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)

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Term Definition Link
PACE The speed at which a dramatic performance, or any part of it, is played. Pacing may involve speaking the lines more quickly, but often is improved by reducing pauses between lines. Often used to describe a show: "The pacing was off."
PAINT FRAME Large vertical wooden frame from which cloths are hung for painting. The frame is often winchable for easy access.
PANTOMIME In acting, expressive movement of the body, without words. Often shortened to "mime." In Britain, pantomime refers to a spectacular entertainment with songs and dances, and a plot drawn from nursery rhymes or fairy tales, often performed during the Christmas season.
PAPER THE HOUSE Marketing technique. Giving away tickets to a performance (e.g. Opening Night) to make a show seem to be selling better than it actually is.
PAR Short for Parabolic Aluminized Reflector lamp. A lamp containing a filament, reflector and lens in one sealed unit. Used in Parcans to produce a high intensity narrow beam of light. Par lamps are available in many different sizes and powers. Par sizes available include 16, 36, 38, 56 and 64) (The number refers to the diameter of the lens, in eighths of an inch). The most common for theatre use are Par 64s rated at 1000W (1kW), although other wattages are available.
PARALLEL 1) The folding frame that forms the base of a readily portable platform. 2) The opposite of 'series' when referring to wiring two loads into one outlet.
PARAMETRIC EQ Equalization control where the range of frequencies to be boosted or cut can be selected. Allows the "fine-tuning" of the equalization.
PART An actor's role.
PATCH PANEL A board consisting of rows of sockets into which plugs can be connected to route sound signals or power for lighting circuits.
PATCHING 1) To cross-connect lighting circuits around the stage area to a chosen dimmer. Connecting instruments to dimmers. 2) Using a cross-connect panel which enables any stage lighting channels to the control desk to control any dimmer or group of dimmers. Some large lighting boards have the facility for soft patching - a totally electronic way of patching. Some Rock Desks have a pin patch which allows groups of dimmers to be allocated to a particular control channel. Also applies to routing of sound signals.
PATRON A supporter of the theatre, especially a paying member of the audience.
PATTER A set of amusing lines, rapidly spoken or sung by an actor; also the words for such lines.
PERFORMING EDITION The published text of a dramatic work, with alterations from the standard text to match the actualities of stage production, often including staging information.
PHOTOFLOOD A lamp used by photographers which gives a bright white light. Because it has a thin filament, it gives a good flash effect (e.g. lightning), but has a relatively short life, so should not be left on for any length of time.
PICK-UP 1) Device which, when attached to an acoustic musical instrument, converts sound vibrations into an electrical signal. 2) A way of describing the directional sensitivity of a microphone. An omnidirectional microphone has equal pick-up from all around, a Cardioid microphone is more sensitive from the front, a Hypercardioid has very strong directionality from the front. A figure-of eight microphone picks up front and rear, but rejects sound from the sides.


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