Theater terms

Those marked (*) are archaic terms, used by Shakespeare for instance.

Against type: playing a different sort of character than expected

Antagonist: a character that hinders the protagonist from achieving his or her goals

Anti-naturalist: acting style in which the audience is kept aware that they are watching a performance rather than reality (see Brechtian Acting)

Beat: The smallest division of action in a play. The length of time necessary for a character to play an "Objective" (also called "Intention") from beginning to end. Also a very short pause.

Brechtian acting: acting style in which the actors purposefully try to alienate the audience from the characters in order to constantly remind them they are watching a play, based on the theories of Bertolt Brecht

Blocking: an actor's movement around a set, or the notations regarding movement in an actor's script. Also for one actor to get between another actor and the audience (see Mask).

Cast: the actors in a play; the characters; to choose the actors

Cold reading: a reading aloud from a script or other text without any rehearsal, usually in the context of an audition or workshop.

Community theatre: performance by amateurs, usually unpaid, as opposed to professional theatre

Corpse: to laugh when and as the actor on stage, not the character, would.

Cover: to make up dialogue and or blocking due to a mistake or accident onstage without breaking character.

Curtain call, walkdown: at the end of a performance, when the actors come to the front of the stage to bow while the audience claps (usually)

Dialogue: a reciprocal conversation between two or more persons; the speaking lines of a script

Distanciation: in Brechtian performance, when actors maintain distance from their character by reminding the audience through often stylized gestures or behavior that they are simply people pretending, instead of trying to identify with their "character".

Downstage: Toward the front of the stage; the half of the stage that is nearest to the audience

Dress circle: In some theatres, a shallow gallery level above the main seating. In UK proscenium houses, a (sometimes large) balcony above the stalls.

Dress rehearsal (or dress): A final practice of the play before performance, with all actors wearing full costumes.

Dramatist: the author of a play

Emotional memory: in Method acting, when an actor attempts to draw upon memories of prior emotions to match the emotions of their character

Exeunt: a stage direction calling for more than one person to exit, corresponding to the Latin exeunt ("they exit").

Exeunt omnes *: a stage direction calling for the whole cast to exit (the Latin literally means they all exit).

Exit: a stage direction which specifies which person goes off stage

Flats: flat scenery used on stage

Flies: the space in the fly tower or to the side of the stage.

Fourth wall: an imaginary surface at the edge of the stage through which the audience watches a performance

Full house, packed house, sold out: When all of the seats are filled; when the entire audience section is filled to capacity

Gallery, Gods: the highest section of the theatre; a section at the back or sides without seats where people can stand to watch a performance, usually raised. In most UK proscenium theatres this is a second balcony above the Dress Circle, usually with benches rather than seats.

Ghost: to be used as a singing voice for another actor (compare to ghost-writer)

Ghost Light: A light left on the stage overnight and/or when the stage is not in use, for safety. Also to fit with a superstition – to prevent the theatre from 'going dark' (closing).

Green room: Waiting room used by actors not on stage

The half: the time before a performance by which all actors must be present in the theatre – traditionally half an hour before curtain up

House: the theatre, the people in the theatre, the audience

Intention: a single, temporary desire or goal that arises in a character within a scene. (Also called "Objective")

Intermission, Interval: a break between acts (usually first and second, but some plays have three or more acts).

Improvisation: When an actor who is "in character" makes up action or dialog without prior scripting, often used in rehearsal or to cover other mistakes (see Improvisational theatre)

Issue: to leave the stage

Manet (manent)*: a stage direction calling for a person (more than one person) to remain on stage as others exit, corresponding to the Latin manent ("they remain")

Mask: to block another actor, or something worn over the face, sometimes expressing emotion. (see Kabuki)

Masking: drapery or flats used to frame the stage, and stop the audience from seeing the backstage areas.

Method acting: acting style in which the ideal of a "true"( or "real") moment or impulse is valued most highly; the actors try to feel the emotions of the character so that the actors' choices and the characters' would be as one---i.e. inevitable. Pioneered by Konstantin Stanislavski, currently taught most formally at The Actor's Studio in Manhattan. Of note, most American Method acting was based on an early, incomplete experiment of Stanislavski's; many if not most modern teachers have moved away from the original (Stanislavskian ) "method" as it is truly difficult to teach well, has been altered by many secondary and tertiary disciples in the '60s and '70s to suit personal agendas, and can produce seemingly uninteresting and almost "masturbatory" results in younger actors. Marlon Brando perhaps the best example of a masterful methodist who uses and discards various parts of many school of thought to achieve success.

Monologue: an extended speech by one person directly addressing the audience or another character.

Motivation: a character's individual desires or goals which propel them into action ;the driving force of an inciting event that starts a story's progression.

Obstacle: a force opposing a character's "Objective" (or "Intention") which gives rise to dramatic tension and conflict.

Objective: a single, temporary desire or goal that arises in a character within a scene. (Also called "Intention".)

Orchestra pit: where the musicians play, usually directly in front of the stage, often sunken below the seating sections

The Orchestra, The Stalls: the seats on the lower part of the theatre

Omnes*: in stage directions, all the cast

Part: a character; the portion of the script intended for one character

Parterre: The upper part of the main seating. Usually behind a cross aisle, and almost always steeper than the lower Orchestra.

Preferred reading: the interpretation of the script that is stressed by the author or the text itself

Promenade a performance of a play in which the actors and audience occupy the same space, with no distinction between acting area and audience area.

Prompt to tell an actor his next line when he as forgotten it. Also the person whose job it is to do this (also called the prompter). It used to mean the side of the stage where the prompter sat. The other side of the stage was called 'Opposite Prompt' or OP.

Prop, Property: an object used in the play, from the Middle English proppe, meaning a support, not originally related to property as in ownership; does not include scenery or costumes

Proscenium, Proscenium Arch. The boundary between the stage and the audience in a conventional theatre; it appears to form an arch over the stage from the audience's point of view.

Protagonist: the main character; the hero or heroine

Pseudomonologue: when only one half of a dialogue is portrayed, especially either just the questions or the answers, wherein the performer is not directly addressing the audience

Rehearsal practice of the play.

Script: the text of the dialogue and stage directions of a play; to write a play

Sense memory: in Method acting, when an actor attempts to recall memories of the physical sensations surrounding prior emotions in order to utilize emotional memory

Signs of character: the various cues that convey a character's personality, emotion or motivation

Signs of performance: an actor's movements, expressions and vocal tones and patterns that contribute to signs of character

Social actor: people who portray themselves in a performance, usually previously known to the audience

SRO: see Standing Room Only

Stage direction: in the script of a play, any instruction for the actors, or setting or character description

Stage left: the side of the stage on the left when facing the audience

Stage right: the side of the stage on the right when facing the audience

Standing ovation: at the end of a performance, when the audience stands and claps, a higher form of praise than normal applause

Standing room: a space where people can stand to watch a performance, especially if all the seats are filled (see Gallery). Most New York houses count standing room tickets in their house counts. The Lion King caused quite a stir when it didn't, and boasted more than 100 percent house counts for months.

Standing room only: admittance to a performance after all of the seats are filled which requires people to stand to watch.

Super, Supernumerary: Extra, walk-on part, most often speaks no words.

Supporting cast: actors who are not playing major parts

Tabs: The curtains separating the stage from the audience

Tech or Technical rehearsal: a rehearsal primarily for the purpose of practicing the technical elements of a play, such as lights and sound.

Theatre: building where acting takes place (also a cinema); the world of this type of acting, or the world of acting in general

Theatre in the round: any theatre where the audience is seated on every side of the stage (see arena)

Thrust (Thrust stage) a stage that extends out into the audience, so that the audience is seated on three sides of it.

Typecast: when an actor becomes associated with only one type of role or character, often based on physical appearance

Upstage: towards the back of the stage; the half of the stage that is farthest from the audience; to outshine another's performance, especially when the other has a larger part or is more well-known. (The third meaning derives from the simplest means of "upstaging" another actor: to walk "upstage" of an actor, thereby forcing the other actor to turn his or her back to the audience while the "upstage" actor can stand full front, facing the audience.)

Verisimilitude: the trait of seeming truthful or appearing to be real, from the Latin veri similis, "like the truth"

Wardrobe: costumes, or the people responsible for them.

See also: ballet, Chinese opera, comedy, drama, epic play, farce, kabuki, melodrama, mime, musical theatre, opera, operetta, pantomime, paradigmatic structure, syntagmatic structure, suspension of disbelief, tragedy, tragicomedy, vaudeville fr:Lexique théâtral


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