Off-Broadway Improv & Musical Comedy Theater


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Extended Glossary of Theater Terms  E-O            

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Edge Up 1) To raise a piece of scenery up-right onto its edge. 2) A mild form of upstaging.

Echo A sound that has been reflected off a surface so as to arrive back at the source an audible time later.

Echo Unit A sound signal processor that duplicates the effect of a sound echo. Echo units originally used an endless loop of audio tape passing over several tape heads. Now the processors are almost all solid state, except for those used by a few die hard audio engineers who are looking for a specific sound. See Digital Delay.

Edison Screw Abbrev. to ES. Type of lamp base which is basically a screw thread. The drawback is that the lamp, once tightened, may not be orientated correctly to the lens and reflector. Also has a propensity to crack the glass when over tightened, thus breaking the lamp. This type is now only used for a few basic floods, though it is still widely used in general purpose household type fittings. From Thomas Edison - the father of the modern electric light bulb.

Effects Relays A low voltage relay system used to switch mains powered special effects equipment that is not suitable to be connected to the lighting dimmer system.

Effects Soundtrack See Surround Sound.

Electrics 1) The members of the electrical team. 2) All of the electrical equipment. Almost always now abbreviated in writing and speech to 'LX'.

Elevation A working drawing usually drawn accurately and to scale, showing the side view of the set or lighting arrangement.

Elevator Stage Type of mechanical stage with sections that can lowered or raised.

Ellipsoid The type of reflector used in many profile spots. Often used in America now to refer to all profile spotlights. The reflector is formed in a regular oval shape.

Enclosure The housing or cabinet which contains the speakers.

Ensemble Acting Actors working as a group on stage rather than individual characters.

Entrance 1) Place on a set through which the actor may appear. 2) Point in the script at which an actor appears on stage.

Envelope 1) Jargon for Lamp. 2) The glass tube part of the lamp, containing the filament.

Epilogue A speech to the audience by an actor after the formal action of the play is concluded.

Equalisation Series of controls on the sound mixer for adjusting the tonal quality.

Equalisation Cut A switch on the sound mixer to allow the equalised tonal quality to be compared to the original sound.

Exit 1) The process of leaving the stage. 2) Point in the script at which an actor leaves the stage.

Expander A unit that increases the dynamic range of an audio signal. Works in reverse to a Compressor.

Exposition Background knowledge required by an audience to understand the play. The information is sometimes not in the script, but more often is conveyed in early speeches by subordinate characters.

Exterior A setting depicting an outdoor scene.

Extra See Supernumerary.

Fader The control knob or slide that provides the means of controlling the output level of a lantern or amplifier.

Fade Time The time taken to execute a lighting change.

Fall Down Backward Traditional good luck greeting between cast and crew before a performance. (UK) Also Break A Leg, Chookas.

False Proscenium An inner frame which narrows down the opening of the proscenium arch. It may help to hide lanterns or may be required by the design of the show.

False Stage A special stage floor laid a few inches above the real stage, to allow the running of steel cables to pull trucks across the stage. (UK)

Feedback High pitched squeal when a microphone picks up acoustically from a speaker to which it is connected. Also Howl Round.

Fill Light Diffuse lighting used to complement Key Lighting.

Filter See Colour Filter.

Fire Because of the high incidence of fires in theatres during the candle and gas lighting eras, to speak of fire whilst in a theatre is generally considered unlucky.

Fire Curtain The heavy fire-proof curtain that, in an emergency, is dropped at the front of the stage, effectively sealing the stage from the auditorium and thus slowing the spread of flames. Jargon - The Iron.

First Pipe The lighting bar immediately upstage of the proscenium arch. (US)

Fitting See Lantern.

Fit-Up See Bump-In. (UK).

Flame Retardant Chemical applied to fabric to reduce its ignitability when exposed to fire. In some places regular or periodic flame retardant of stage drapes and sets is law.

Flash Button A push switch on a lighting desk that turns the channel on instantly to full when operated. Some desks have a flash button level master that allows the channel to flashed on to a set level.

Flash Out or Through To check whether the lanterns are functioning correctly by putting them on one at a time.

Flash Pot A small, strong metal cups from which black powder is exploded as a pyrotechnic effect. The black powder is poured on top of a small detonator, which is then fired from a battery.

Flat A basic unit of scenery, a wooden frame covered with either canvas or plywood, and painted with the required picture.

Flat Truss See Truss.

Flight Case See Road Case.

Floats See Footlights. Floats were very early forms of footlights, utilising the age old method of a floating wick lamp - where the wick floats in a bowl of oil or is threaded through a floating disk.

Floodlights Also Floods. Lanterns without lenses which give a general fixed spread of light.

Floorcloth A canvas covering for the floor of the stage. The cloth can be painted to resemble some surface, but be easily removed to reveal another cloth, or the stage floor below.

Floor Pockets See Dips. (US)

Floor Plan See Ground Plan.

Flown 'Flown scenery' has been attached to the counterweight system and is able to be hoisted into the flys.

Flys 1) The space above the stage in which scenery, lanterns and so on are hung invisible to the audience. 2) The counterweight system.

Fly Floor Also Fly Gallery. A high platform which runs along the side of the stage from which the flying lines are operated.

Fly Gallery See Fly Floor.

Fly Man Crew person who operates the flys.

Fly Tower The part of the theatre building above the stage that contains the flys.

Focus 1) That items and objects on the set are consistent with the theme envisaged by the director. 2) Pulling focus - when an actor deliberately tries to draw the audience's attention away from another cast member to themselves.

Focusing 1) Adjusting a lantern to give it a well defined image. 2) The process of adjusting and directing the lanterns prior to the technical rehearsal. Can be 'The Focus'.

Fogger See Smoke Machine.

Fog Juice See Smoke Machine.

FOH See Front of House.

Foldback Sound reinforcement from loudspeakers on the side of the stage to enable actors to hear their musical accompaniments clearly, and to hear their own voices when the sound is heavily reinforced for the audience.

Follow On Cue A cue that is executed automatically after the previous one.

Followspot A manually operated spot light with a beam which can be directed to follow an actor around the stage. Also Dome, Limes.

Footlights A batten of lights mounted on the stage floor, generally not used today except for special effects. The earliest English use of footlights was 1672 - but they became popular after their installation at the Drury Lane Theatre, London, in 1758 by the legendary David Garrick, after whom there have been theatres named in both England and America. Garrick probably used an idea from the French. A rumoured use of footlights was to blind the cast so they could not see the audience, hopefully to reduce nervous tension.

Forestage The area in front of the house curtain in a proscenium arch theatre.

Fore And Aft Measuring the depth rather than the width of the stage.

Fork See Harness.

Foul To entangle lanterns or scenery hung in the flys.

Fourth Wall The imaginary wall which separates the audience from the stage in a proscenium theatre.

Freeze To stop all action and movement on stage, usually during applause or just before a lighting cue.

French Action See Tab Track.

French Brace A rigid triangular timber brace attached to a flat to hold the flat upright. If hinges are used it can be folded flat for storage or to be moved.

French Flat A flat which is flown into position.

Fresnel A type of spot light with a Fresnel lens, which due to a set of concentric circular ribbing on its surface, gives an even field of light with soft edges.

Fribble A 17th century word used to describe ad libbing to cover lapses of memory.

Front of House Abbrev. to FOH. Any part of the theatre in front of the proscenium arch.

Front of House Lighting Lights placed in front of the proscenium arch. Only generally introduced in the 1870s. Previously - through the candle chandelier and gas ages - all stage lighting came from above or to the side of the stage. Also Ante-Pros Lighting.

Front of House Manager The staff member in a Theatre responsible for the audience and Front of House facilities, such as the bars, concessions, programs, and ticket selling.

Front Cloth Scenic cloth hung close to the front of the stage so scenes may be changed behind it.

Frost A type of Diffusion Filter.

FUF See Full Up Finish.

Full Up Finish Abbrev. to FUF. Increase in lighting at the end of a musical number.

Fuse Replaceable protective device for electrical equipment which melts or breakdowns under specific conditions, thereby stopping the flow of power to the device and so preventing damage.

FX Abbrev. for Effects - special lighting and audio effects.

Gaffer Tape Heavy duty cloth adhesive tape with many uses in the entertainment world.

Gaffer Grip Type of spring loaded clamp used to attach a light to scenery etc when a standard G-clamp would not be suitable.

Gain The difference or increase in audio levels from one point in the circuit to another.

Galaxy Series of large memory lighting control consoles by Strand Electric, used world wide in both theatre and television.

Gas Gas was used as the primary method of lighting both the stage and auditorium from around the 1830s, though it was certainly tried 10 or 15 years before that, until the advent of the electric light later that century.

Gate The part of the lantern in between the lamp and the lens where shaping of the light beam is possible using shutters, gobos, and irises.

Gate Rostrum See Rostrum.

Gauze See Scrim. (UK).

G-Clamp See Clamp.

Gel Frame See Colour Frame.

Gel See Colour Filter.

Gemini Mid 1980's Strand Electric memory desk, originally designed as a touring/portable version of the Galaxy.

Get-In/Out See Bump-In/Out. (UK)

Ghost 1) Noun - Beam of light which inadvertently leaks from a lantern and falls where it is not wanted. 2) Verb - To allow a small dim light to emit from a follow spot to allow it to be properly lined up before turning the lantern to full. 3) No theatre would be complete without a resident ghost!

Globe See Lamp.

Gobo A metal plate with a pattern punched out of it and placed in the gate of a profile spot to produce an image or outline on stage.

Gopher General dogsbody who is sent to 'go for' things for the cast and crew. (US)

GPO Abbrev. for General Purpose Outlet. The typical mains power wall socket. On stage is used to refer to a power outlet not connected to the lighting dimmer system, and so providing an independent source of power.

Graphic Equaliser Advanced audio tone control unit that allows very precise control over the frequency spectrum at a number of centre frequencies.

Green The part of the stage area visible to the audience.

Green Baize Until the mid 19th century it was common practice to lay a green carpet on stage when a tragedy was to be performed. Practically it was to protect the costumes when the cast collapsed in death, but became a tool to raise an audience's expectations when the carpet was laid during interval.

Green Room Room adjacent to the stage (.i.e. the Green) for the actors to meet and relax. One explanation for 'green' is that in medieval days, when strolling players gave performances on the village green (hence 'Green'), a tent would be set-up for them to change costumes in (hence 'Green Room'). Perhaps the best known Green Room is at Drury Lane Theatre in London, and it is possible that it was once draped or painted in green, and this is the origin. Another possible theory is because of the Green Baize as described above. Green, the colour, is also known to be psychologically soothing.

Grid 1) The arrangement of wooden or metal slats above which are mounted the pulley blocks of the flying system. 2) The system of trusses and bars from which lanterns are hung. (Concert)

Grided Any flying piece raised as high as possible into the flys.

Ground Plan A scale drawing which shows the exact position of the openings, wall and windows, and other details on in a stage set as seen from above.

Groundrow 1) A row of lanterns on the floor of the stage for lighting the bottom area of a cyclorama or cloth. This is usually masked by a scenic groundrow. 2) Shaped pieces of scenery usually less than a metre high. Also Scenic Groundrow.

Grouping The arrangement of actors in and around the set at a particular time. See Blocking.

Grudgeon Bracket fixed to fly rail in hemp houses to which the hemp ropes are tied off. Also Cleat.

Gun Microphone See Shot Gun.

Half Half hour call. Warning to the company given thirty-five minutes before performance (thirty minutes before beginners).

Half Price Custom originating in the 18th century of admitting privileged patrons free of charge after the third act of the play.

Hall Keeper Staff person who works at the Stage Door taking messages and deliveries (UK). Also Stage Door Keeper, Stage Door Man.

Hand Prop Any prop handled by an actor.

Hanging Attaching flying pieces to the appropriate bars.

Hard Edged A light beam on stage that has a clearly defined edge or side. Opposite to Soft Edged.

Harmonics The separate tones that are multiples of the original sound frequency.

Harmony Range of 1000 watt lanterns by Strand Electric.

Harness The metal strip running over the top of a lantern to which the G-Clamp is attached. Also Fork, Yoke.

Head Electrician The permanent staff member in a theatre who runs the electrics department.

Headroom The difference between an audio system's normal operating level, and its peak capacity.

Hemp Rope used for flying systems.

Hemp House A theatre where the flying is done by brute force and not counterweighted.

Hertz Abbrev. to Hz. The unit of measure of frequency. One Hertz is equal to one cycle in one second. (Hertz - German physicist 1857-1894).

Highs See Top End.

Hiss Background noise on an audio system or tape unit at a high frequency.

HMI A type of non-dimmable high intensity metal halide discharge lamp used in followspots and other lanterns that require a high light output.

Hook Clamp See Clamp.

Hot Leading To check lanterns, lamps, and cables during rigging. An extension lead plugged to a known power source is connected to one lantern after another to ensure the lantern is operating correctly before it is are connected to the lighting patch system.

Hot Spot An area on the stage on which the lighting is unintentionally more intense than the other areas.

House 1) The audience. 2) The auditorium.

House Curtain The main front curtain in a proscenium theatre.

House Keeper Supervisor of the theatre's cleaning staff. (UK).

House Manager See Front of House Manager.

House Lights The decorative fixtures that light the auditorium whilst the audience is entering or leaving, usually they are dimmed or switched off during the performance.

Howl Round See Feedback.

H-Stand A small 'H' shaped frame used to stand a lantern on the floor.

Hum Background noise caused by mains voltage interference.

Hyper-Cardioid A very directional type of microphone.

IDM World's first memory lighting control console, built by Strand Electric in the 1960's.

Impedance The measure of resistance to alternating current in an electrical circuit. Measured in 'ohms'. An important characteristic in many audio components such as speakers and microphones.

In Flying term for bringing down.

Incandescent Lamp The typical light bulb. The light results from the bright glowing of a thin thread of metal (the filament) when a electrical current is passed through it.

Inductive Ballast See Ballast.

Inhibit Some lighting desks allow for the control of one or a group of channels to be overridden via a separate control circuit.

Inner Stage A part of the acting area which can be masked off and revealed only during certain scenes.

Intensity The brightness of a light.

Instrument (US). See Lantern.

Interior A scene set indoors.

Inverse Square A mathematical equation incorporating the distance from a lantern to an object, and the intensity of the light at its source, thereby giving a measure of light intensity at the object.

Iris An adjustable circular diaphragm to alter beam size in a profile spot. Made up of a set of interleafing plates. When rotated the small hole formed by the plates opens or closes. Also Diaphragm.

Irish Acting Acting term coined earlier this century to describe a lack of gestures but confident delivery of lines.

Iron Slang for Fire Curtain.

Irony Contained in much theatre. When a word or action implies or conveys the opposite meaning to that we expect.

Isora A plastic cyclorama, lit from behind. The image painted on the isora can thus be seen in silhouette from the front.

Jack Field Patching system often used in sound systems to allow more flexible connection of the various components.

Jands Electronics Australian manufacturer of audio and lighting equipment including sound and lighting control desks.

JBL Popular American brand of speaker. Name is the initials of the company's founder - James B. Lansing.

JTM A dimmer made by Strand Electric, originally designed in the 40's or 50's, and widely used throughout the world.

Juice Short for Fog Juice. See Smoke Machine.

Kabuki Traditional form of Japanese theatre still practised today by a select group of male actors in Japan.

Kabuki Rod A long timber or metal rod with small spikes along its edge that fit into the eyelets across the top of a scenic cloth. By rotating the rod the cloth falls off the spikes. This can be used to great dramatic effect.

Key Lighting The primary lighting for an area, or person. (TV)

Kill 1) To turn off lanterns or sound effects. 2) To remove something from the set, such as a prop.

Klark Teknik German manufacturer of audio equipment.

Kliegl Bros. The oldest stage lighting manufacturer - founded 1896 in New York.

Ladder A non-climbable frame used to hang lanterns from.

Lamp The light source within a lantern, but also used to refer to the complete unit. Also Bulb, Globe, Envelope, Bubble.

Lamp Base The fitting within a lantern into which the lamp fits. Usually made of a ceramic material.

Lamp Check The visual systematic checking of each lantern before each performance in case any lamps require replacement.

Lamp Focus Knob on a lantern to adjust the alignment of the lamp to the reflector.

Lantern One of the many words for a theatre light. Also Luminaire, Instrument, Light, Fitting, Lamp.

Lash To secure abutting flats with rope. The rope is known as both a Lash Line and a Throw Line.

Lavalier Microphone A small microphone that can be clipped or attached to a performer's clothing. Sometimes called a pin microphone - particularly the very small models that are now available that are virtually invisible to the audience when hidden, for instance, in the performer's hair.

Leak 1) Light that is unintentionally emitted from holes around the lantern. 2) Voltage from a badly adjusted dimmer that causes lanterns to be on when they should be off.

LED Abbrev. for Light Emitting Diode. A small light often used as an indicator light in electronic equipment.

Lee A large English lighting company who produce a popular range of lighting colour filters widely used in Australia and around the world.

Legit Short for Legitimate - a play with no music. Originates from the Letters Patent issued by Charles II in 1662 giving two men a monopoly over the performance of all plays in the City of Westminster - the legal theatres became known as Patent Theatres. Some clever entrepreneurs got around this decree by deciding musicals were not plays and staged them defiantly. So musicals became illegitimate, and plays legitimate.

Legitimate Actor An actor trained for legit theatre.

Legs Vertical strips of fabric, usually black, used mainly for masking the sides of the stage.

Levels Rostra and ramps above the main stage.

Leko An American brand of profile spot, now can mean any profile spotlight. (US). Named after Ed Kook - founder of Century Lighting in the USA - and his partner Levey, who developed the compact ellipsoid spotlight.

Le Maitre A English brand of pre-packaged pyrotechnic effects. The largest manufacturer of pyrotechnics in Europe.

Libretto The part of a musical score containing the sung and spoken words.

Lift To add life to a line or scene.

Light Board Richard Pilbrow - inspired memory lighting control desk, originally for London's National Theatre.

Lighting Design The drawn plan detailing what lanterns will be used where, in what way, with what colour, and on which dimmer.

Lighting Designer The person responsible for deciding in conjunction with other members of the production team, and executing, the Lighting design.

Lighting Rehearsal (UK) See Plotting.

Limes (UK) Jargon for followspots and their operators. See Lime Light.

Lime Light The lime or calcium light was developed in the early 19th century and was popular for its intense white light. In the early days it was often used for 'realistic' beams of sun or moon light. Invention is attributed to a Lieutenant in the English Royal Engineers, Thomas Drummond. It used a block of quicklime heated by an oxygen and hydrogen flame to provide an intense point source of light for use in a hand operated or followspot. Lime Light was also used as a light source for early film projectors.

Limiter An audio device that fixes a top audio signal level and stops incursions above that level without affecting the dynamic range of the signal below the threshold decided.

Line Level Audio level standard, pre-amplified from microphone level. Usually common to much electronic audio equipment such as tape units and effects units.

Lines Set Down Lines committed to memory.

Linnebacher Projector A lantern used for projecting a picture from a gel or glass slide onto the set. Often used to give a shadow effect.

Listen In An actor must 'listen in' to the others on stage to gather the nuances of the language and action. It is too easy for an actor to reply automatically without considering the import of what they are saying.

Live Store See Blind Operation.

Load In/Out See Bump-In/Out. (US).

Lock The knob on the side of a lantern which tightens onto the harness to stop the lantern tilting.

Lose To turn off lighting or sound.

Loudspeaker See Speaker.

LX Abbrev. for Lighting.

Macbeth The play that it is unlucky to speak the name of, or to quote from, in a theatre. Instead it is known as by euphemisms such as 'The Scottish Play' or 'The Unmentionable'. This tradition dates from the first opening night of the play in 1606 when the boy actor playing Lady Macbeth died backstage during the show. Since then the play has apparently been dogged by bad luck.

Mahl-Stick A rod padded at one end used to steady the hand whilst painting detail onto scenery.

Mains Power 240 volt AC power standard available in all buildings wired to the power generation grid in Australia.

Marking 1) Indicating the position of scenery or props on the stage floor, usually with different colour tapes to avoid confusion. Also spiking. 2) In singing, a means of using the voice with reduced volume and without vocalising extremes of register.

Marking Out The process of marking the position of scenery and props with coloured tape on the rehearsal room floor.

Maroon A pyrotechnic producing a very loud explosion.

Mask 1) Verb - To hide or conceal unwanted areas or machinery. 2) One actor obscuring another unintentionally. 3) Noun - A mould or prop used to conceal an actor's face.

MD See Musical Director.

Musical Director Abbrev. to MD. The person in charge of the musical content of a show.

Mechanist Crew person responsible for the operation of stage machinery and other related tasks.

Memory Desk See Computerised Lighting Desk. Also Memory Board.

Method Acting A style of teaching acting formulated by Stanislavsky.

MIDI Abbrev. for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. A common standard communication protocol that allows different brands of electronic musical instruments and equipment to 'talk' to, and control, each other.

Mids The frequencies at the middle of the audible audio frequency spectrum.

Mimic On some semi-computerised lighting desks that do not use a TV monitor to display channel information, a row of LEDs is used, one for each channel. When a channel is faded up the corresponding LED lights to show that that channel is active.

Mirror Ball A polystyrene ball covered with small mirrors usually rotated by a small motor and used as a lighting effect. Had its foundation in the 70's disco revolution.

Mix Down See Multi-Track.

Mixer 1) Sound control desk, used to mix and adjust levels of sounds from various sources. 2) The operator of the sound control desk.

MMS Abbrev. for Modular Memory System - Strand lighting control desk made in the 1970's.

Monitor See Foldback.

Mugging It Playing Out Front too much.

Multi-Pin A cabling and connector system for lighting. Instead of running single power cables to each lantern, one cable containing a number of cores is run to groups of lights. This greatly simplifies the rigging process.

Multiple Setting When several locations are represented on the stage at the same time.

Multiplexer A unit that converts analog signals to digital and vice versa. Pronounced M-U-X.

Multi-Track An audio tape which holds more than one track of audio information. Up to 48 track systems are in common use, with larger models now appearing. Allows the various components in a sound production .i.e. the different instruments, to be recorded separately and mixed together later, and if necessary mixed again and again until the desired result is achieved, all the while not affecting the original recording. This mixing is known as mix down - that is mixing from a large number of tracks to typically two for stereo sound.

Neutral Density Filter A colour filter that does not alter the colour characteristics of the light beam, but reduces the intensity by a set amount. Also Stop Filter.

Noh Theatre Traditional form of Japanese drama.

Noise Any unwanted sound.

Noise Gate An audio device which does not allow an audio signal to pass until the input signal reaches a certain level. Useful for rejecting background noise in a high volume environment.

Notes Similar to a Post Mortem, but particularly where the director gives notes to the cast and crew after a show about the good and bad points of the show.

Objective The end towards which a character urgently strives.

Offstage Backstage area outside the performance area.

Ohms Unit of measure of electrical resistance in a circuit. See Impedance. (Ohm - German physicist 1787-1854).

Omni-Directional A microphone equally sensitive to sound source from all angles.

One Play Actors Actors who, for various reasons, have become associated with a single part. An actor in this position may be known as over-exposed.

One Play Authors One hit wonders, or authors who are remembered only for one work.

Onion At The End Old English music hall term, the moment or action that makes the audience cry at the end of the show.

Onstage 1) Inside the acting area. 2) Towards the centre line.

OP See Opposite Prompt.

Open To turn or face more towards the audience.

Open Circuit An electrical circuit that has been broken or interrupted and so cannot pass a current or signal.

Open White A lantern that does not contain a colour filter is said to be in 'Open White'.

Opposite Prompt Abbrev. to OP. The right hand side of the stage as viewed by the cast. Also Stage Right, Camera Left.

Optical Soundtrack Most films have the audio information encoded in a thin strip down the side of the film print. The strip is picked up by a photoelectric eye that translates the fluctuations of light into sound. (TV).

Orchestra 1) The musicians who provide the musical backing to a show. 2) The ground floor seating in an auditorium. Also Stalls.

Orchestra Pit The sunken area in front of the stage where the orchestra play during a performance. Also The Pit.

Out Flying term for up. In is down - which prevents confusion with Up and Down Stage.

Out Front 1) The audience. 2) Towards the audience. 3) See Front of House.

Over-Exposed See One Play Actor.

Overture The music which begins a performance.


Extended Glossary of Theater Terms  E-O            

Back to