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
GAFFER'S TAPE Sticky cloth tape, not to be confused with duct tape. Most common widths are .5" for marking out areas and 2" (usually black) for everything else. Used for temporarily securing almost anything. Should not be used on coiled cables or equipment. Originally named for the Gaffer (Master Electrician) on a film set.
GAIN 1) The level of amplification given to a signal or of a system. 2) A control of the amount of pre-amplification given to a sound signal on its way into a mixer.
GANG To group together (spotlights, dimmers, etc.) Also, a group or grouping of lighting or sound equipment.
GATE The point of focus in a profile spot where the shutters are positioned and where an iris or gobo can be inserted.
GEL Short for gelatin, the material once used for color filters. A sheet of plastic usually composed of a colored resin sandwiched between two clear pieces. The colored filter absorbs all the colors of light except the color of the filter itself, which it allows through. For this reason, denser colors get very hot, and can burn out very quickly. At one time, filters were made from gelatin, from which came the still-used name "gel." Also known as a color filter, and manufactured and sold as such by companies like Rosco.
GEL FRAME A frame which holds the color filter in the guides at the front of a lamp. Many different sizes of frames are needed for the different lamps.
GENERAL ADMISSION A charge made for admission to a theatrical performance, the price being that charged to the general audience, without a discount as there is for children or senior citizens. The term is also used sometimes to denote unreserved seating.
GENERAL COVER Those lamps in a rig which are set aside purely to light the acting areas. The stage is normally split into a number of areas for this purpose, which can then be isolated or blended together as required by the director. Also known as "General Fill."
GENERAL LIGHTING Lighting that is spread across a fairly extensive portion of the stage.
GENERAL RELEASE Rights for producing a play that are granted to anyone who applies--amateur, stock, professional, tour. Unrestricted.
GEORGE SPELVIN A fictitious name, dating from about 1886, traditionally used in theatre programs to conceal the identify of an actor who is doubling in a second role.
GESTURE In acting, a movement of the arm or hand as a means of dramatic expression.
GET-OFFS A means for an actor to get off a rostrum, high level etc. out of view of the audience. Usually treads.
GHOST In lighting, a secondary illumination from a spotlight, showing that the optical system is not in proper adjustment.
GHOSTLIGHT A light left burning overnight on stage to keep friendly spirits illuminated and unfriendly spirits at bay. Also believed to keep the theatrical muse in a "dark" theatre, and to stop people tripping over bits of scenery when they come into the theatre in the morning. Also refers to the light emitted by a lamp when a dimmer has not been "trimmed" correctly, and is leaking.
GLAZE Glossy transparent or semitransparent finish applied as a final coat to a painted stage floor or to scenery to soften its appearance.
GO DRY In acting, to forget one's lines or business. Also, forgetfulness while acting. Also: "Dry up."
GOBO A thin metal plate (also called a pattern) etched to produce a design which can then be projected by a profile spotlight (e.g. foliage, windows). The image can be used soft focus to add texture, rather than a defined image. A number of composite gobos in different colored lamps can, with careful focusing, produce a colored image (e.g. a stained glass window). Greater detail can be achieved using a glass gobo. The original use of the word came from the early days of Hollywood. When the director of photography wanted daylight excluded from some area of the set, he'd say "Go Black Out". People would run around putting black material between the sun and the set. It eventually evolved into other objects that go in front of lights and now most commonly refers to patterns in profiles.
GOBO HOLDER A metal plate designed to hold a gobo of a particular size in a lamp of a particular type.
GOBO ROTATOR Motorized device inserted into the gate of a profile lamp that can be remotely controlled to rotate a gobo, usually with variable speed and direction.
GRAND FINALE A finale on a grand spectacular scale, in which the principals and ensemble participate. Usually refers only to musical productions.
GRAND GUIGNOL (grahn ghee-nyoll) A French term, derived from the name of a Paris theater where were performed short, sensational horror plays, often with bloody effects.
GRANDE DAME An actress who plays the role of an imperious elderly woman; also an actress who specializes in such roles.
GREASEPAINT Name refers to make up supplied in stick form, for application to the face or body. Needs special removing (cold) cream.
GREEN ROOM Room close to the stage for the actors to meet and relax. According to the 1894 edition of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable the common waiting room for performers is so called "because at one time the walls were colored green to relieve the eyes affected by the glare of the stage lights." However, the Oxford English Dictionary cites the earliest usage of the term as 1701, a period when stages were lighted by candles and oil lamps (the English did not develop limelight until the late 1830s), so Brewer's supposition seems misplaced. The term was also used to denote a room where undried pottery was stored before being fired. It's possible that by extension this meaning was applied to the backstage room for actors waiting to go onstage.
GRID 1) The support structure close to the top of the fly tower on which the pulleys of the flying system are supported. Constructed from metal or wooden beams. 2) Arrangement of scaffolding from which lamps are hung in a performance space with no flying facilities.
GRIDDED Any flying piece raised as high as possible into the flies, i.e. to the limit of travel of the flying lines, is said to have been gridded.
GROUND PLAN Scaled plan showing the exact position (seen from above) of all items standing on the stage floor and indicating the position of items suspended above. Typical scales are 1:24 (.5" to 1 foot) or, metrically 1:25 (1cm to .25m). Venues have a base plan showing proscenium, walls, seating etc on which individual set and lighting plans can be drawn.
GROUNDING Electrical safety requirement that metal parts of electrical equipment are connected to a common ground point so that in the event of a fault, excess current can be carried away, causing the fuse to blow.
GROUNDROW 1) A long piece of scenery positioned at the base of a backcloth usually to mask the very bottom of a cloth or lamps lighting a cloth. 2) Compartmentalized floodlight battens at floor level used to light the bottom of sky drapes, etc.
GUN MIC A highly directional condenser microphone.
GYPSY A dancer/singer in musical theatre, typically in the chorus, who moves from show to show to show. The reference is to gypsies, the wandering people of Europe, who never settled down.
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