actors can get a feel for the space in which they will be performing.
A matinee show is usually one that takes place in the morning or afternoon rather than in the evening. It is derived from a Latin word meaning “of the morning”, but in Australia it’s more commonly an afternoon performance.
A monologue is a long speech by a single character that is uninterrupted by the other characters on stage. If the character is alone on stage when presenting a monologue, the speech is called a soliloquy.
This is the term that is used to describe the process of putting all props, lighting, and set pieces in their correct location before the start of the play.
This is a term in its own right but it comes from the word ‘properties’. It refers to any items that cannot really be considered to be scenery or costumes. For example, an actor may need to bring a gun on to the stage in a particular scene. Actors are usually responsible for their own props although sometimes the stage manager keeps them safe in a central back stage location.
This is the name given to the ‘frame’ which goes around the performance space in traditional nineteenth-century style theatres. In some theatres it actually looks like a gold-gilted picture frame. The audience looks through this frame into the dramatic world being created on stage.
This is a performance space that slopes up towards the rear of the stage. This was a common feature of theatres in the past but nowadays it is more common for stages to be flat and the auditorium to be raked. This improves the sightlines from most seats in the auditorium.
This jargon term is used in two different ways in the theatre. Firstly, it describes the length of the season of a particular production. For example “Our production of Hamlet runs for three weeks”. Secondly, it describes a rehearsal where a part of the play is practiced. For example “Tomorrow’s rehearsal will start with a run of Act IV of Hamlet”.
When this term is used as a VERB, it refers to the process of preparing the stage for the start of a production. For example, “I have set the props in position for the start of Act I”. When it is used as a NOUN, it refers to complete stage setting for the production or for a particular scene. For example, “The set for Act I is a bedroom”.
This is the accepted abbreviation for the Stage Manager.
Stage Left/Stage Right
These are the most common stage directions used in the theatre. They always refer to the stage from the actor’s perspective. That is, when an actor stands on stage and looks into the audience, it is his or her left and right.
This is an abbreviation for the “technical rehearsal”. People will say things like “the tech went till 3am”. The term can also be used to describe a member of the production crew. For example, “The lighting tech will preset the lighting state for Act I by 7:45pm”. [Sometimes this person is referred to as “the techie”]
Technical Rehearsal/Tech Run
This is a rehearsal that is specifically focussed on the technical aspects of the production including the lighting, the set, and the sound effects or music. Sometimes the actors are required to wear costumes so that they can practice fast costume changes if necessary.
Theatre in the round
This is a form of theatre where the audience surrounds the performance space.
This refers to the part of the stage that is the furthest distance from the audience. It also describes the process of “upstaging” another actor which is when one actor moves around to pull the audience’s focus from the primary action of the scene.