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The Wonderland Glossary of Theatre Terms


act – to perform for an audience representing another person.
actor – performer, player, thespian.
ad lib – create lines or action spontaneously when necessary.
apron – part of the stage projecting past the curtain line toward the audience.
articulation – process of starting and stopping vowel and consonant sounds.
audible – able to be heard.
audience – people who watch and or listen and respond to a performance.
audition – try out for a role in a play.


backstage – area that the audience cannot see.
blackout – all stage lights go off at the same time.
blocking – planned movement on stage.
“break a leg” – wish for good luck in a performance.
boards – the stage
build vocally – use the voice to change mood and increase intensity
business – ‘small bit of action. ex. bouncing a ball, writing a letter, making a sandwich.



call board – place where announcements and notices for actors and crew are posted.
cast – actors in a play.
casting – selecting the actor who will play each role in a show.
centerstage – C, middle portion of the stage area; between L & R and U & D.
characterization – putting together all facets of a character to make that person a believable.
cheat, cheat out – ‘aiming body out toward the audience when talking to another character.
climax – ‘high point in the action of a scene.
collaboration – the work of many people toward a common project; work done by many people.
comedy – play that treats situations or characters in a humorous way; play with a happy ending.
company – actors and crew of a production.
countercross – ‘move to adjust stage picture after another actor has moved.

control – staying open and audible, remembering lines and cues, using “fake” props as if they are real, etc.
crew – group of workers who handle a specific aspect of a production.
cross, X – ‘move from one stage area to another.cue – last word or action before your line or action; signal for next line, sound effect, light change, etc.
curtain call – appearance of the cast at the end of the show in response to the audience applause.
curtain line – imaginary line on the stage below the grand drape.
cyclorama, cyc – Curtain or drop across back of stage; can serve as background for some scenes.


dialogue – spoken lines in a skit or play; actual words that the characters say.
diaphragm – muscle below the ribs that expands out and down causing air to enter the lungs.
director – the person in charge of a production. – the BOSS of the play.
downstage, down – D, portion of the stage closest to the audience; toward the audience.
dress rehearsal – final rehearsal before the show opens with full costumes, makeup, lights, sound, props,
dual role – actor’s task of thinking, feeling, moving & speaking as the character while maintaining technical


emotional recall – ‘remembering a feeling from your own life to apply to a performance.
encore – repeated or additional performance at the end of a play.
entrance – ‘come onto the stage.
exhale – expel air from the body.
exit – ‘leave the stage.
exposition – beginning of the play which explains the who, what and where of the plot.
extra – castmember who serves as background for action. Usually used in television or films.
eye contact – a performer looking out at the audience directly from time to time.


finale – concluding part of any performance.
flat – canvas covered wooden frame used for scenery.
flies – area between the top of the proscenium arch and the stage ceiling; loft; fly area.
fly – to raise scenery above the top of the proscenium opening to lower it down to the stage floor.
followspot – spotlight that can be moved around during a performance
front, out front – area beyond back stage.
full back – actor facing away from the audience. Used only on special occasions.
full front – actor facing the audience directly. Used for important lines and actions.


gesture – ‘movement of a part of the body to communicate an emotion or idea.
give a scene – ‘give audience attention to another actor or actors.
grand drape – front curtain separating the stage from the audience, often simply called “the curtain.”
greenroom – backstage lounge or waiting room for the actors.
grip – stagehand who moves scenery on and off stage.


house – the audience; place where the audience sits; front, out front.


imagery – words or phrases that appeal to the senses.
improvisation – make up dialogue and action as you go; usually guided by an idea, theme, or topic.
inflection – gliding from one pitch level to another. Can change the meaning of words.
inhale – take air into the lungs.
intermission – short break between the acts of a play or parts of a performance.
introduction – announce a scene or selection to an audience, giving information


kill – turn off; stop; remove from stage.


larynx – voice box, contains the vocal chords.
left, stage left – L, actor’s left when facing the audience.
legs – narrow curtains on either side of the stage that mask the wings.
lines – pieces or sentences of dialogue.


makeup – cosmetics of various colors applied to the actor’s skin so that facial features are visible
mask – hide from audience view.
mime – stylized pantomime; done in makeup and costume.
motivation – the reason behind a character’s behavior.


objective – character’s goal.
one quarter – actor turned halfway between full front and profile. Used to share a scene.
onomatopoeia – words that sound like what they mean. ex. boom, clack, zip.
open, open up – turn toward the audience.
out front, front – audience seating area.


pacing – tempo or speed at which scene is played. Very important in comedy.
pantomime – acting without talking or sound effects.
pick up cues – quickly begin a speech without allowing a pause between the first words of the speech
pitch – highness or lowness of the voice.
places – order for actors and crew to get into position for the beginning of a scene.
plant – place a prop on stage before the show so that it is available when the script calls for it.
player(s) – see actor.
playing area – see stage.
playwright – person who plans and writes plays.
practical – set piece or prop that is usable, actually works.
Ex – door or window that opens and shuts, rock or hill you can stand on, lamps that can be turned on.
producer – person who finds financial investors, hires the director and production staff,
profile – actor position facing the wings, left or right. Used for arguments or love scenes.
project, (pro’ ject) – throw the voice to the farthest person in the audience.
prompt book – script marked with directions and cues for use by the crews.
prompter – person situated offstage who supplies missed lines during a performance.
pronunciation – producing the sounds of words.
properties – all articles and furnishing needed on stage in a play.
proscenium – permanent framed opening through which the audience sees a play.


raked stage – stage floor tilted toward the audience.
te – speed or tempo.
resolution – ending, happy or sad; conclusion to a story.
resonance – enrichment of sound from its vibration in a closed space.
resonators – body chambers where sound vibrates; throat, mouth, nasal cavity & sinus cavities.
right, stage right – R, actor’s right when facing the audience.
rising action – conflict in a scene gets worse and/or more complicated.
role – part or character played by an actor.
royalty – money paid to a playwright for permission to stage his/her play.


scene – performance with beginning, middle and end; section of a play that occurs at one place, at one time.
scenery – hangings, structures, etc. that represent a location or decorate the stage; set.
script – written copy of a play.
sensory recall – ‘remembering how an action or object felt, looked, smelled, sounded or tasted.
share a scene – ‘have equal audience attention with another actor.
stage area(s) – sections of the stage, named for their relation to the audience.
stage directions – script instructions for movement, business, lighting, sound, etc. Usually in parentheses.
stage fright – ‘nervous feeling about performing.
stage hands – see grip.
strike – to clear from the stage completely; take down and store away when the run of the play has ended.


take a scene – ‘get audience attention.
teasers – short curtains hung above the stage to mask the lights and battens.
technical director – person in charge of everything back of the grand drape except the actors and costumes
technical rehearsal – rehearsal for perfecting lights, scenery, sound, and other technical elements.
theatre in the round – theatre facility where the audience surrounds the stage on the all sides; arena stage.
thespian – actor.
three quarters – actor facing upstage corners of the stage. Used to give a scene.
thrust stage – stage that extend well past the proscenium so that the audience surrounds it on three sides.
tongue twister – difficult to pronounce phrases or sentences used as articulation exercises.
top – lines begin before the previous line is finished.
tragedy – a play in which the protagonist fails to achieve their goal; a play with a sad or tragic ending.
trapdoor, trap – an opening in the stage floor that permits actors to enter from and exit beneath stage.
traveler mid – stage curtain; act curtain.
troupe – group of actors, especially those that tour from place to place. (Source of the term “trouper.”)


upstage – U, portion of the stage farthest from the audience; away from the audience.


vocal variety – changes in rate, pitch, volume and intensity
volume – loudness or softness of the voice, sound effects or music.


wagon – platforms or large set pieces on casters.
walk on – part where an actor comes on and off stage without saying a line.
wardrobe – costumes.
wings – backstage area on either side of the stage.

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