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.

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Term Definition Link
SAFETY CHAIN Chain or wire fixed around lantern and lighting bar or boom to prevent danger in the event of failure of the primary support (e.g. Hook Clamp). A requirement of most licensing authorities.
SAFETY CURTAIN A fireproof curtain that can be dropped downstage of the tabs to separate the audience from the stage in the event of fire. A Safety Curtain is required by most licensing authorities for theatres over 500 seats. The regulations also require that it is raised and lowered at least once in view of each audience (usually during the interval). Usually made from sheet metal and electrically operated, used to be made from iron faced with asbestos and lowered using a hydraulic damping system.
SAMPLING The technique of recording a sound digitally (translating the analogue audio waveform into a series of electrical ones and offs that can be manipulated by a computer) for subsequent processing, editing and playback.
SAND BAG Attached to an unused spot line to stop it running back through the pulleys, and to enable it to fly in without fouling adjacent equipment.
SCALPER Someone who buys scarce tickets to a popular production and re-sells them to the highest bidder.
SCENE 1) A full-length play normally is divided into acts, and each act is divided into scenes. Typically a new scene depicts a different location or different day or time. The term also is used to describe any portion of a dramatic work taken by itself as a unit of action. 2) Scenery, a stage setting. 3) The location in which a dramatic action is supposed to occur. 4) Location or situation, as in "to set the scene."
SCENE DOCK High-ceilinged storage area adjacent to the stage, sometimes used for building and storing flats and other scenery.
SCENE SHIFT A movement of scenery by stagehands to change a stage setting between scenes.
SCENE SHOP The area where scenery is built or repaired.
SCENERY The elements of a stage setting, especially those made of wood and canvas, or any other material used to construct platforms, flats, walls, doors and backdrops.
SCENIC PAINT Traditionally, a mixture of glue size, water and pigment. Modern practice has also adopted PVA (emulsion glaze) as a bonding medium which can be used when scenery has got to be washed and used again.
SCOOP Lighting instrument designed to cast unfocused light over a large area.
SCREEN (PROJECTION) Many types of projection screen are available. Some are multi-purpose, some only for front projection, some only for back projection. If a screen is not self-supporting, it often has eyelets around the outside edge which are used to "lace" the screen onto a larger frame.
SCREW EYE A threaded metal ring screwed to the rear of a flat for securing a stage brace.
SCRIM A coarse gauze-like material used as a drop. When lighted from the front only, the scrim appears opaque. As light is brought up behind, it becomes more transparent--totally so when front light is cut off. Used unpainted to diffuse a scene played behind it. When painted, a gauze is opaque when lighted from the front and becomes transparent when the scene behind it is lighted. Many different types of gauze are available; Sharkstooth gauze is the most effective for transformations, because it is the most opaque. Vision gauze is used for diffusing a scene, to create a dreamlike effect.
SCRIPT The printed text of a dramatic work.
SEASON 1) The annual period when the theatre is most active, often from September to June, or June-August for a summer season. 2) A series of productions for the year, as in "the season includes 3 dramas, two comedies, and a musical."
SECOND STAGE A term used to describe a smaller playing area than the main stage, often for experimental or specialized theatre.


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