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Theatre Terms
Theatre Etiquette
Audition Etiquette
Musical Theatre Info
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We want everyone who attends a live theatre performance to thoroughly enjoy that performance. Below are a few items that will greatly enhance the experience for all concerned.




individuals who enact characters or situations other than their own, using as the materials of the art, their own body and voice. The term "actor" applies to both women and men.

Actor's Equity Association

165 West 46 Street, New York, New York 10036. Founded in 1912, this organization serves as a labor union for professional actors.

Ad lib

to improvise words and actions


(forestage) stage area in front of the main curtain or proscenium arch.

Assistant stage manager

the all-purpose technical assistant to the Stage Manager.


tryout for a performer seeking a role in a theatre production. The process may included interviews, cold readings from the script, the presentation of a prepared piece, improvisations, or any combination of these.

Authentic Audience

patrons who do not have a personal relationship with the cast



large sheet of painted canvas or muslin that hangs at the back of a set.

Back light

light coming from upstage of an actor.


stage area beyond the acting area, including the dressing rooms.


second tier of seating


long iron pipe that stretches across the stage and upon which scenery or drops are hung.

Black-box theater

flexible room for theater performances where the audience seating and playing areas can be rearranged in any way that suits the needs of the individual production.

Black out

a fast darkening of the stage

Blackout drop

a black drop.


the movement of the actors onstage.

Blocking rehearsals

rehearsal emphasis placed on stage movement, which is either overseen or dictated by the director.

"Break a leg"

a saying for actors before they go out on stage, meaning "good luck". Coined from the idea that audiences will clap so loud that the legs in the theater will break.


that area of New York City on and adjacent to the street named Broadway where the commercial theater of the United States is concentrated. Broadway houses in NY are 300+ Seats capacity.



1) announcement to performers or crews that they are needed for a rehearsal or performance; 2) warning to performers to get ready for an entrance

Call Times

are the times at which each individual actor is expected to be at the theater. Call times vary based on the amount of time required to make-up the actor and may be staggered among smaller roles to allow for sharing of dressing room space, and/or make up artists.


place in a theatre where company rules, announcements, notes, and messages are posted.

Calling a show

the process of calling out the lighting, sound, and scene-change cues during a performance; usually done by the stage manager over a headset.


difficult task of matching the actors who auditioned for the production with the roles in the play or musical.


narrow platform suspended above the stage to permit ready access to the ropes, the lights, and the scenery hung from the grid.

Center line

an imaginary line down the center of the stage, from upstage to downstage.


is the practice of turning one's body towards the audience even while keeping the head facing one's scene partner. Cheating is usually necessary for the audience to really see the actors and view the scene.


the last night of a show.

Cold reading

reading from a script or other text without any prior rehearsal, usually in the context of an audition or workshop.

Contact sheet

the list of addresses and phone numbers used to keep track of everybody's whereabouts during the production period.

Costume fitting

the meeting where costume personnel measure actors and test-fit their costumes.

Costume designer

the person who researches the costumes, decides which styles and fabrics to use, and then draws or paints the costumes in renderings.

Costume parade

an event held in the theatre where each actor walks onstage wearing his or her costumes, one at a time. Designed to show the costumes to the director

Counterweight system

device for balancing the weight of scenery, allowing it to be easily lowered or raised above the stage by means of ropes or wires and pulleys.


also called bricks or pig iron; the slabs of iron that are loaded into a counter weight system to offset the weight of the scenery.


move from one point on the stage to another.


a passageway that leads from one side of the stage to the other, out of view of the audience.


signal (line, piece of business) to an actor or stage technician that the next line or stage function is to occur.


runs through each of the cues to check for errors.

Curtain call

bowing and receiving the audience's applause at the end of the show.

Curtain line

imaginary line at which the act curtain meets the floor.

Cyclorama (CYC)

white or blue tautly stretched canvas drop or plaster dome across the back wall of the stage which when lit simulates the sky.



scenery or lighting that is hanging in the air and not designed to be moved during the performance, as opposed to "flying" scenery or lighting that is designed to be moved up and down.


the stage floor, or a temporary floor that has been built on top of the permanent floor.


(scenic, special effects, sound, costume, makeup) architects of a production; they provide the practical and artistic environment for a play or musical.


in modern theatre, the major interpretive figure, the artistic visionary whose job it is to bring to life the playwright's script. The director's primary objective is to provide artistic meaning to the theatre experience. The director might have a number of professional assistants to work with him/her: casting director, movement coach, speech consultant (vocal coach). In musicals, the music director and the choreographer are also major interpretive figures.


the part of the stage closest to the audience as you face the audience from the Stage.


is a theatrical scholar. During production a dramaturge is responsible for historical accuracy, and conforming to the vision of the absent, or deceased, playwright.


the person who assists actors with their costumes before, during, and after a performance.

Dressing room

a space for performers to hang costumes, put on makeup, and otherwise prepare for their show.

Dress parade

point in the rehearsal period at which some directors require that all costumes be ready to be seen, often a specific rehearsal during which actors don their costumes and appear on the stage for consideration by the director, the costume designer, and others of the artistic leadership.

Dress rehearsal

final rehearsal in which all visual elements of production, including costumes, are used.


a flat piece of fabric, generally painted, that forms part of the scenery.

Dry tech

extended rehearsal, devoted to setting (and, if time allows, practicing) the various technical elements of the production (lighting, sound, flying, set changes, trapping, and so on)



sense of "family" unity developed by a group of performers during the course of a play; the willingness of actors to subordinate themselves to the production as a whole.


1) orchestral opening to the second act of a musical; 2) a dance, musical number or interlude performed between the acts of a play.


1) entering the stage; 2) opening in the set that is used for entering.

Escape stair

any staircase out of the audience's view that is used to help actors get off the set.


1) leaving the stage; 2) opening in the set that is used for leaving

Extreme sightline

the seat in the auditorium that, by the nature of its location, has the best view of back stage; used to determine masking requirements.


False proscenium

a portal that sits in front of or inside the real proscenium, giving the set its own "picture frame".

Fire curtain

first specially treated curtain hung immediately behind the proscenium; usually held by a fused link which will separate automatically in case of fire and lower the curtain.

First electric

the most downstage electric.


frame constructed of 1-by-3 boards, covered with canvas, painted, and used most often for interior or exterior walls of a building in a stage setting.

Floor plan

line drawing of a stage set as seen from above showing the placement on the stage floor of the scenic elements.


being raised up in the air; to "fly" a piece of scenery is to raise it up using ropes or cables. People may also be flown, but only by trained professionals using special equipment.

Fly loft (flies)

space above the stage where scenery may be lifted out of sight of the audience.


the person who operates the flying system.

Front-of-house (FOH)

anything in the audience; commonly used to describe staff such as ushers; also lighting positions, parking, and concessions.

Front light

any light that is coming from downstage of an actor

Full back

performer has his/her back to the audience

Full front

performer is facing the audience



color medium used to change the color in a stage lighting instrument.

Ghost Light

A light left on the stage overnight and/or when the stage is not in use for safety.


the magic word; the universal way to tell someone to do their thing.


metal cutout that creates a simple pattern when placed on the aperture of an ellipsoidal reflector spotlight.

Grand drape

the main curtain; aka, the main rag.


traditional name of the room in which actors gather to wait for entrances.


framework of steel affixed to the stage ceiling, used to support rigging necessary for flying scenery.

Ground row

a low, horizontal piece of scenery designed to hide lighting instruments on the floor.



the center of a beam of light; the brightest part of the beam.


rows of seats in which the audience sits to watch a performance.

House left/right

the left/right side of the auditorium, from the audience's point of view.


lights that illuminate the auditorium of a theater.

House curtain

full drapery that separates the stage from the audience. This curtain is rigged to move up and down or open from side to side.



the first set of legs behind the proscenium arch.

Intermission, Interval

A break between acts (usually first and second, but some plays have three or more acts).


When an actor who is "in character" makes up action or dialog without prior scripting.


Jumper Cable

An extension cable for stage lighting.


Legs (tormentors)

curtains or flats placed on either side of the stage just upstage of the curtain line. Legs serve to mask the wings from the view of the audience and vary the width of the playing area.


text of an opera or musical.

Lighting cues

the instructions that tell the lighting operators what to do and when to do it.

Lighting designers

in the theatre, the person who decides where the lighting instruments should go, how they should be colored, and which ones should be on at any particular time.

Loading dock

a place where you can unload scenery, costumes, and other items that you are bringing to the theatre.

Loading rail

where you go to put weight on the arbor in a flying system.



To block another actor, or something worn over the face.


Drapery or flats used to frame the stage, and stop the audience from seeing the backstage areas.

Master carpenter

the person in charge of all the carpenters.

Master electrician

the person in charge of all the electricians.


lower section of the second tier of seating.


An extended set of lines spoken by one person either directly addressing the audience (as in a soliloquy) or another character (a speech).



smaller professional theaters (with a capacity of less than 299 seats) around and outside the central New York theater district on Broadway and around Times Square. Originally noted for their experimental nature, these theaters have become for the most part, as commercial as their Broadway counterparts.


very small professional theaters with a capacity of under 99 seats, often subsidized, which are often set up in lofts, warehouses, or churches and are usually characterized by their experimental scripts and styles of productions.


areas of the stage not in view of the audience.

On (or off) book

unable (or able) to perform a scene without looking at a script; the stage manager following along in the script during rehearsal is also said to be "on book".

Orchestra (Stalls)

main floor seating area of the auditorium.

Orchestra pit

where the musicians play, usually directly in front of the stage, often sunken below the seating sections.


orchestral beginning of a musical, opera, or play.


Paper tech

informal sessions scheduled with the set, lighting, and sound designers to discuss specific cues and desired effects.


area immediately below the stage which is usually lower than the auditorium level; used primarily by the stage orchestra.

Playing space

the amount of room available onstage for the performance; does not include wing space, storage, or any part of the stage that is not visible to the audience.


person who writes or adapts properties known as play.

Polishing rehearsal

rehearsal that concentrates on pacing: the perfection of timing (the overall rate and speed in handling lines and business) and tempo (the rhythm) of a production.


the archway formed by two legs and a border.


able to be operated, like a window or a faucet; also used to describe a "real" lamp or other lighting fixture on a set.


practical visionary of a theater company (like a chairman of the board or president of a corporation) whose primary responsibility is to secure rights to the script, establish the budget for the production, raise money, lease an appropriate theater space, and draw together the artistic leadership. Working with the producer is a legal counselor and an accountant.


the time period before actors have begun rehearsal and before the shops have begun to build the show.


used to describe the position of a prop at the beginning of a performance

Preview performance

special performance aimed at helping the director to judge the response of the audience once the play is open to the public. Usually, audience members are especially invited to preview performances, however, some commercial theaters attract preview audiences with reduced admissions.


the time period during which the actors are rehearsing and the shops are building the show.

Production manager

the person in charge of the technical side of the production.

Production meeting

a meeting of production staff to discuss items of mutual interest.

Prop designer

the person who selects, designs, and finds the props.


article or object that is carried by performers or is used on the set.

Prop table

the table backstage where handheld props are put when they are not being used onstage.

Proscenium arch

wall forming a picturing frame separating the stage from the auditorium.


Raked stage

a stage that is slanted, either to increase visibility or to produce false perspective.


cast reads through the play to clarify meaning and pronunciations and to gain greater insight into character development and interpretation.

Regional theatre

also called resident theatre. A term applied to permanent nonprofit professional theatre companies that have established roots outside the major theatre centers. Besides bringing first-rate theatre to their region, they often have programs to nurture local talent and to encourage new plays of special regional interest.


Practice of the play.


perspective drawing of the stage set


set group of productions that a theatre company has prepared for performance; also, the practice of alternating performances of different plays of the repertory.


payments made to authors (and their representatives) for permission to reproduce, in text or in performance, their artistic products (plays, designs, etc.)


the number of performance for a particular show.

Running crews

all the skilled employees who run the show including flyman, production electrician, production soundman, production propertyman, wardrobe supervisor, wig master, union stagehands, etc.


rehearsal in which the actors perform long sections of the play (an act or the entire play) without interruption, usually to improve the sense of continuity and to gain a better understanding of the shape of the whole.


Scene breakdown

a list of scenes showing which characters are in which scenes.

Scene shop

where scenery is constructed.

Scenic artist

a person who applies paint and other forms of decoration to scenery.


a net or gauze curtain, drop, or set that appears opaque when lighted from the front but becomes transparent when lighted from behind.


dialogue, lyrics, and stage directions of a musical or play.

Set dressing

decorations that have no function on a set, but are merely placed there to look good.

Sight lines

imaginary lines from seats at the sides of the house and top of the balcony to the stage to determine what parts of the acting area will be visible to audience members sitting in those seats.

sheet

a list of performers and crew that lives on the callboard; cast and crew should check off their name when they arrive.

Sold out

When the number of tickets sold for a performance is equal to or greater than the number of available seats.


A monologue spoken by a character to him or herself or the audience to reveal his or her thoughts.

Sound designer

the person who operates the sound system during a performance.


a lighting instrument that is used to light a single, isolated person or thing.


to mark the stage floor with chalk or tape to indicate the position of furniture, properties, or scenery so that they will be placed correctly during scene shifts.

Spike tape

colored tape that is used to mark (or "spike") scenery positions onstage.


See Standing Room Only.

Stage direction

In the script of a play, any instruction for the actors, or setting, or character description.

Stage left

The side of the stage on the left when facing the audience.

Stage right

The side of the stage on the right when facing the audience.

Standing ovation

At the end of a performance, when the audience stands and claps, a higher form of praise than normal applause.

Standing room

A space where people can stand to watch a performance, especially if all the seats are filled. Most New York houses count standing room tickets in their house counts.

Standing room only

Admittance to a performance after all of the seats are filled which requires people to stand to watch.

Stadium stage

theater space where banks of seating face each other and design elements are simulated on end walls.

Stage crew

the crew that works backstage during the show, shifting the scenery.

Stage left/right

the left/right side of the stage, from the actor's perspective.

Stage manager

member of the artistic leadership of a theatre company who accepts full responsibility for the integrity of a production once it is open to the public. The stage manager normally "calls the show" (i.e., gives commands to execute all cues during performance) and accepts responsibility for maintaining the artistic integrity of the production throughout the duration of its run.

Stock scenery

scenery that is stored and used for many different productions, e.g., flats and platforms.


in two words, to remove; in rehearsal, perhaps a prop, like a glass or a chair; after a production, the entire set and all the properties from the stage area.

Summer Stock

Theatrical productions of stock companies presented during the summer.



a vertical drape just inside the proscenium that masks performers in the wings; also a term meaning to pull a drape aside.


a horizontal drape across the stage.


Building where acting takes place (also a cinema).


The world of this type of acting, or the world of acting in general; the art itself.

Theatre in the round

Any theatre where the audience is seated on every side of the stage.

Technical director (TD)

the person who figures out how the set will be built and then oversees construction.

Technical rehearsal

rehearsal for perfecting the technical elements of a show, such as the scene and property shifts, lighting, sound, and special effects.


actor; after Thespis, the first Greek dramatist

Thrust stage/open stage/apron stage

wraparound theater space where the stage extends out into the audience and the spectators view the action from three sides.

Tie lines

small cotton lines used to attach drapes and drops to battens.


flats or drapes at the sides of the proscenium arch that may be used to alter the with of the stage opening.


opening in the stage floor, normally covered, which can be used for special effects, such as having scenery or performers rise from below, or which permits the construction of a staircase which ostensibly leads to a lower floor or cellar.


a horizontally drawn curtain.


the heights of flying scenery and masking.



performer in the show who studies another role and is prepared to substitute in case of emergency.

Unit set

uses flats, screens, curtains, platforms, and stairs that can be rearranged to change locales.


light that comes from underneath a performer, either from footlights or through a grated or Plexiglas stage floor.


area on the stage area farthest away from the audience. The term dates back to the days when the stage was raked away from the audience so that actors had to literally walk upstage.


to cross deliberately to a place upstage of another actor and assume a full front or one-quarter position, thereby forcing the other performer to turn to a three-quarter position in order to talk with the upstager.



a small drapery that runs across the tops of the grand drape, hiding the hardware that suspends it.


The trait of seeming truthful or appearing to be real, from the Latin veri similis, "like the truth."



Costumes, or the people responsible for them.


offstage areas right and left stage.

Wing space

the amount of space on the stage that is not visible to the audience.

Work lights

lights use solely for illuminating the stage when it is not being watched by an audience, as at rehearsals and when scenery is being shifted.



the U-shaped piece of metal that attaches a lighting instrument to a clamp.

We want everyone who attends a live theatre performance to thoroughly enjoy that performance. Below are a few items that will greatly enhance the experience for all concerned.

  • Arrive early, or on time. If you arrive late, you may not be seated immediately. It is a distraction for both the performers and the audience when late-comers arrive.
  • No photography or recording devices of any kind during a performance due to copyright laws.
  • Turn off cell phones, pagers, beepers, alarms, anything that can disturb the production, actors and the audience members during the performance. If you must take an emergency call, leave the auditorium and only begin speaking to your caller once you are away from the rest of the audience.
  • We love children of all ages; but if they begin to fuss, fidget or cry, please respect the audience and actors and take your child to the lobby.
  • Please do not allow children or adults to play in the aisles during the performance.
  • Dress appropriately. Many like dressing up for a performance, especially in the evening. This is a special event. Feel free to take advantage but be aware that hats can impede sight lines. On occasion, the theatre can be slightly chilly due to air flow.
  • No talking or whispering during the performance.
  • No chewing gum or eating during the performance. In the theatre snacks are at intermission. Also, no drinking, smoking, or hats on during a performance.
  • Clap with enthusiasm. Show appreciation by clapping. The actors love to hear applause. This shows how much you enjoyed it.
  • Do not put your feet on the seats in front of you.
  • Do not walk on the stage at any time.
  • Do not rest your feet on the stage.
  • Do not leave your seat until the cast has taken their curtain call at the end. When the performance ends, wait patiently to exit.
  • Spread the word! Tell all your friends what a great time you had. Live theatre depends on your support.


Things to Remember

  • Dress professionally according to the audition requirements. No costumes please.
  • Arrive early. "To Be Early Is To Be On Time, To Be On Time Is To Be Late, To Be Late Is To Be History."
  • The audition starts the moment you walk through the door. It is important to be courteous to everyone involved in the audition process.
  • BE PREPARED. Being prepared is part of being professional.
  • It is not customary to shake the hand of those seated behind the table. A genuine "Hello" when you enter the room and a polite "Thank you!" when you exit leaves the politest impression and keeps everything on a professional level.
  • Listen carefully to instructions from the auditors.
  • When you attend an audition, accept the circumstances you bring with you. It's never a good idea to make excuses such as: "I have a cold", "This isn't my music", "I worked late", "I couldn't find the building", or "This is my first audition ever!"
  • Don't ask inappropriate questions like "Did you like me?", "When are callbacks?", or "When will the cast list go up?"
  • Don't limit your thinking and precast yourself for any one part; audition well for any role.
  • Be willing to accept any role.
  • Be professional when learning of the audition outcome. There may not always be an answer that will satisfy the question of "why?"


Kids Who Care does not require headshots, but encourages everyone to bring a photo of themselves to auditions.
  • Make sure your picture looks like you do today.
  • Make sure that your resume is securely attached to the back of your headshot.

What is a headshot?

  • A headshot is a professionally-taken portrait of the actor from the shoulders up.
  • Actors use headshots as the calling card that they leave with a casting team to remember who they are.
  • A headshot should be printed on the reverse side of an 8.5 by 11 resume.
  • A headshot should be in color.

ResumeKids Who Care does not require, but encourages, a resume at auditions.

  • Your resume is an overview of your performance history.
  • Your resume should be one page long, listing your most current accomplishments. Don't worry if the experience is limited.
  • Include your name, email, and phone number.
  • Never lie on a resume.
  • Keep the format simple and easy to read.
  • Your resume should be printed on or securely attached to the reverse side of your 8.5 by 11 headshot.

Movement Auditions

  • Always arrive early to a movement audition to allow time to stretch before the audition begins. Warming up is your responsibility.
  • Wear flexible clothing that allows you to have a full range of motion, but does not swallow your body. It is important to see the way your body moves.
  • Wear close-toed shoes that allow optimum movement.
  • Learn to adapt to any given space. Be courteous to your neighbor when learning the combination, but be prepared to "own" the space when you are called forward to audition!


An actor introduces themselves to the casting panel by slating. A proper slate includes:
  • Greeting, "Hello!"
  • Full Name, "My name is . . ."
  • What you are doing, "I will be performing a monologue/song from (name of show)."

Vocal Auditions

  • Wear professional attire.
  • Prepare a verse and chorus 30 - 40 seconds of a song that best showcases your ability. You don't have to start at the beginning of the song.
  • Make sure that your music is clearly marked for the pianist and in the correct key.
  • Singers are not just vocalists, but actors as well. Know the story behind the music you select.
  • Use single sheet music. Large vocal books are difficult for a pianist to use.
  • Please do not use Kids Who Care Original Songs.
  • Resource: You can change the key of your song and listen to the accompaniment on this website.

Acting Auditions

  • Select your piece from a legitimate play or published poem.
  • Keep it short. A 30 - 45 second monologue is sufficient to show your ability.
  • Take your time. Don't rush the moments in your audition piece.
  • Use vocal confidence and projection.
  • Remember that acting is reacting. Don't just recite words.
  • Monologues from a Kids Who Care Original Musical are allowed.
  • Don't rely on props, costumes or jokes to show comic timing.
  • Resource: Fort Worth Public Library Play Selection.


The online version of this comprehensive theater magazine offers everything from Broadway theater seating charts to articles on the history of the musical and trivia quizzes. Also, read news about your favorite Broadway stars, find out how to buy tickets online, and get box-office grosses and attendance figures for every show on Broadway.

Internet Broadway Database
The Internet Broadway Database (IBDB) is a vast storehouse of Broadway theater information. The archive provides records of productions from the beginning of New York theater until today. It includes information concerning the people involved in the theater over the years as well as statistics on the number of productions of a particular show, or the history of a certain theater. American Theatre: Musicals
Learn about some of the most important musicals ever written here. Start with the introduction to musical theater history, which is followed links to musicals from "Annie Get Your Gun" through to "The Wizard of Oz." complete with information about the historical relevance of the show.
This extremely comprehensive site provides information on many aspects of musical theater: from the history of stage and film musicals to reviews and essays on current and past productions; from profiles of New York City venues that have housed musicals to an encouraging guide explaining how to put on your own show! Also find several indexes on unique topics, like "Musicals Who's Who," which has bios of more than 400 individuals, and a Special Features section with in-depth information important figures and topics in the world of musical theater.

The online theater section of the venerable paper contains a wealth of information on events happening in the New York City theater world. From reviews of debut shows to statistics on the top-grossing Broadway performances, this site is an efficient and comprehensive resource.

Tony Awards
The Tony Awards official site is an excellent source for everything related to the annual awards. From news on current nominations and recent winners to archives of past winners and information on the history of the awards, this site offers access to every kind of Tony-related fact.