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.

Click on a letter (A-Z) below to find terms beginning with the specified letter, or enter a word in "Search for Term." You can also enter 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
RACK A cabinet of standard width (19") into which various components can be bolted. Racks are ideal for touring equipment, are neat, and they allow easy access to the rear and front panels.
RADIO CONTROL System whereby battery-powered practicals / props on stage can be controllable from offstage with no connecting leads.
RADIO MIC Device consisting of a microphone head, transmitter pack with batteries, aerial and mains receiver unit which allows actors and singers to be amplified with no visible means of connection. Almost universally used in musicals where the singers have to be amplified to be heard over the orchestra / band. Used in non-musical shows for sound reinforcement.
RAIN BOX A box or tray containing dried peas, etc. which produces a rain sound effect when inclined.
RAKE The slope of a stage or an auditorium. Thus, a raked stage is one that (normally) slopes upward from downstage to upstage.
RAKED STAGE A sloping stage which is raised at the back (upstage) end. All theatres used to be built with raked stages as a matter of course. Today, the stage is often left flat and the auditorium is raked to improve the view of the stage from all seats.
RAMP A sloping platform on which an actor may walk. A ramp may lead up to the stage from the auditorium floor, from the stage floor to a platform, etc.
RC or R.C. Abbreviation for right center.
RE-RIG To change the lighting rig after the last performance of one show to the positions for the next show.
READ FOR A PART In auditions, to read one's lines aloud to a stage director or casting agent.
READERS THEATRE or READER'S THEATRE Presentation of a play in which the actors read from scripts, usually with no movement or staging.
READING 1) A rehearsal at which the actors read their parts aloud without stage movement or stage business; often the first rehearsal, to break the ice and to give the company an opportunity to get acquainted with each other as performers. 2) A presentation of a new play for or by the author, using scripts, again with no movement or stage business. 3) An actor's interpretation of his lines, as in "That's an interesting reading."
REAR OF HOUSE (ROH) The backstage and storage areas of the theatre.
REGIONAL THEATRE Said of theatres of a particular region, or of theatres in general outside of major theatrical centers, individually or collectively.
REHEARSAL A practice session to prepare a production for public performance.
REHEARSE To prepare a play for production; in particular, the work with actors to blend lines, characterization, movement and stage business into a coherent whole. Derives from the French rehercer, to harrow, to break up and loosen the soil.
RENTAL Scripts normally are purchased. However, in the case of musicals, vocal music, piano accompaniment, piano conductor score, and individual orchestra parts are rented. (In some cases, scripts also are rented.) The standard rental time is two months prior to your initial performance. Additional fees apply for each additional rental week.
REPERTORY A form of organization, usually with a permanent company of actors, where each production has a run of limited length. At any time, there is normally one production in performance, another in rehearsal and several others in varying degrees of planning.
REPRESENTATIVE The individual or company representing the interests of the playwright, who licenses his or her work for production. The representative's responsibilities include enforcing copyright law (prohibiting changes to the show, monitoring unlicensed productions), and securing an appropriate royalty for the author.
RESISTANCE DIMMER A now obsolete method of dimming which decreases the current available to the load by introducing a variable resistance between supply and load. The excess current is converted into heat. Based around a rheostat.
RESTRICTED Performance rights to a play may not be available if a play is running on or off-Broadway, or is on national tour. Or a professional theater in your area may have secured rights to produce the play, barring all other local productions until its run has closed. The availability of a play can change from day to day, which is why restrictions don't appear in most play catalogs. Restrictions exist because professional producers and touring groups pay much higher royalties than nonprofessionals, thus guaranteeing them exclusivity and a certain amount of freedom from competition. As a rule, all productions in New York and Los Angeles must be cleared, so allow for extra time if your theater is located in these areas. Other major cities like Chicago, Seattle or San Francisco may require additional clearance as well.
RETROFIT A modification that can be made to an existing piece of equipment after purchase to bring it up to date.
RETURN 1) Flats joined to the DS edge of flats of a set or unit that "return" into the wings. They help mask and also keep the DS edge of a set from looking raw. 2) A financial report given to theatre management staff by the box office manager on a daily or weekly basis setting out the takings for performances. 3) Route for an auxiliary signal back into a sound mixer.
REVEAL A return which is at right angles to a flat, and suggests the depth of a window, wall, doorway etc.
REVERB (Reverberation) 1) Effect which may be added to sound effects during recording or to a voice during performance. Sustains the sound longer than normal, as if the sound was reverberating around a large building (e.g. cathedral). 2) Persistence of sound after the source has ceased.
REVOLVE A turntable built into the stage floor on which scenery can be set and then driven into view. Can be electrically chain driven, or manually pushed into position. A revolve can also be built on top of an existing stage.

A series of songs, dances, and sketches, assembled to present a theme, but without a plot or through storyline. Examples include Cats, Ain't Misbehavin', You're A Good Man Charlie Brown, and I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change.

RF Radio Frequency
RIAA Record Industry Association of America. The standard equalization to be applied to a signal from a record deck pick-up. Phono pre-amps have RIAA circuitry built-in.
RIG 1) The construction or arrangement of lighting equipment for a particular production. (noun) 2) Installing lighting, sound equipment and scenery etc for a particular show. (verb)
RIGGING Collectively, the ropes, wires, blocks, pulleys, pins, counterweights, and other pieces of equipment needed in the manipulation of scenery and stage drapery. A simple counterweight system is based on the principle of establishing a balanced set of weights that allow a stagehand to raise and lower various loads with minimal effort. Complete rigging systems consist of one or more counterweight sets. Each is comprised of a pipe batten suspended from lifting cables which pass over loft block sheaves, then over the head block at one side of the stage and down to the counterweight arbor.
RIGHT CENTER or CENTER RIGHT A stage position or area just to the right (the audience's left) of the exact center of the stage.
RIGHTS The author, via the representative or publisher, confers on a theater company the right to produce a staged production as set forth in the contract signed by the producing company.
RISER 1) Any platform on stage. For instance, the series of platforms for choral presentations are called choral risers, the rostrum on which a drum kit and drummer is positioned is the drum riser. 2) The vertical portion of a step which gives a set of treads its height.
ROAD MANAGER (ROADIE) Touring technician with one night shows, particularly music groups. Large groups will have a roadie in charge of a particular instrument or set of instruments who is responsible for the correct unloading and setting up (tuning etc) of the instruments before the artists arrive onstage for the sound check.
ROAD SHOW A touring production.
ROH (Rear of House) The backstage areas of the theatre, but sometimes also used to indicate any control room area behind the audience.
ROLL DROP Drops flown on rollers
ROLLER A system whereby cloths can be rolled up/down instead of flying in/out in a theatre where there is no fly tower, or limited flying height.
ROYALTY FEE Royalties are the authors' way of being paid for the use of their show (their "intellectual property"). The authors of a musical may include the book writer (who writes the dialogue), the composer (who writes the music), and the lyricist (who writes the words to the music). Their right to be paid for use of their work is guaranteed by U.S. copyright law. A royalty fee is due whenever a play is presented in front of an audience?-whether an admission is charged or not. This includes classroom presentations, benefits, or private shows. The fact that a performance is a free or a benefit is taken into account when fees are quoted.
ROYALTY HOUSE An informal term describing publisher-representatives such as Samuel French, Dramatists Play Service, I.E. Clark, Pioneer, Encore, Music Theater International, and Tams-Witmark. These companies sell or rent scripts and scores and also license plays for production, acting as the playwright's agent by collecting royalties on a copyrighted title. Sometimes referred to as a publisher, or publisher-agent.
RUN A sequence of performances of the same production, as in "This show will run for years," or "How long a run do you expect?"
RUNNERS 1) A pair of curtains parting in the center and running horizontally, particularly those used in a downstage position in variety and revue productions. 2) Persons employed as production assistants to do odd jobs and errands during a production period.
RUNNING PLOT A plot giving details of the changes between cues, as distinct from a state plot which gives the whole state of the system at any time. For example, a lighting plot on a manual board is normally a running plot. It is difficult to start a running plot half way through; often the operator has to go back to the beginning and work through until the required point is reached.
RUNWAY A narrow projection of the stage, into the orchestra pit or into the aisle of the auditorium, on which a performer can walk.
Authorize.Net Merchant - Click to Verify Credit Card Merchant Services