Stage and Theater Terminology 101

Terminology, Stage and Theater Terminology 101

By: Karen Tait- Fries, Sales Associate

Terminology, Stage and Theater Terminology 101Every industry seems to have its own language and when I get mad at my husband for turning left instead of stage left like I not-so-clearly told him to, I am reminded that not everyone speaks the same language I do. It is important in a room often thrust into darkness that everyone is able to communicate effectively.

Acoustics: The ability of a room to direct or absorb sound waves based on its size, shape, and materials used. Orchestra shell towers and ceiling clouds can direct sound waves toward the audience improving their experience.

Apron: The part of the stage that stretches beyond the proscenium arch toward the auditorium

Arena Stage: Also known as “in the round,” the playing space is surrounded with seating on four sides

Batten: Pipe that stretches across the stage— when part of an automated or manual counterweight rigging system, moves in (down) and out (up), also may be “dead-hung” at a static height

Black Box: Performance space in which the seating and playing space are reconfigurable. Staging Concepts has nearly three decades of experience transforming these bare spaces into theatres using a combination of SC90 platforms and flexible understructures.

“Break a Leg”: Replacement for the unlucky, “good-luck,” thought to refer to the “break” in an actor’s leg at the knee when one foot is put behind the other to curtsy or bow

Flat: A vertical wall of a set

Ghost Light: Typically with a bare light bulb, a lamp left center stage once the theatre “goes dark” every night— for practical reasons, to prevent someone from walking into a dark theatre and tripping. Superstitions about mischievous ghosts led to people leaving a light on to prevent them from wreaking havoc on a production.

Line set: Automated or manual counterweight rigging system allows for pipe battens to be brought close to the stage for easy installation of light fixtures above the stage. Orchestra shells are hung from line sets to allow for easy “flying” in and out making concert set-up easy.

M**B*TH: William Shakespeare’s “Scottish Play”, a tragedy about political ambition, cursed play, very dangerous to say out loud in a theatre unless actively performing show

Orchestra Pit: A sunken area at the front of the stage where the orchestra performs during the show. An Orchestra Pit Filler can be built using the new Uplift to create additional acting space.

Plaster Line: An imaginary line that runs across the stage along the upstage side of the proscenium arch, often made of plaster

Platform: A horizontal surface on a set or portable staging unit

Proscenium: The arch, or “frame,” around the stage, a portal between backstage and the apron

Stage Directions:
Ancient Greek and Roman theatre stages were raked toward the audience, if an actor was walking toward the audience, they would be walking down hill.
Downstage: toward the audience
Upstage: away from the audience
Stage Left: the actor’s left facing the audience
Stage Right: the actor’s right facing the audience
House Left: the audience’s left facing the stage
House Right: the audience’s right facing the stage
Onstage: toward the centerline of the stage
Offstage: away from the centerline of the stage

Telescopic Seating: Retractable, nesting, seating risers for flexible spaces

Thrust Stage: Playing space surrounded by audience seating on three sides

Traverse/Ally Stage: Playing space surrounded by audience seating on two sides

Vomitorium: An ally used as an entrance or exit, behind or alongside seating in the auditorium

So, the next time you are trying to explain the layout of your space to a Staging Concepts team member, just remember, up is out, down is in, sometimes left is right, sometimes right is left, and whatever you do, don’t turn the ghost light off when you leave.