Acting Stage Terms Glossary


Common Theater Terms

Auditions: Readings before a director to determine casting of a play.

Call Backs: An additional audition for the final actors being considered. Similar to semifinals in sports.

Clear the Stage: A direction given to all actors, musicians, and technicians to leave the stage area prior to the beginning of a play.

Places: The direction for all actors, musicians, and technicians to go to their proper position and be ready for the beginning of a play or scene.

Strike: Taking down, changing out and putting away costumes, props and sets after a production.

Run Through: An uninterrupted rehearsal of a scene, act, or the entire play.

Curtain Call/Bows: The carefully choreographed appearance of actors on stage after the performance to acknowledge the applause of the audience.

Heads Up!: A term of warning used to call attention to overhead danger. Technical Elements

Flats: Muslin or plywood covered frames used to build the walls of a stage setting.

Props: Small hand held items used by actors to create the period, character or setting.

Platforms: Wooden units joined together to build the floors for a stage setting.

Costumes: The clothing worn by the actors that helps determine character, time, theme and mood.

Mask: A term used meaning “to hide.” Also, a covering for an actors face that disguises or changes their character. often made out of leather, plastic or paper maché.

Dark: A time when all lights are out or the theater is closed.

Stage Manager: Person responsible for the physical set up, actors, and technical cues of a production as it is performed.


Elements of a Play

Dialogue: Written conversation.

Text: The written word.

Script: A complete scene or play in a format to be produced by actors and directors.

Initial Incident: The first most important event in a play from which the rest of the play develops. Exposition: The explanation of who, what, when, where, why of a play.

Preliminary Situation: The story of the play as the curtain rises.

Climax: The major event in a play, the turning point of the story.

Rising Action: The series of events following the initial incident. How the story builds towards its climax. Falling Action/Denouement: The series of events following the climax.

Conclusion: The final outcome of the play.

Protagonist: The play revolves around this character. Often the “good guy” but not always.

Antagonist: This character forces change or creates conflict for the protagonist. Often the “bad guy.” Theme/Message/Purpose/Moral: What the play as a piece of art is trying to say to the audience.

Setting: Where the play occurs in terms of time and place.

Monologue: A long speech said by a single actor to themselves, the audience, or to another character. Soliloquy: A long speech said by a single actor to themselves or the audience, but not to another character. Act: An organizational division in scripts.

Scene: An organizational division in scripts. Often several scenes make up an ACT.


Terms for the Actor

Pantomime: A story or action performed with out words relying on body language.

Stage Business: Small actions such as smoking, using a fan, pouring a drink, etc. Used to fill time, create character, and sometimes to make the action “more realistic.”

Open Up/Cheat Out: Facing as much towards the audience as possible.

Take the Stage: What an actor does when they take control of the scene or take focus of the audience.

Given Circumstances: The who, what, when, where, why of the play or scene or character.

Focus: Where the director wants the audience to look. The actors point of concentration.

Diction: The actors ability to be understood by the audience.

Volume: The actors ability to be heard by the audience.

Cue: The last words or actions indicating the time for another actor to speak or move.

Ad lib: Lines made up by an actor to fill in where there would be an undesirable pause due to dropped lines, technical problems, etc.

Aside: Lines said to the audience that other actors onstage are not supposed to be hearing.

Pick up Cues: A direction for the actor to begin responding immediately without allowing any lapse time. Build: To increase the tempo or volume or both to reach a climax in a scene.

Cheating: Using a movement or position that may not be realistic but allows the audience to see the action more clearly.


Mapping the Stage

Upstage: The area of the stage that is the furthest from the audience.

Downstage: The area of the stage that is the closest to the audience.

Stage Right: The right side of the stage from the actor’s point of view (facing the audience.) Stage Left: The left side of the stage from the actor’s point of view (facing the audience.) Center: Center of the stage.

Full Front: Facing the audience.

Full Back: Facing away from the audience.

Cross: Movement from one area of the stage to another.

Blocking: The set movement of all the actors onstage throughout the play.












HOUSE LEFT                                                                 HOUSE RIGHT




Wings: The areas to the left and right of the stage out of view to the audience. A part of the backstage area. Proscenium: An arched opening through which the audience sees the stage. Also a style of theater with theaudience seated predominantly in front of the stage.

Apron: The usually curved area of the stage closest to the audience. Backstage/Offstage: Usually the entire stage area not visible to the audience.

House: The audience area.

Backdrop: The drop farthest upstage in most settings. Also a large curtain, sometimes with a picture or design.

Curtain Line: The imaginary line across the stage floor which follows the line of the front curtain.

Fly Loft: The are above the stage where curtains and set pieces are stored and hidden during a production.

Grand Drape/Main Rag: The front, often decorative, curtain of a stage.

Legs: Narrow curtains in the wings to mask the backstage areas.

Cyclorama: A large, usually white, curtain that is lit to create setting and masks the back of the stage behind the set.

Trap: An opening in the stage floor for actors to pass through to make entrances and exits.

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