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 Cross Reference Link
TAB 1) Originally a "tableaux curtain" which drew outwards and upwards, but now generally applied to any stage curtains including a vertically flying front curtain (house tabs) and especially a pair of horizontally moving curtains which overlap at the center and move outwards from that center. 2) Short for tabloid, referring to a condensed version of a show.
TAB DRESSING Lighting focused onto the house tabs.
TEASER Border, usually black, set behind the proscenium and linked with tormentors to form an inner frame to the stage, and to mask the upper parts of the fly tower.
TECH Technical Rehearsal
TECHIE A stage technician. Some find this term endearing, others think it demeaning.
TECHNICAL REHEARSAL or TECH REHEARSAL Usually the first time the show is rehearsed in the venue, with lighting, scenery and sound. Costumes are sometimes used where they may cause technical problems (e.g. Quick changes). Often a very lengthy process. Often abbreviated to "the tech."
THESPIAN Pertaining to acting, or an actor, as in "she is a true thespian." Derived from the name of Thespis, a Greek tragic poet of the sixth century BC, who is said to have first introduced an actor into dramatic presentations, which until then had been performed only by a chorus with a leader.
THROW Distance between a light source (e.g. lantern or projector) and the actor or object being lit.
THROW AWAY or THROW-AWAY To underemphasize or underplay lines or stage business, either deliberately (in order to bring out other lines or business by contrast) or aimlessly (from weakness of technique). Thus, to throw away one's lines, or a throw-away line.
THROW LINE A rope used to hold adjacent flats together as one via cleats.
THRUST Form of stage that projects into the auditorium so that the audience are seated on at least two sides of the extended piece.
THUNDER SHEET Large suspended steel sheet with handles which produces a thunder-like rumble when shaken or beaten.
TOP HAT Cylinder of metal inserted into color runners on the front of a Par Can or other lantern to limit spill light.
TORMENTORS Narrow masking flats adjacent and sometimes at right angles to the proscenium arch.
TRANSDUCER A device that converts energy from one form to another. A microphone is a transducer that converts sound wave energy into electrical pulses.
TRANSFORMATION An instant scene change, often effected by exploiting the varying transparency of gauze under different lighting conditions.
TRANSVERSE Form of staging where the audience is on either side of the acting area.
TRAP An opening through the stage floor. A grave trap is a lowered rectangular section used in Hamlet etc. A cauldron trap is a simple opening through which items can be passed into a cauldron on stage. A star trap is a set of triangular sprung flaps in the stage floor through which an actor can be propelled from a lift below stage.
TRAP ROOM The area directly below the trapped part of the stage. Used for accessing the traps. Trap
TRAVELER A draw curtain that opens and closes from one side only.
TRAVELLER Curtain or scenic piece moving on horizontal tracks.
TREADS General name for any stage staircase or set of steps. The step of the staircase is called the tread, and the height of the staircase depends on the number of risers. The length of the staircase is called the going. Treads can be either open or closed string - meaning whether the riser is solid.
TRIM A pre-plotted height for a piece of scenery or lighting bar--usually measured against the height of the teaser. Sometimes flying pieces are given a number of extra trims, that may be color coded, in addition to the "in trim" (lower) and "out trim" (higher - out of view).
TRIPPING Rolling up a cloth drop that can't be flown out of sight. Drop
TRUSS A framework of alloy bars and triangular cross-bracing (usually of scaffolding diameter) providing a rigid structure, particularly useful for hanging lights where no permanent facility is available.
TUMBLING Flying a drop from the bottom as well as the top when there is insufficient height to fly it in the normal way. Tripping
TURKEY A show that fails deservedly. According to tradition, the term derives from "turkey actors" who took part in weak Thanksgiving productions that the indulgent public patronized as an annual tradition.
TURNBUCKLE Threaded device which is used to tension a wire, or to provide an adjustable link in a cable, to fine-tune the height of flown scenery. (Known in the UK as a bottle screw.)
TWEETER Part of a speaker system designed to handle the high frequency part of the signal. Woofer
TYPE Typecast, typecasting, or type casting may mean: Typecasting (acting), the process by which an actor is strongly identified with a specific character, role, or trait--referred to as a "type." For example, an actor may play an outspoken senior citizen, which is a type. But if the actor plays that role routinely, they may become typecast, sought only for such a role. An actor's height, weight, hair color, nationality or ethnicity may also impact their being cast, because the director or casting director may see the actor themself as a "type," rather than an actor who can play multiple types.
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