Theatre Terms | Page 9 | AACT

Theatre Terms

image of question markAs a service to the theatre community, AACT provides over 1000 definitions of theatrical terms.  Fully searchable, our glossary is helpful for technical staff, directors, actors, producers, or anyone wanting to better understand the inner workings of theatre.

Click on a letter (A-Z) below to find terms beginning with the specified letter, OR enter a word in "Search for Term" OR search by entering a word in "Words in Definition." For example, entering the word "curtain" would display all words whose definition includes that word. (Note: If the A-Z or word search has been activated, it must be reset before using "Search for Term" or "Words in Definition." To reset the A-Z search: Click Here)

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Term Definition Link
BREAK UP Too play a joke on a fellow actor so as to interrupt the delivery of his/her lines. Hence, an interruption caused by such a joke.
BREAKAWAY Prop or item of furniture designed to break/shatter with impact. Breakaway furniture and some props are usually capable of restoration to be "broken" again.
BRIDGE A walkway, giving access to technical and service areas above the stage or auditorium, or linking fly-floors.
BRING UP THE LIGHTS To increase the illumination.
BROADWAY The principal avenue running through the theatre district of New York City near Times Square, and thus the district, and collectively the theatres on or near this avenue; by extension, the commercial theatre of New York. The British equivalent is the West End.
BUILD 1) During lighting plotting, to construct a state from blackout, or to add to an existing state. 2) An increase in light or sound level. 3) The act of constructing a set or a costume.
BUMP To change the intensity of a lighting instrument or group of instruments instantaneously, usually for a short duration of time, and often to the beat of music as if to create a pulsing effect. Also, to turn up the lights, as in "Let's bump up the lights."
BURLESQUE 1) Originally, a play parodying drama or other literature in the 17th and 18th centuries. Later, a lighter, less literary, more absurd satire, with song and dance, well into the 19th century. Now any comic entertainment or revue sketch that pokes fun at current manners and mores. 2) A low comedy show featuring women in scanty costumes, bawdy humor, well into the middle of the 20th century.
BURNT CORK A makeup material used for blackening the skin.
BURNT OUT A colored gel that has lost its color or melted through due to excessive heat in front of a instrument. Dark blues and greens etc. are most susceptible, and may need replacing during a long run.
BUTTON In staging musicals, the "button" is a final stage picture usually before a blackout or fadeout. It is a visual clue to the audience that works much like an exclamation point at the end of a sentence. It's also an obvious way to beg for applause and, in effect, the applause becomes the "button." Thus “buttoning a scene” means finding a satisfactory conclusion that also leaves the audience wanting more.
C CLAMP Heavy metal clamp used for securing heavy items to a batten, pole, standard, etc. Requires a spanner/wrench to tighten.
CABARET A night club, restaurant, or the like, where performers dance and sing; the entertainment so provided. The audience is normally seated at small tables.
CABLE 1) Noun: Wiring, temporarily rigged, to carry electrical current. Depending on the size of the cable (current carrying capacity), cables are used to supply individual instruments, whole dimmer racks, or carry signals from a microphone etc. 2) Verb: As in "to cable," meaning to link two electrical elements with cabling.
CABLE GRIP A U-shaped clip and saddle used for terminating wire rope. Also known as a Bulldog, Dog Grip or Wire Rope Clip.
CABLE TIE Lockable (and sometimes releasable) plastic strap used to tie a bundle of cables together, among many other things.
CAD Computer-Aided Design. Using a computer to help with 2D plans and drawings, or increasingly for 3D visualization of how a set will look, and how lighting will affect it.


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