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Glossary of theatrical and television terms

When booking an Artist to perform at your event you may well be faced with a number of industry terms from theatreland or television, especially on their Rider, that make absolutely no sense.

However, understanding these terms could be critical to the smooth running of their act. So we've highlighted some of the more common industry terms and listed them below in a glossary; you may even be interested to learn the origin of some well-known phrases you've used yourself, but without knowing how they came into use, such as being 'upstaged' or 'in the limelight'.

Auditorium

The part of the theatre in which the audience sits. Also known as the House.

Backstage

The part of a theatre which is not seen by the audience, including the dressing rooms, wings and the green room.

Black Box

A very basic 3-sided stage set-up with a black backdrop across the entire height and width of the stage, and top-to-floor black curtains (legs) at either side. The front (house) curtain does not have to be black.

Crew

All the people who work together on a show or production except the performers.

Director

The person who provides the vision of how a show should be presented, who works with the performers on their roles, and is in charge of the rehearsals.

Downstage

The front portion of the stage, closest to the audience.

Dress Rehearsal

A full rehearsal, usually just prior to a show opening, to practice the show exactly how it will be on opening night, including costumes, make-up and involving all cast and crew.

Follow Spot

A high powered profile spotlight located high up at the back of the auditorium and used to follow an Artist around the stage in a very bright beam of light. Traditionally called a 'lime' in the old days due to the bulb's filament type; it nevertheless coined the still much-used phrase "being in the limelight".

Front of House (FOH)

Anything which happens on the audience side of the curtain is said to happen 'front of house'. The term 'the house' is used to mean either the auditorium or theatre itself or the audience, for example, "We had a good house tonight". It also describes all of the people in a theatre who deal with the audience including those who sell tickets, the ushers, and any other personnel who deal with the public.

Get-in

The process of moving sets, props and other equipment into a theatre or performance space. In the USA it's known as a "Load-In", Australia a "Bump In" and in New Zealand a "Pack-In".

Get-out

The opposite of a 'Get-In', moving an entire production out of a venue.

Green Room

The backstage area reserved for an Artist's exclusive and private use to relax and eat prior to going on stage. The term has come into common parlance in modern times with primetime TV chat shows such as Jonathan Ross, where he hosts all his celebrity guests backstage before they appear in front of the audience on his sofa. An Artist's rider will usually detail food, beverages and other items to be placed in the green room for their use/consumption.

House Lights

The lights which illuminate the auditorium where the audience sits.

Musical Director

The person who works with the Director, actors and orchestra to get the desired musical effects for a show.

Rake

Most stage floors, usually in old-time Victorian theatres built for dance or variety shows, are higher at the back (upstage) than at the front (downstage), to give the audience a clear view no matter where the performer is situated. The 'rake' is the actual angle of slope from back to front and is expressed as a ratio (eg a 1:25 rake rises by 1-inch vertically over 25-inches horizontally. In virtually all modern theatres it is the audience seating that's raked, not the stage.

Riser

A raised platform on wheels used mainly by musicians. Generally around 6 feet x 6 feet and approximately 12-18" high, on which equipment is placed that can be easily moved on and off stage. Usually employed when there's more than one band on the line-up, so each Artist will have a riser for their own percussion, keyboards and backing vocals (BVs) microphones etc, which enables a quick onstage turnaround.

Stage Left

Always referenced from the performers perspective on stage, this is when the performer standing in the centre of the stage moves to his/her left. (I.e. 'Stage Left' is the right-hand side when viewed from the auditorium).

Stage Manager (SM)

The person in charge of everything that happens backstage: all other backstage personnel, including heads of departments, report to them. Unlike television, in professional theatre, once the show starts its run the Stage Manager takes complete control, as the Director's job is finished following the final dress rehearsal.

Stage Right

Always referenced from the performers perspective on stage, this is when the performer standing in the centre of the stage moves to his/her right. (I.e. 'Stage Right' is the left-hand side when viewed from the auditorium).

Technical Rehearsal

Usually the first time a show is rehearsed in the venue with lighting, scenery and sound. Costumes are sometimes used where they may cause technical problems (eg quick changes). It's often a very slow and lengthy process and frequently abbreviated to the "Tech". A dry tech is without performers present and is purely to run through the lighting, scenic changes, etc.

Upstage

The rear section of a stage, farthest from the audience. In professional theatre, when an actor upstage steals the focus and audience's attention away from the main action downstage, or causes the downstage actor to face them and thereby turning their back on the audience, the downstage actor has been "upstaged".

VT

A term used commonly in television and other media, it's short for 'Video Tape'. Whilst these days everything is digital, the term still remains to describe a pre-recorded film that needs to be played at a certain point during proceedings. You'll often hear a presenter say "run VT" before the film is played.

Wings

The areas of the stage that are to the sides of the viewable performance area and are out of view. These areas are usually masked by top-to-floor curtains (legs).