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
L Abbreviation of left, meaning stage left, and seen in stage directions, either alone or in combination with other abbreviations, as in DSL(down stage left).
L.D. or LD Lighting Designer
LADDER Non-climbable structure in the shape of a ladder from which instruments can be hung in a vertical "stack."
LAMP 1) General term for unit of lighting equipment including spotlight, flood etc. 'Instrument' is more common in the U.S. (where 'lamp' often refers to what the uninitiated would call the 'bulb'), but both terms being replaced by the internationally recognized "luminaire." 2) A light source, but sometimes used to refer specifically to the "bulb" in a stage lighting instrument.
LASER Acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A very high energy beam of light that remains virtually parallel throughout its length. Visible in the air only when a haze of smoke or dust is introduced. Great care is required when using lasers as this energy can cause permanent damage to the retina of the eye.
LASH To pull two flats together, edge to edge, by winding a lash line over lash line cleats in back.
LASH LINE A rope line used to fasten flats or other scenic units to one another.
LASH LINE CLEAT A small metal piece that can be screwed into the back of a flat frame, with a projecting tip over which a lash line can be slipped.
LAUGH LINE A line of dialogue that is calculated to produce a laugh from the audience.
LAVALIER MICROPHONE Originally, a mic worn around the neck on a string. Now applies to a small "tieclip" microphone.
LAY 'EM IN THE AISLES To make an audience laugh hysterically. Thus, said of a show or performer who is successful in the effort to be funny.
LAY AN EGG Said of a production or performance that fails miserably. Sometimes said of an actor whose jokes or funny business falls flat.
LC or L.C. Abbreviation of left center.
LEAD A principal role; also an actor who plays a principal role.
LEADER TAPE (Now mostly obsolete) Non-magnetic plastic tape used to begin and end sound tapes and to separate cues on reel-to-reel tape. Clear leader tape is used to activate the automatic stop on some playback machines. Leader tape is available in a variety of colors.
LEAK To leak light; said when the crack between two flats lashed together lets light through, or when a lighting instrument's beam is not properly channeled by barn doors or top hat.
LED A light-emitting diode (LED) offers many advantages over traditional light sources, including lower energy consumption, cool-running, longer lifetime, improved robustness, smaller size and faster switching. Applications of LEDs are diverse. They are used as low-energy indicators but also for replacements for traditional light sources in general lighting and theatre lighting, although they are still more expensive than traditional "bulbs."
LEG Drape set as masking piece at the side of the acting area. Usually set up in pairs across the stage and used in conjunction with borders to frame the audiences' view.
LEGITIMATE THEATRE Professionally produced stage plays as distinguished from films, variety shows, theme park performance.
LEKO A commonly used term for an ellipsoidal spotlight, named after its inventors (Levy and Kook), the names Leko and Lekolite are trademarked by Strand Lighting Co.
LENS Optical glass with one or both sides curved, the purpose of which is to direct light by concentrating or dispersing light beams.
LEVEL 1) A platform or other area for acting, above the stage floor. 2) Generically, as in "levels," to indicate a director or choreographer's positioning of performers on platforms, steps, etc. in order to get a more interesting stage picture.
LICENSE On behalf of the author(s) the representative grants a license to produce the show and collects a fee, or "royalty," for this license. Built into each performance license is specific language which governs how the copyrighted work must be presented. The license is not valid until the representative has double-checked availability, sent you a confirmation of the terms, and your check has cleared.
LIFT The orchestra pit and/or sections of the stage may be mounted on lifts to make moving of heavy items (e.g. piano etc.) easier. Sometimes the forestage doubles as the orchestra pit by use of a lift.
LIGHT CURTAIN A lighting effect which, when an area is diffused with smoke, produces a wall of light. Produced (usually) by a batten of low voltage PAR lamps wired in series. Automated versions are available which have color changers built-in and are able to tilt up and down.
LIGHT TREE A vertical pole on which horizontal arms can be mounted, carrying instruments. Often used behind wings for side-lighting, etc. Trees (or booms) have a base plate or stand at the bottom and are tied off to the grid or fly floor at the top (not always necessary for short booms). Trees can also be fixed to the rear of the proscenium arch or hung from the ends of lighting bars.
LIGHTING PLOT A scale drawing detailing the exact location of each instrument used in a production and any other pertinent information (E.g. its dimmer number, focus position and color number). Often drawn from the theatres' groundplan. In U.K, this is called a Lighting Plan; the Lighting Plot there refers to the process of recording information about each lighting state either onto paper or into the memory of a computerized lighting board for subsequent playback.
LIGHTING STATE The format of lighting used at a particular point in the production; a lighting "picture."
LIGHTING TEMPLATE Plastic stencil containing a range of scale symbols for current lighting equipment. Greatly facilitates the drawing of lighting plans. The use of a template is now supplanted by computer aided design (CAD).
LIMELIGHT An obsolete source of intensely bright light, most recently used in followspots. See limes. Derived from a burning jet of oxygen and hydrogen impinging on a rotatable cylinder of lime.
LINE 1) A rope or wire used to hang scenery, etc. 2) A portion of dialogue, usually a sentence, but also a single row in the script (thus the origin of the word). Thus, to be up on one's lines, or to ask, "What's my next line?" or simply "Line?"
LINE LEVEL SIGNAL Standard level at which the inputs and outputs of domestic and professional sound equipment operate. Slight variations are that some equipment works at +4dB, some at -10dB.
LINE REHEARSAL A rehearsal for spoken lines rather than for body movements.
LINNEBACH PROJECTOR Lensless system for projecting a shape from a gel or glass slide etc. placed in front of a floodlight onto the set. Often used for shadow effects.
LITTLE THEATRE Any small theatre, but especially one for amateur productions, often with an interest in experimentation.
LOAD 1) The electrical power rating, in watts, of the equipment connected to a particular lighting dimmer. 2) The equipment connected to a dimmer.
LOAD-IN The process of, or time-period for, moving sets, props, etc, into a theatre before a production.
LOAD-IN (electrical) 1) The electrical power rating, in watts, of the equipment connected to a particular lighting dimmer. 2) The equipment connected to a dimmer.
LOAD-OUT The process of, or time-period for, moving sets, props, etc, out of a theatre after a production.
LOADING DOCK Access into the theatre for scenery and other equipment. Also called a Loading Bay.
LOGE Seating area in traditional proscenium arch venues. Exact location varies according to the venue, but is usually a "box" position at the dress circle level. (From the French Logè).
LORT League Of Resident Theatres. It is an agreement with Actor's Equity regarding payment/treatment of actors. Prior to this agreement, Equity basically dealt with Broadway type productions and nothing else.
LOUDSPEAKER Device for converting the electrical signal from an amplifier back into sound waves, most commonly by vibrating a paper cone. Most speaker systems are composed of a number of sources - each designed to handle a specific range of frequencies. Usually shortened to just "speaker."
LOW VOLTAGE Lower voltage lamps give more intense light than mains voltage lamps of the same wattage.
LUAUN or LUAN A flexible thin plywood used for covering flats, also known as "doorskin." Also known as Philippine mahogany. Use is declining due to the fact that it is sourced from environmentally unsustainable resources in the Brazilian Rainforest.
LUMEN A measure of light output from a source.
LUMINAIRE The international term for lighting equipment. Not restricted to theatre lighting.
LYRIC The words to a song; also ''lyrics."
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