Theatre Terms | Page 7 | AACT

Theatre Terms

image of question markHere you'll find over 1000 definitions of theatrical terms, from Aside, Beam Angle, and Camlock, to Upstaging, VU Meter, and Wagon.  Fully searchable, our glossary is helpful for technical staff, directors, actors, producers, or anyone wanting to better understand the inner workings of theatre.

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Term Definition Link
BENEFIT A theatrical performance, the profits of which are given to some cause or person.
BETWEEN ENGAGEMENTS Unemployed as an actor.
BILL A playbill or program distributed at a theatre.
BILLING Acting credit, particularly on a poster, marquee, or in an ad.
BIRDIE A compact display lighting instrument containing a Par 16 lamp. So called because it is similar to, but much smaller than, the Parcan, and is hence (in a play on golf terms) "one under Par."
BIT A very minor speaking or silent role. Hence, bit actor, bit part.
BLACK Black velvet or velour curtain or drape used to mask the sides or tops of the stage.
BLACK BOX An unadorned performance space, typically a large room with four walls and no assigned seating or playing areas. Walls are typically painted black, hence the name. The black box is popular because it can be configured in many different ways, with actors on the floor, or on a platform; the audience can also be seated on the floor or on platforms.
BLACK LIGHT When everything else is dark, a black (ultra-violet) light makes certain objects glow in the dark. This is because certain objects "fluoresce" under ultraviolet (UV) light, which is what a black light emits.
BLACKFACE A face covered by black makeup, to represent a person of color. Used extensively in minstrel shows from the 19th century well into the middle of the 20th century, but now considered offensive.
BLACKOUT or BLACK-OUT or BLACK OUT 1) To darken a stage suddenly, enhancing the effect of stage action and permitting a swift change of scenery. 2) Complete absence of stage lighting. Blue working lights backstage should remain on and are not usually under the control of the board, except during a Dead Blackout (DBO), when there is no onstage light. Exit signs and other emergency lighting must remain on at all times.
BLACKS 1) Black clothing worn by stage management during productions. 2) Any black drapes or tabs, permanently or temporarily rigged. Used for masking technical areas.
BLANK A gun cartridge with powder but no metal tip, allowing for the sound of a gunshot without a bullet.
BLEED Dimmers which are incorrectly trimmed are said to bleed. That is, the dimmer still gives a small output, causing the instrument to glow, when the control signal is at a minimum.
BLEED THROUGH Transformation from a scene downstage of a scrim to another scene upstage, by slowly crossfading lighting from downstage to upstage. If a scrim is lit steeply, or from the sides, it will appear solid. If this light is turned off and light added to the set upstage of it, it will disappear.
BLEND 1) To smooth out makeup. 2) To dry-brush freshly painted scenery, so that two colors are irregularly smoothed together, avoiding color monotony. 3) To adjust body movement, acting style, or vocal mannerisms to those of other actors for a more harmonious effect. Hence to blend in. 4) To adjust state lighting, so as to favor an even illumination as an actor passes from one stage area to another.
BLIND SEAT A seat from which a spectator can see only part of the stage.
BLOCK 1) A wood or steel frame, in which turn one or more pulleys to take fly lines. 2) A number of theatre seats, taken together. 3) The director's work of positioning actors onstage and setting their entrances, exits, and other movement, as in "to block a scene." The director usually does this by making notations in a working script, then uses these notes to work with the actors early in the rehearsal period. Blocking provides the framework for the movement in a scene, and is recorded in the prompt book by the stage manager, assistant director, or even the director him/herself.


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