The following is a partial vocabulary of technical theatre terms which may arise in the negotiation of contracts.  Theatre, like any other field, has its own language of popular jargon and descriptive terms, familiar to stagehands and others, but often unknown to the layman.  Any good book on technical theatre will include a far more comprehensive glossary than the one provided here.  These definitions should provide some familiarity with stage terminology.  When in doubt, confer with an expert.  This probably means your house stagehand to theatre technician.  Touring artists and attractions often require special equipment or facilities in order to perform and may include such requirements in “riders” to contracts.  It is important, therefore, for any presenter before contracting for an event to (1) be certain that his facility can meet these requirements and (2) specify in the contract at whose expense such requirements must be met.


Act curtain- the curtain that comes down or closes in front of the set; usually the front curtain, but may be slightly upstage of the front or house curtain.


Apron- that area of the stage floor in front of the front curtain.


Arbor- frame of bracket that holds counterweights and moves up and down in the opposite direction of the pipe onstage.


Back drop- curtain or scenic unit upstage covering the back of the scene


Backstage- the entire area behind the curtain except the actual acting area includes dressing rooms and workrooms.


Balcony- audience seating area above the main floor


Balcony rail- facility in some theatres whereby spotlights for lighting the stage may be affixed to the front of the balcony


Batten- a board or pipe hung over the stage on which may be hung lights, set, draperies, etc.


Beam spots- spotlights located in the ceiling above the heads of the audience which may be focused onto the stage


Blacks- a stage setting consisting of black velour drops, legs and borders


Black light- a special light or filter that illuminates only areas treated with special paint or makeup


Boom - a vertical pipe or fixture, usually portable, on which spotlights may be hung


Booth- an enclosed room, usually at the back of the auditorium, containing projection equipment, sometimes sound and lighting equipment as well


Border- a curtain or set piece that frames the top of the set and masks other set pieces, lights, etc.



Border light- a continuous row of lights, generally in two to four circuits, hung over the stage, masked with a border, for general illumination, with each circuit in a different color


Box office– (or Ticket Office) the office, usually at the front of the theatre, where tickets are sold


Call time- when all production and house personnel are due on duty


Company or road board- a portable light control board carried by a touring company to each theatre, and which plugs into the theatre’s power system


Company box- the primary onstage electrical terminal of 220 and 110 volts to which portable switchboards may be connected


Concert shell- (or shell) rear and side walls and ceiling units enclosing a performance area for acoustical purposes


Control board- (or switchboard) a console with which the operator can control the lights on the stage and in the house


Counterweight system- a system of rope or wire pulleys and cables connected to pipes or battens for suspending, raising and lowering scenery


Counterweights- metal weights placed in the arbor to counterweight whatever if hung on the corresponding batten


Cue - signal to do something such as enter, speak, change lights, take curtain, etc.


Cyc or Cyclorama- large cloth curtain, often seamless, hung at the back or upstage area; may be lighted or projected onto to give sky or cloud effects; may also be curved enclosing acting area


Dimmer - electrical means of varying the power to a lighting instrument, thus varying the intensity of the light


Downstage- area of the stage nearest the audience; toward the front edge of the stage


Encore curtain- a curtain a short distance upstage of main curtain, sometimes used in an opera house to permit cast to take bows while the crew begins to change the set behind the curtain


Fire curtain or asbestos- asbestos curtain at the proscenium wall that can completely separate the auditorium from the stage area


Files- the entire area above the stage, not visible to the audience, where scenery is hung and stored


Fly floor - work area above the stage floor from which the flymen may work


Flying - rigging and raising scenery into the flies



Flyman- a stagehand operating the counterweight system and flying scenery



Follow spot - a spotlight operated manually to control the shape, intensity, color and direction of the light beam, used to follow a performer around the stage


Footlights- a row of lights across the stage floor, usually in two to four circuits and different colors, for lighting the stage from a low angle


Foyer- area between lobby doors and doors into audience seating area


Fresnel- a lighting instrument usually used to light a limited area from a short distance


Front or house curtain- curtain at the front of the stage that keeps the audience form seeing the full stage


Front of the house - the auditorium, lobby, foyer, box office and other areas on the audience’s side of the curtain


Gel - transparent gelatin material which is put into a frame in front of the spotlight to color the light coming from that instrument


Grand teaser- drapery or curtain just inside proscenium that masks the overhead rigging


Green room- area near stage where artists and audience may meet after the performance


Grid or gridiron- permanent part of the stage construction, over the stage form which all stage rigging in hung


Grip- a stagehand working in the carpenter’s department


Guaranteed fee- specific amount in dollars agreed to for the performance(s)


Half hour- thirty minutes before curtain time when all members of the company are expected to be at the theatre at which time the stage manager gives the warning, “Half hour”


Head block- stage hardware over the grid through which are rigged the cables between the counterweight arbor and the battens


Hemp house- a stage with rope rigging rather than metal cable


Houselights- all the lights that illumine the audience seating areas of the house


Juicer- a stage electrician


Legs- tall, narrow curtains hung at the sides of the stage to mask the offstage areas from the audience and thus provide the wings or entrance space for the actors


Leko - a lighting instrument which can be focused to a specific small area


Lighting plot- (or hanging plot) schematic drawing of where lighting instruments are situated around the stage



Loaders- crew for unloading and loading scenery off of and onto trucks


Loading dock- the area outside the hall where equipment is taken off trucks to be brought inside


Lobby- area between outside entrance and entrances to foyer


Lobsterscope- device which can be used in front of a lighting instrument to rapidly interrupt the light beam onto the stage


Mezzanine - area between the orchestra level and balcony level


Mice- special shields placed over microphones on the floor oat the front of the stage


Offstage- area to either side to the acting area


Orchestra- audience seating area directly in front of the stage


Patch panel- part of the stage lighting system whereby particular lighting instruments may be connected to particular dimmers


Percentage contract- where the sum to be paid to the artists and the sum to be retained by the presenter are determined by stated percentages of the gross ticket sales


Pinrail- the lock rail for a counterweight system


Pipe- (or batten) basic stage fixture on which are hung lights, curtain, set, etc.


Pit- area directly in front of the stage that is used for orchestra


Platform - unit of stage set of varying size and height used to raise the actor or the set above the stage floor


Projector- instrument for projecting a picture or effect onto the stage, screen or cyc


Properties- (or props) all furniture and accessories used onstage other than sets, lights, costumes or draperies


Prompt side- the side of the stage from which curtains are controlled and cues given


Proscenium- the architectural frame of the stage separating the auditorium from the stage and through which the audience sees the stage


Proscenium width- distance from stage right to stage left proscenium walls


Proscenium height- distance from the stage floor to the top of the proscenium opening


Raked stage- stage where the floor is not level, but tilted with the lower side near the front of the stage


Roundel- round colored glass used in front of border lights or footlights to color the light coming from that instrument


Scrim- porous or loosely woven curtain that is used to reflect projections and, when used in front of a lighted scene, permits the audience to see through it


Stage depth- distance from the curtain line to the back wall


Stage door- the entrance to the theatre used by members of the cast and crew


Stage height- distance from the stage floor to the gridiron


Stage left- from the center of the stage to the left as one faces the audience


Stage right - from the center of the stage to the right as one faces the audience


Staging requirements- a statement of necessary scenery, sound and lighting requirements for a program; usually sent to the local manager before an attraction arrives in town


Strike- dismantling the scenery, sound and lighting at the end of a performance


Take in- moving the set and properties into position on the stage for the performance


Take out - moving the set and moving it and the properties to the loading door


Technical rehearsal- a rehearsal in which all light, sound, and scenery changes are practiced


Technical rider - a clause added to a contract specifying technical requirements such as lighting or sound equipment, platforms, chairs, music stands, piano, etc.


Torm or tormentor pocket- area for lighting instruments in the side walls of the theatre, on the audience side of the curtain


Trap - opening in the stage floor used as entrance or exit by performers or for effects


Traveler- a drawn curtain on a heavy drapery track


Trouper or super-trouper- carbon-arc follow spotlights


Upstage - area of the stage away from the audience, toward the back wall of the stage


Yellow card show- the “yellow card” is sent to the business agent of the local stagehands union (IATSE) specifying the number of union stagehands required to take the show in, out, and to work it


Wagon - set unit that can be moved on or offstage; may carry actors, set or props


Wings- legs or set nits at the sides of the stage masking the entrance and exit of the performers