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Stage Slang

Learn the language of the theatre with this guide to industry terms and theatre slang!

Angel
The person or company providing financial backing or support to the production.

Apron
On a traditional procenium stage, the part of the stage that sticks out before the curtain. The apron can also be extended or augmented over the pit on occasion, as well.

Backstage
The area behind the stage for the cast and crew that is out of sight of the audience.

Blackout
(1) A term for the condition in which there is zero stage lighting, and in which work backstage is accomplished under blue lighting only. Emergency lights and exit signs, however, remain on. (2) The actual act of turning off the stage lighting.

Blocking
The process of planning the movement and placement of the actors in a scene. Blocking is created by the director, and then recorded in the script by the stage manager.

Blocking Notation
The abbreviated notation of a scene's blocking by the stage manager in the script.

BO
(1) In blocking, the abbreviation for Blackout. (2) Also a general industry abbreviation for Box Office.

Board
Slang term for the panel or control desk where the lighting and electronics are run.

Book
The stage manager's annotated prompt script. When a performer says he is "off book," this means they now have the script memorized.

Curtain
(1) The start or end of the show performance; (2) The actual fabric curtain that rises or falls before the stage, signifying the beginning or the end of the show.

Cold Reading
The definition of a cold reading in theatrical terms or stage slang.

Cyc
Short for Cyclorama

Cyclorama
Typically, a large piece of fabric or material covering the back wall of the stage, and which can be illuminated in a variety of colors or effects. Also known as a 'cyc,' a cyclorama can also be a hard white or plaster wall instead of fabric.

Downstage
The "bottom" of the stage; the area of the stage closest to the audience.

Downstage Left
From the performer's onstage perspective, the left-hand "bottom" area of the stage closest to the audience.

Downstage Right
From the performer's onstage perspective, the right-hand "bottom" area of the stage closest to the audience.

Fill Light
A light or lantern that provides a gentle wash or 'fill' that softens the harsh brights and shadows of other lights.

Flood
Definition 1: To open or increase a beam of light, typically a Fresnel. 2: A light with a bright, broad beam, often used to light a cyclorama.

Fly
To lift or drop objects into or out of a scene using the ropes and pulleys that make up the flying system.

Dry Tech
A rehearsal in which the tech and lighting crew run the show from beginning to end in an abbreviated form consisting solely of scene changes and tech progressions, without the presence of the performers.

Follow Spot
A powerful shuttered spot that is typically individually operated in order to follow a specific actor on the stage.

Footlights
Nowadays almost obsolete, footlights are the small lights that surround the very front edge of the stage, which were once essential for filling the shadows caused by harsh stage lighting.

Forced Perspective
A technique in both film and stage set design, in which the designer employs objects of misleading sizes to change the perspective of size or distance (i.e., to make a performer seem larger or smaller than they actually are).

Fresnel
A type of spotlight with a Fresnel lens. A Fresnel can be focused, and which is constantly used in stage lighting, producing a soft, even beam of light.

Exit
The stage direction that notes when a character leaves the stage.

FX
The standard stage shorthand or written abbreviation for 'effects.' Used to refer to stage effects, or written in shorthand as 'SFX' for sound effects.

House Left
The left-hand side of the stage from the house (audience) point of view.

Gaff
To use gaffer's tape to accomplish a variety of tasks, from attaching or securing an item, to fixing or repairing, protecting or sealing, and more.

House Right
The right-hand side of the stage from the house (audience) point of view.

Front of House
A general term referring to performance services including tickets, ushers, concessions, and more.

Gel
The slang term for the colored filter used in stage lighting.

Gobo
A piece of metal (or glass) that, when fitted on the front of a spot, projects a specific pattern or shape onto the set.

Grid
The high, suspended scaffolding or structures from which the lanterns for stage lighting are hung, or which can also hold the components of the flying system.

Grip
The crew member who moves and situates scenery during a show.

House
A general term to refer to where the audience sits. Can also be used to refer to the audience itself.

House Lights
The lights over the area where the audience sits.

In the Round
The phrase used for the kind of venue or performance space where the audience surrounds the stage on all sides.

Leko
A popular type of ellipsoidal profile spotlight. Also called a 'Lekolight.'

Top Hat
A definition of a Top Hat, a fairly common element for controlling a beam's intensity in stage lighting.

Barn Door
A definition of a Barn Door, a commonly used element in controlling the intensity and direction of stage lighting.

Wash
A definition of a wash, a commonly used term in stage lighting design.

Gobo
A definition of a gobo, a commonly used element in stage lighting.

Load In
The term for the unloading, unpacking, and setup of the equipment for the show at the beginning of the run.

Load Out
The term for the packing up and loading of the equipment for the show at the end of the run.

Masking
Also called "tabs." The drapes used in the wings of the stage, which keep audiences from seeing beyond the stage performance area.

Off Book
The term for the stage when the performer has his or her lines memorized.

Pit
The sub-floor area before the stage that houses the orchestra or musicians.

Scrim
A fabric backdrop, usually thin or gauzy in appearance, that is used with frontlighting or backlighting to create a desired effect.

LX
The abbreviated or shorthand term for the lighting tech, crew or department. Can also be used to simply refer to lighting in general -- for instance, a stage manager might note, "LX UP" in the script, noting "lights up."

SL
Abbreviation for Stage Left.

Monologue
An extended piece or series of lines spoken by a single character. Monologues are also essential material for use in auditions.

Stage Left
From the onstage performer's perspective, the left-hand side of the stage.

Stage Right
From the onstage performer's perspective, the right-hand side of the stage.

Strike
The process of taking down or deconstructing the set at the end of the show.

Three-Quarter Round
The phrase used for the kind of venue or performance space where the stage extends into the audience, which surrounds the stage on three of four sides.

Upstage
The "top" of the stage; the area of the stage farthest from the audience.

Upstage Left
From the performer's onstage perspective, the left-hand "top" area of the stage farthest from the audience.

Upstage Right
From the performer's onstage perspective, the right-hand "top" area of the stage farthest from the audience.

USL
Abbreviation for Upstage Left

Run
The length of a performance engagement. For example, "The new production of Hamlet ran for thirty-six performances."

USR
Abbreviation for Upstage Right

Standing Room Only
Or SRO. In which all seats to a show are sold and ticket-buyers can then buy the opportunity to watch the show from a standing area instead.

SR
Abbreviation for Stage Right.

Wings
The areas on either side of the stage, out of sight of the audience, where the performers wait before their entrances.

X
Blocking shorthand for "cross" or "walk." For example, the notation for "Ann crosses to stage left," would be: A X SL.

Understudy
A performer who is fully prepared in the performance of a principal role, in case they need to step into the performance when the lead actor is unavailable.

Grid
The high, suspended scaffolding or structures from which the lanterns for stage lighting are hung, or which can also hold the components of the flying system.

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