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 Cross Reference Link
ECHO A repeated sound received late enough to be heard as distinct from the source. Reverb
EDUCATIONAL THEATRE An amateur theatre maintained by an K-12 educational institution for the entertainment and cultural profit of the student body, and for the training of students in dramatics. 'Academic theatre' is used for college-level theatre.
EFFECTS PROJECTOR Instrument used to project the image from a rotating glass effects disc. Used with an objective lens to produce the desired size of image. Commonly used discs are clouds, flames and rain.
ELECTRET MIC A condenser microphone where the capacitor plates are given a charge during manufacture which they retain, therefore requiring no external power supply. Microphone
ELECTRICIAN The person in charge of all the electrical preparations and operations in a production
ELEVATION A working drawing usually drawn to scale, showing a view of a set or lighting rig. In general, the term "elevation" refers to a Front elevation. A Rear elevation shows backs of scenic elements. A side view of a set is known as a "section".
ELEVATOR STAGE A type of mechanized stage which has sections that can be raised or lowered.
ELIZABETHAN THEATRE English drama of the period when Elizabeth I occupied the British throne (1558-1603), although these dates are elastic. For example, the closing of the theatres in 1642 is sometimes included in an overview of Elizabethan theatre.
ELLIPSOIDAL Sometimes referred to as a Leko. Ellipsoidal Reflector Spotlights (ER Spotlights) are probably one of the most commonly used lighting instruments today. ER Spotlights typically feature a long light throw which creates a circular pool of light on the stage. These traits make the ER Spotlight ideal for lighting the stage from a catwalk There are two lenses in each ER Spotlight. Both lenses are permanently welded into place. The configuration of an ER Spotlight (6x6, 6x9, 6x12, etc.) is determined by how far apart the two lenses are from one another. Each lens is thick and curved. The lens is manufactured this way in order to resist cracking under the intense heat from the lamp. The curved lens also helps the heat to effectively dissipate.
EMCEE

For "M.C."--short for Master of Ceremonies.

Master of Ceremonies
ENACT To perform, to act.
ENCORE A call by an audience--by shouting or applause--for the reappearance of performers in order to repeat a portion of a musical or dance number. Also, to call out this word ("Encore!"). The word is French, meaning "again."
ENGAGEMENT 1) An actor's period of employment in a part. 2) An arrangement for a company to play in a theatre for a specified period of time.
ENSEMBLE 1. A cast of characters, except for the principals. 2) The grouping of the whole stage picture, involving actors and set. 3) The chorus in a musical, sometimes including soloists. 4) Said of acting or a cast in which group interaction and support is more important than individual performances.
ENTER To come onstage. Also a stage direction, as in "Ted enters from the side door."
ENTR'ACTE 1) Orchestral music played as intermission ends and a musical or opera is about begin a new act. 2) Sometimes used to mean the intermission itself. 3) In some cases, an entr'acte (meaning in French, "between acts") was a brief entertainment provided during the intermission.
ENTRANCE 1) A door or other access to the stage, for actors. 2) The act of walking onto the stage in view of the audience, as in "make an entrance." Exit
EPILOGUE or EPILOG A scene or speech following the end of the main action of a play. In many works, the epilogue explains what happens 'afterward' to the characters.
EQUALIZATION The process of adjusting the tonal quality of a sound. A graphic equalizer provides adjustment for a wide range of frequency bands, and is normally inserted in the signal path after the mixing desk, before the amplifier.
EQUITY Actor's Equity Association, founded in 1913, is the labor union representing actors and stage managers in the legitimate theatre in the United States.
ESTA Entertainment Services and Technology Association
ESTABLISH In playwriting or production, to make clear to an audience such matters as locale, character, etc. Thus, "The playwright establishes within the first few moments that this is pre-Nazi Germany, mostly by the references to the Weimar Republic and its inflationary terrors."
EXEUNT Archaic term, meaning the exit of more than one character at the same time. Exit
EXIT 1) Leaving the stage, to go offstage. Thus, "exit speech" and "make an exit." 2) A door or other opening through which an actor can leave the stage. Entrance
EXIT LINE A line of dialogue spoken by an actor just before, or just as, he/she leaves the stage.
EXPANDER A piece of sound processing equipment that reduces background noise by muting a sound signal when it falls below a certain level, restoring it when the level increases again. Must be used on vocal microphones with care, because it may cut the signal off, although the vocalist is still singing quietly.
EXPOSITION An explanation, normally in the dialogue, of events preceding the beginning of a dramatic piece, and which the audience needs to know. Also, any plot-related information that is provided to help the audience understand actions that take place offstage.
EXPOSITORY SCENE A scene whose chief purpose is to provide exposition. Exposition
EXPRESSIONISM A theatrical method that emphasizes the inner emotional significance of a play rather than the mere exterior quality. The means to do this are unusual, from heavy symbolism to speeding up (or slowing down) the action, abstract sets and costumes, etc. The high point of expressionism was 1910-1925, and most practiced in Germany, although it can be found in American plays as well.
EXTEMPORANEOUS Impromptu, unrehearsed, unscripted. Thus, extemporize, extempore (from the Latin, meaning "out of the moment."
EXTERIOR A scene set out of doors, usually referring to a flat or backdrop representing such a scene.
EXTRAVAGANZA A light entertainment with music, an improbable plot (in the 19th century, usually a fairy tale), and a spectacular presentation, with colorful costumes, a large cast. Later, any spectacular presentation.
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