Theatre Terms | 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)

NOTE: After using the ABC search function below, click here to reset.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X
Term Definition Link
HALF Call given to the actors half an hour before they will be called to the stage for the beginning of a performance. Given 35 minutes before the advertised time of commencement. Subsequent calls given are the "quarter" at 20 minutes, "the five" at 10 minutes and "beginners to the stage" at 5 minutes before curtain up.
HALOGEN A halogen lamp is an incandescent lamp in which a tungsten filament is sealed into a compact transparent envelope filled with an inert gas and a small amount of halogen such as iodine or bromine. The halogen cycle increases the lifetime of the bulb and prevents its darkening by redepositing tungsten from the inside of the bulb back onto the filament. The halogen lamp can operate its filament at a higher temperature than a standard gas filled lamp of similar power without loss of operating life. This gives it a higher efficacy (10-30 lm/W). It also gives light of a higher color temperature compared to a non-halogen incandescent lamp. Alternatively, it may be designed to have perhaps twice the life with the same or slightly higher efficacy. Because of their smaller size, halogen lamps can advantageously be used with optical systems that are more efficient. However, the overall bulb temperature is far higher than in conventional incandescent lamps, and so the bulb must be made of fused silica (quartz) or a high melting point glass (such as aluminosilicate glass).
HAM Someone who overacts or acts badly on stage. From "hamfatter," said to derive from a derisive term for a minstrel performer. Supposedly, the connection was that blackface was a blend of pork fat and burnt cork, and related to the fact that an old minstrel song was "The Ham-Fat Man."
HAND Applause, usually in the forms "get a hand" or "give a hand."
Hang To suspend any piece of scenery or equipment, such as lights.
HEADS UP A shouted warning (often just "Heads !") for staff to be aware of activity above them. Also used when an object is being dropped from above.
HEADSET 1) General term for theatre communication equipment. 2) A headphone and microphone combination used in such communications systems with a belt pack.
HEMP A type of rope used for flying, made from fibers found within the bark of the cannabis plant.
HEMP SET The simplest flying system consisting of a series of hemp ropes threaded through pulleys on the grid, and tied off on the fly floor on a cleat. The usual arrangement is for three ropes to be attached to a flying piece, named by their position relative to the fly floor (short, center and long). These names are used when leveling the flying piece, and giving it a dead. The three ropes are pulled or let in together, sometimes requiring more than one person to operate.
HIGHLIGHT To accentuate part of the face by means of a spot or line of light-colored makeup. Thus, "highlighting."
HISTRIONIC or HISTRIONICS 1) Of or pertaining to acting or actors; theatrical. 2) As "histrionics" to mean any dramatic representation, although more frequently to mean over-emotional acting.
HIT A great popular success. Originally (1835), the term meant "a wonderfully favorable impression."
HOLD In acting, to pause, as for an audience's laughter or applause.
HOLD THE BOOK To serve as prompter.
HOOFER A dancer, especially a tap dancer.
HOOK A hook on a pole used to pull an unwanted performer off the stage on amateur night in a variety show. Originally 19th century term.
HOOK CLAMP A clamp with a wing bolt for hanging a lamp on a horizontal lighting bar.
HOT SPOT 1) A stage area that is brightly lighted. 2) The brightest rays of a light beam, particularly as seen by an actor. An experienced actor learns to recognize and locate any instrument's hot spot, and to center him or herself in it for maximum visibility.
HOUSE 1) The auditorium (e.g. "The house is now open, please do not cross the stage") 2) The audience (e.g. "How big is the house tonight?")


  • Facebook
  • AACT on Instagram
  • AACT on LinkedIn
Authorize.Net Merchant - Click to Verify Credit Card Merchant Services