Technical Theatre Terms

List of theatrical terms used in British Theatre, the list is by no means definitive! If you have any additions for us please Leave a comment at the bottom of the page!

    • A

    • Above – to move upstage: (“Brian moves above the table”)

    • Acetone – chemical. Various uses: cleaning etc.

    • Action – what’s going on onstage.

    • Act Drop – cloth flown in at the end of an act.

    • Ad Lib – improvised action onstage.

    • Advance Bar – Lighting bar hung from auditorium close to stage.

    • Amp – abb. amplifier used to amplify sound.

    • AMP – abb. Ampere, a unit of electrical current.

    • Apron – section of stage that extends beyond the Pros.

    • ASM – Assistant Stage Manager.

    • Auditorium – where the audience sit!

    • B

    • Baby Spot – small spotlight under 500w

    • Backer – financial backer.

    • Backcloth – flown cloth behind scenic element.

    • Backing Flats – flats behind scenic element.

    • Backlight – light that illuminates from behind.

    • Backstage – part of theatre building behind stage.

    • Balanced Line – cable carrying two signals.

    • Band Call – call for orchestra or band.

    • Bar – metal tube used for hanging scenery or lanterns.

    • Bar Bells – warning to FOH and Bar Staff.

    • Barn-door – device to adjust spill of light on a fresnel lantern.

    • Batten – 1) length of wood attached to cloth to keep it taught. 2) group of flood lights.

    • Beam Light – lantern with no lens but with parabolic reflector.

    • Beginners – call given to cast/crew involved in opening of play.

    • Below – to move downstage (“Brian moves below table”)

    • Blocking – recording of movement on stage.

    • Board – abb. for “lighting control board”

    • Book – means script or Prompt Book.

    • Book Flat – a hinged flat.

    • Boom – vertical hanging bar.

    • Border – flown scenic element used in masking.

    • Box Set – Interior set built from flattage.

    • Brace – portable support for flats.

    • Brail/Breast – moving bars up or downstage by ropes.

    • Breaking Down – artistic process of aging costume, props or scenery.

    • Bridge – catwalk above auditorium or stage.

    • Build – increase sound or light levels.

    • Bulb Round – lighting check.

    • Business – actions performed by actors.

    • Butterfly Tabs – Tabs fixed at top and drawn in from sides.

    • C

    • Call – 1) schedule. 2) backstage call 3) abb. for Curtain Call.

    • Cans – backstage communication device.

    • Cardioid – heart-shaped pick-up pattern of microphone.

    • Carpenter – (Scenic, Deputy, Master): maker of scenery.

    • Centre Line – imaginary line shown on ground-plan.

    • Channel – connected circuit in lighting or sound system.

    • Check – decrease sound or light levels.

    • Choreograph – to “choreograph” a scene.

    • Choreographer – director of dance or movement.

    • Cinemoid – type of colour gel.

    • Circuit – means by which a lantern can be identified and connected to a dimmer.

    • Clamp – normally used to attach lanterns to bars.

    • Cleat – metal device used for tying sash lines.

    • Cloth – scenic canvas.

    • Colour Call – list of gels for a design.

    • Colour Call – list of gels for a design.

    • Come Down – when the curtains come down.

    • Condenser – type of microphone.

    • Control Room – where lighting and sound is controlled from.

    • Counterweights – system used for lowering and raising scenery.

    • Cross-fade – in lighting or sound, change at which some channels are increased while other are lowered.

    • Crossover – sound system device that routes pitch to the correct part of the speaker.

    • Cue – verbal/physical signal for action or effect to begin.

    • Cue to Cue – rehearsal in which dialogue is reduced to technical cues.

    • Cue Lights – system of lights used to give “Cues”.

    • Cue Sheet – list of effects.

    • Curtains – at front of stage. called Tabs.

    • Curtain Up/Down – beginning and end of performance.

    • Cut Cloth – scenic piece with no centre.

    • Cyclorama – “Cyc” semi-circular backing.

    • D

    • Dead – 1) marked position of scenery or equipment. 2) anything no longer needed.

    • Decibel – dB. measurement of sound.

    • Designer – set/costume/lighting/sound.

    • Desk – Prompt Desk – operated by person running show.

    • Desk – Sound Desk – sound operators desk.

    • Diffusion Gel – also called Frost. Softens light.

    • Dimmer – device that controls electricity passed to lanterns.

    • Dips/Dip-trap – hatches/troughs/channels at side of stage containing sockets.

    • Dock – area at side/rear of stage for storing scenery.

    • Downstage – area of stage nearest audience.

    • Dress Circle – raised seating above stalls.

    • Dress Parade – costume check on stage.

    • Dresser – crew member who aids with dressing.

    • Dressing – to dress set.

    • Dress Rehearsal – Dress full costume/lighting/effects/soundaction rehearsal.

    • DSM – Deputy Stage Manager.

    • Dubb – reproduce sound from one copy to another.

    • Dynamic – type of microphone.

    • E

    • Effect – sound/lighting/scenic.

    • Electrician – (Chief, Deputy, Assistant) responsible for lighting.

    • Elevation – technical drawing showing side view.

    • Elex – or ‘œLX’ electrical things or electrical department.

    • Elex Tape – or “LX” tape sticky back plastic tape available in various colours.

    • Ellipsoidal – type of reflector used in profile spots.

    • EMU – Electrical Multiple Unit, used to describe stage machinery compsed from multiple moving parts.

    • Engineer – usually “sound” but can be “lighting”

    • Entrance/Exit – points in script and physical space where performer comes and goes!

    • E.Q. – abb. for equalisation.

    • F

    • Fader – means of controlling lights or sound.

    • False Pros’ – decorative proscenium arch.

    • Feedback – when a mic picks up its own signal from a speaker.

    • Fit Up – installation of equipment and scenery.

    • Flash – when lights are flashed for effect.

    • Flash Up – method of testing lanterns.

    • Floats – (little used now) jargon for footlights.

    • Floatmic’s – microphones placed along front of stage.

    • Flat – unit of scenery.

    • Flies – area above stage where flown scenery is kept.

    • Floods – lanterns with no lens.

    • Floor-cloth – painted canvas flooring.

    • Footing – to steady a ladder/flat with your foot.

    • Flown – scenery or equipment which has been “flown” into the flies.

    • Fly – raising scenery above audience sight level.

    • Flyman – crew member operating flying equipment.

    • Fly Tower – structure above stage containing flying equipment.

    • Focus – adjustment of lighting/projection equipment.

    • Focussing Session – when adjustment and plotting is done.

    • FOH – abb. Front Of House.

    • Foldback – sound sent to performer.

    • Fore-stage – area in-front of tabs.

    • Follow spot – Large profile spotlight with operator.

    • French Flat – solid flat.

    • French Brace – collapsible brace fixed to flat.

    • Frequency – number of times a sound vibrates.

    • Fresnel – spotlight with fresnel lens that gives soft edge.

    • Full Company Call – everyone needed.

    • FX – abb. for ‘œeffects’.

    • G

    • Gaffer Tape – sticky back fabric tape.

    • Gain – the “master” volume control on mixer.

    • Gate – optical centre of profile spotlight.

    • Gauze – scenic cloth used for “vanishing” effects.

    • Gel – coloured lighting film (originally made from gelatine)

    • Genie Trap – a mechanised trap where actor shoots through stage floor.

    • Get In – when a touring company installs a show.

    • Get Out – when touring company uninstalls show.

    • Gobo – metal slide placed in gate of lantern which throws a pattern.

    • Grave Trap – body length trapdoor in stage.

    • Green Room – cast/crew recreation room.

    • Grid – metal frames in flying tower from which flying equipment is held (wooden in very old theatres)

    • Ground-plan – technical drawing of stage.

    • Groundrow – floodlight battens placed on stage.

    • H

    • Half – half hour call given to cast/crew 35mins before curtain-up.

    • Halogen – gas contained in lamps.

    • Header – horizontal flying piece.

    • Heads Below – warning shouted if anything is dropped from above.

    • Hemp – type of abrasive rope originally used in theatre for flying (some theatres still use hemp)

    • Hemp Flying – traditional method of flying using 3 or 5 hemp ropes and no counter-weights.

    • Hemp Set – (as above)

    • Horns – metal speakers.

    • House – the audience.

    • House Manager – often ‘œFront of House Manager’

    • House Lights – lights illuminating the audience.

    • Hypercardioid – type of pick-up pattern of a microphone.

    • I

    • Impedance – term of electrical resistance.

    • In The Round– audience seated on all sides of stage.

    • Iris – device in lantern gate that allows beam size to be altered.

    • Iron – fireproof metal curtain.

    • K

    • Kill – instruction to stop action or effect.

    • L

    • Ladder – framework in shape of ladder.

    • Lamps – the thing that creates light in a lantern (“bulb” in domestic terms)

    • Lantern – stage light.

    • Lavalier – type of radio-mic fitting (collar/costume/hair/wig)

    • Left – Stage Left.

    • Leg – flown cloth or flat masking side of stage.

    • Level – intensity of sound or light.

    • Lighting Plot – lighting cue description.

    • Limes – old term for Follow Spots.

    • Lose – to turn something off or remove from set.

    • M

    • Mains – power source.

    • Mark It – instruction to record position of performer/object on stage.

    • Mark Out – temporary objects/lines on rehearsal floor used to describe set/stage.

    • Maroon – electrical device giving effect of explosion.

    • Mask – to hide from audience’s sight.

    • Masking – flats/cloths used to Mask.

    • Master – lever/slide which controls all sound or light.

    • MD – Musical Director.

    • Mixer – desk/software for mixing sound.

    • Model – model of stage design.

    • Model Box – model of theatre in which stage design model is housed.

    • Multicore – thick cable containing many cables.

    • Milliput – type of modelling plastic used to create model figures and model scener.

    • N

    • Nylock – type of self locking nut.

    • O

    • Offstage – outside performance area.

    • Omnidirectional – pick up pattern of microphone.

    • Out – piece of scenery that has been flown “Out”

    • Overture – music which starts a musical performance.

    • P

    • PA System – the public address system or any sound system.

    • PC – Prism Convex or “Pebble”. a lens in a lantern.

    • PFL – “Pre Fade Listen” means of listening to a mic channel without brining up the fader.

    • PS – Prompt Side, usually Stage Left.

    • PZM – Pressure Zone Mic. Small plate collects reflections of sound into a small condenser mic.

    • Paging – to make a call over the show relay.

    • Pan – to move light or sound from one place to another.

    • Pancake – water based stage make up, applied with sponge.

    • Paper A House – to give away tickets to fill an audience.

    • Paper House – audience full of freebies!

    • Par Can – type of lantern containing a fixed beam par lamp.

    • Pass Door – door allowing access to FOH from backstage.

    • Patch Panel – panel where lighting circuits are connected and changed – ‘patched’.

    • Perch – lighting position concealed behind proscenium.

    • Personal – small prop, retained by actor.

    • Pin Hinge – hinge jointed by removable pin.

    • Pit – area at front/beneath stage where musicians sit.

    • Pit Lift – mechanical lift that lowers to create pit.

    • Plot – any list of cues.

    • Practical – a working object onstage, such as a door or window.

    • Preset – position of scenery and effects at start of performance and scene.

    • Production Manager – person in charge of all technical aspects of the production process.

    • Production Meeting – meetings for staff involved in production.

    • Profile Spot – lantern which can produce hard or soft light.

    • Promenade – performance with no set seating for audience.

    • Prompt – given to actors during rehearsals but *NOT* during performance.

    • Prompt Copy/Book – the master copy of the performance, including all blocking, effects and cues.

    • Prompt Corner – place where prompt corner was placed now usually behind the audience.

    • Prop – abb. for Properties. Any items used onstage which are not costume or scenery.

    • Prop Table – table situated in wings on which props are placed.

    • Prop Box/Skip – place to store props.

    • Props Room – Room for construction of props by Stage Managers or Property Master.

    • Pyrotechnics – bombs, bangs, flashes etc.

    • Q

    • Quarter – type of call, given 25 minutes before curtain up.

    • R

    • Radio Mic – personal microphone without power lead.

    • Rake – incline of the stage.

    • Readthrough – usually the first meeting with full company and director.

    • Record – plotting a lighting cue by saving it to the lighting board.

    • Reflector – shiny surface in back of lantern which helps throw light.

    • Rigging – fixing lighting, sound and scenic devices to the theatre structure.

    • Right – Stage Right.

    • Run – number of performances in production.

    • Run Through – rehearsal that “runs through” two or more scenes.

    • Runner – used to hold down carpet edges.

    • S

    • Saturation Rig – lighting rig at full capacity.

    • Scatter – low level light cast at side of normal light beam.

    • Scenic Artists – people who paint scenery.

    • Scrim – same as Gauze.

    • Set – prepare stage for action.

    • Setting Line – line past which no scenery, props or furniture may be set.

    • Shin Buster – low side lights.

    • Shout Check – check carried out by stage management to ensure all is set.

    • Shutter – device in lantern used to shape beam.

    • Sightlines – angles of visibility from audience.

    • Size – glue like preparation made from animal bones, used to harden and preserve canvas on flats.

    • Slots – side lighting position in auditorium walls.

    • SM – Stage Manager.

    • Spike – nail something to floor.

    • Spill – unwanted light on the stage.

    • Spot Line – line rigged from grid to fly a specific item. is Lampshade.

    • Stage Brace – extending support for scenery.

    • Stage Crew – employed to move/operate scenery.

    • Stalls – seating on ground floor of auditorium.

    • Star Trap – a mechanised trap where actor shoots through stage floor.

    • Strike – to remove object or scenery from stage.

    • Strobe – flashing light.

    • Supernumerary – actor playing a variety of non-speaking roles, extra.

    • Swag – curtains fashioned so they do not hang straight.

    • T

    • Tabs – curtains.

    • Teaser – short flown border.

    • Tech – Technical Rehearsal.

    • Throw – distance between lantern and object.

    • Thrust Stage – multi-sided stage (with at least one back wall)

    • Top and Tail – rehearsal in which dialogue is reduced to technical cues.

    • Traverse – staging with audience facing each other.

    • Treads – steps or stairs.

    • Tripe – thick bundle of cables from lighting bar.

    • Tri-lite – lighting/scenic metal section made from three lengths of lightweight alloy (triangular construction.

    • Truck – platform with wheels.

    • U

    • Upstage – the area furthest from audience.

    • UV – abb. Ultra Violet.

    • V

    • Vomitary Passage

    • W

    • Walter Plinge – traditional name for actor with more than one role.

    • Wardrobe – department where costume is constructed.

    • Wardrobe Maintenance – washing and repair of costume.

    • Warning Bells – warns of interval.

    • Working Drawings – drawings made in addition to designers.

    • Working Lights – lights used by stage crew to aid work.

    • X

    • Know a term for this section? Leave a comment!

    • Y

    • Know a term for this section? Leave a comment!

    • Z

    • Know a term for this section? Leave a comment!



6 thoughts on “Technical Theatre Terms

  1. Hi – thanks for this website. I’ve used some of the information for my Year 11 / Stage I Drama Studies class examination. They
    will be continuing through to final year High School Drama studies next year and so this has been a great help.
    Joy Perkins
    Senior Drama Teacher
    Glossop High School
    South Australia/Australia

    Posted by Joy Perkins | November 21, 2007, 4:43 am
  2. I am studying Theatre History and have come upon two terms you don’t have listed:

    Vampire Trap and Ghost Glide — both used in the early 1900’s

    Posted by Sue Pope | February 20, 2008, 5:27 pm
  3. A “Ghost Glide” is an alternative name for a “Corsican Trap” and is one which alows an actor to slowly rise through the stage, while travelling across it. (It’s basically a trap door opening set into a part of the stage that resembles a roll-top desk.) – As far as I am aware, the only working Corsican Trap is to be found in the Gaiety Theater in the Isle of Man. – The stage was refurbished in 1999-2000. – The name comes from the play “The Corsican Brothers” which as far as I know is the only production which calls for it’s use!
    I recently came across a description of a Vampire trap some time ago now, on the internet – don’t know where, but as far as I can remember, it is a pair of sprung trap doors in the stage which allow an actor to fall through the stage with the doors closing behind them – try a search for yourself and try the spelling as “Vampyr” I think!


    Posted by John | May 27, 2008, 6:22 pm
  4. Some theaters have an area stage left and stage right of the apron, where I imagine a Greek chorus would stand.
    What would you call this location? Proscenium left and proscenium right?
    For multiple scenes to occur simultaneously, at what other parts of a theater can a playwright or director place the actors? I know this would depend on the individual theater design, but I wanted to get an idea of possibilities: orchestra pit, front row orchestra, catwalk, etc. What other creative options exist?
    I plan to adapt a screenplay of mine into a stage play, and I want to place characters on various parts of the stage environs.
    This would solve Intercutting, where the film switches back and forth between locations.
    Thank you.
    BTW – In December 1973, I saw the musical play Pippin in London at Her Majesty’s Theatre. In a battle scene, where body parts flew, they cleverly had an actor pop his head through a small trap door, from under the stage. When another actor was cleaning up the body parts, the audience was startled to observe the dismembered head speaking.

    Posted by steve k | September 6, 2008, 6:06 pm
  5. Valence curtain

    A valence curtain is a decorative border hung in front of the main house curtain.

    Venetian curtain

    A Venetian curtain or contour curtain is a house curtain that is raised on a number of individual lift lines that can be adjusted separately to give a sculptured effect to the curtain opening. If it is raised higher in the centre than the sides it can form the shape of an arch. If the centre is lower than the sides it can form a drape like a valence border. Adjusting the lift lines will allow a variety of shapes for the opening.

    Posted by jeff waddilove | August 15, 2009, 10:22 am
  6. Suggestion for a V word: Vomitory passage

    Posted by SC | September 21, 2011, 12:03 am

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