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A glossary of teatre terms
Category: Arts > Teatre
Date & country: 05/08/2007, UK
Words: 165


Mask
To hide: an actors masks another when he stands in front of him and prevents the audience from seeing him properly. Also a noun: fabric hiding a row of lanterns hung above the stage.

Mixer
Or Mixing Desk. A device for mixing together and modifying sounds from a variety of sources: microphones, tapes, CDs, musical instruments, etc..

Mr Sands
Theatrical code to warn theatre employees of a fire without frightening the audience. "Mr Sands is in the foyer" means that fire has broken out in the foyer.

Multiplex
A means of sending control signals from a lighting control console to the dimmer packs. Signals are sent down one cable rather than one per channel as is the case with analogue desks. At the dimmer end, a de-multiplexer (DMUX) is used to separate the signals and route them to the right dimmer. Often shortened (in brand names) to MX.

Musical Director
(MD) In complete control of the music in the production, under the overall control of the Director. Rehearses the singers and musicians, conducts the orchestra or band, and usually arranges the music too.

Notes
At the end of each rehearsal, the director will give his notes, which are his comments on the performance.

Number 1 Bar
The lighting bar immediately behind the proscenium arch (qv) or the front bar which hangs over the stage in a non-proscenium arch theatre.

OP
Opposite prompt: the right hand side of the stage as you face the audience.

Open White
A lantern (qv) is said to be "in open white" if no filter or gel is used to colour its light.

Paper
Complimentary (i.e. free!) tickets. If someone says, "The house is all paper tonight", it means that most, if not all, of the audience have free tickets.

Par Can
A type of lantern (qv) which projects a near parallel beam of light, much used by rock bands. The lamp is a sealed-beam unit (like car headlights) fitted inside the "can". Available, usually, in 300W or 1kw power, they are sometimes known as parblazers, while lighting manufacturer Strand calls them "beamlights".

Pebble Convex
A type of spotlight (qv), with a harder-edged beam than a fresnel (qv) but softer than a profile (qv). They have a convex lens with a pebbled rear surface. Strand call their PC lanterns "prism convex".

Perch
A place for hanging lanterns, on the side wall of the theatre auditorium.

Phantom Power
A means of powering condenser microphones. A current of (usually) 48 volts is sent along the mic cable from the mixing desk or, where the mixer does not have phantom power facilities, from a phantom power box, into which the mic is plugged and which, in turn, plugs into the mixer.

Phono Plug
A type of connector used on some sound equipment, usually domestic HiFi or video gear.

Pin Spot
Either a small (usually 100W) spotlight used for special effects (i.e. with a mirror ball) or, more usually in the theatre, a follow-spot with its iris diaphragm closed to its smallest diameter to illuminate, for instance, just a face.

Pit
The sunken area in front of the stage in which the orchestra sits.

Plot
Lighting term: the actual brightness settings of each lantern and the LX cues. Also used to describe the process of setting the cues. Can also be used as an alternative for "blocking", i.e. setting the actors in their positions on-stage at an early stage in rehearsal.

Practical
Adjective used to describe properties or scenery which have to work as in real life when used; e.g. a practical ceiling light must actually light up when switched on by an actor.

Preset
The ability, on a manual lighting control desk (as opposed to one which is computer-controlled) to set up a lighting cue before it is actually operated. Also the lighting state on a stage before the show actually starts.

Prism Convex
Another name for a Pebble Convex spotlight.

Producer
In amateur companies usually synonymous with the Director, but in the professional theatre the person who makes all the necessary arrangements for the production to be put on: finding the finance, smoothing the way for the Director. Almost the equivalent of the Business Manager. The best producers (the best known is probably Cameron Mackintosh, who produced Les Miserables, Miss Saigon and many oth...

Profile
A type of spotlight (qv), with an optical system rather like a projector which produces a narrow, hard-edged beam of light.

Prompt (Side)
The left side of the stage, as you face the audience.

Prompt Copy
See Book. The copy of the script n which all notes, moves, cues etc. are noted.

Prompter
Amateur companies almost always have a prompter, someone who sits in the wings (qv) and prompts the actors if they forget their lines. There is no such position in the professional theatre - pros should not forget lines! Neither should amateurs, for that matter, but it happens - so, if a prompt is needed, it is given by whoever is "in the corner" (qv).

Properties
Small items (a sword in an historical play, for instance, or a briefcase) which actors carry onto or around the stage. Also used loosely for "set dressing" (qv). Usually abbreviated to props.

Property Master
(or Mistress) Responsible for the obtaining and/or construction of the properties (qv).

Proscenium
The traditional picture frame type of stage, usually with a curtain. Often abbreviated to "pros".

Proscenium Arch
(Or "pros arch"). The actual opening of a proscenium stage.

Pyropot
A safe container into which a pyro (see Pyrotechnics) charge is plugged for firing.

Pyrotechnics
Usually abbreviated to "pyro". The use of explosions, flashes, smoke, etc. on-stage.

Rake
Many stage floors, usually in theatres built for dance or variety, are higher at the back than at the front, to give the audience a better view. These stages are said to be "raked", and the "rake" is the angle of slope from back to front. In most modern theatres it is the audience seating that is raked, not the stage.

Reprise
Musical term: to repeat, in whole or in part, a song which has already been sung in the show.

Revolve
A stage or, more usually, part of a stage, which can revolve through 360 degrees. The most famous, to older UK TV watchers, is the revolve which was used at the end of the TV show Sunday Night at the London Palladium.

Rig
A lighting term. To set the lanterns in position. As a noun, its refers to the actually positioning of the lanterns.

Right
The right hand side of the stage as you look at the audience. Also known as the "opposite prompt" or "OP" side.

Rostrum
(Plural: rostra) A moveable platform

Safety Curtain
A curtain of fireproofed material (once upon a time it was asbestos), usually with a metal frame, which is covers the entire proscenium (qv) opening and acts as a firebreak between the stage and the auditorium. Known as the "iron", when it is raised or lowered, the theatrical term is "Iron going in (or out)".

Scene Dock
Backstage area for storing scenery (and loads of other things too!).

Set
The scenery for a particular show or inidividual scene.

Set Dressing
Items on a set which are not actually used by anyone but which make it look more realistic (e.g. curtains over a window, a bowl of flowers on a table, and so on).

Sightlines
The area of the stage which can be seen by everyone seated in the auditorium. In some (badly designed!) theatres, a member of the audience sitting at the ends of certain rows, can only see two thirds of the stage!

Skycloth
Alternative name for a cyclorama (qv).

Special
Lighting term: a lantern (qv) - usually a spotlight (qv) - not used for general illumination but for a special effect, such a lighting a single actor in one place.

Spotlight
(Or, simply, "spot") A type of lantern (qv) whose beam is focused through a lens or series of lenses to make it more controllable.

Stage Manager
(SM) In charge of everything that happens backstage: all other backstage peronnel, including heads of departments, report to him. In the professional theatre, once the show starts its run, he takes complete control (including taking any rehearsals for understudies etc.), as the Director's job is finished once he has given his notes after the final dress rehearsal.

State
A lighting term, referring to the lanterns (qv) and their dimmer (qv) settings, used in a particular cue. We talk of a "full-up state" when all lanterns are used at full brightenss, or a "red state", when only lanterns with red filters are on. During the plotting of the lighting, the operator may be told to "go back to a state of 2", which means to set the dimmers as they were in cue 2.

Strike
(See also "Take Down") To dismantle the set and remove it from the stage.

Strobe 
A lantern which emits a regular, controllable series of high power flashes rather than continuous light. NOTE: strobes can induce fits in epileptics and so warning about their use should always be given in the programme and verbally before the show starts.

Tab Dressing
Light on the House Tabs (see "Tabs") before the curtain goes up and during the interval.

Tabs
Curtains. The curtains which close across the proscenium arch (qv) are called "House Tabs".

Talloscope
(I have to confess that I am not certain the spelling is correct!) Scaffolding on wheels for miving around the stage to rig and focus lanterns.

Thrust
A type of stage which projects out into the auditorium and has audience seated on three sides.

Tracks
The rails on which curtains (tabs) run,

Trap
A trapdoor set in the stage floor.

Truck
A rostrum or platform on wheels, on which scenery can be mounted so that it can be rolled into any position on-stage.

Understudy
An actor playing a small part in a production or, in the professional theatre, often an Assistant Stage Manager, who has learned and rehearsed the part of one of the leading actors to take over from him/her in the event of illness etc.

Upstage
At the back of the stage; away from the audience. As a verb: when one actor deliberately draw the attention of the audience to himself for purely selfish purposes.

USL
Upstage left.

USR
Upstage right.

Wardrobe Master
(More usually Wardrobe Mistress) Responsible for the making (under the direction of the Designer), repair and washing of all costumes.

Way
Another word for "channel" (qv).

Wings
The sides of the stage, out of sight of the audience, where actors stand before making their entrance, and where props are kept, ready to be brought onto the stage.

XLR
A type of connector for sound equipment. The best microphones use these rather than jacks. Now becoming more common on all kinds of sound equipment. Mics which require phantom powering (qv) must have XLR connectors: one terminal carries the signal, one is a shield, and the third carries the phantom power current.