Theatre Vocabulary

Theatre, like any other business, is full of jargon. If you’re onstage for the first time, will you know what to do when a director tells you to cheat out? Why is everyone talking about strike? Who is a choreographer and what do they do?

WCT has put together this handy list of theatre terms to help you out anywhere you might be, from the front of house to the green room.


ARTICULATION: The clarity with which a person speaks. To speak with proper articulation is to speak clearly, pronouncing letters and words properly so the audience can understand.

BLOCKING: The actors’ movement and stage positions during a performance.

CHEAT OUT: When an actor turns his body so the audience has a better view. Two actors cheating out would not face each other directly, but turn enough so that the audience sees their faces and bodies instead of just their profiles.

CROSS: A move from one part of the stage to another.

CUE: For actors, the part of a script or show immediately before an actor’s line or action that signals the actor to proceed (i.e. entering, saying a line, answering the door, etc.)

CURTAIN CALL: The cast bow at the end of a show.

DICTION: The quality or style of speaking an actor uses to demonstrate his character. It includes elements such as accent, enunciation, and inflection.

IMPROVISATION: Acting done spontaneously and without a script; everything is made up on the spot. Often used in rehearsals to strengthen understanding of character.

PACING: The rate at which a scene is played.

PROJECTION: The volume at which you speak. If a director tells an actor to project, that actor is not being loud enough vocally to fill the space.


COSTUME: The clothing worn by characters on stage.

CUE: In technical terms, the prompt (be it a line or an event) for an action to be carried out at a specific time. Lighting and sound cues are called for by the stage manager, following along in the script with the events of the show.

DESIGN: The plan or convention for the construction or creation of an element of a play. Sets, lighting, sound, costume, plots, and make-up all require designs.

LIGHTING: The deliberate use of light to illuminate the stage or convey a location or emotion.

PLOT: In technical terms, the plot refers to the design of the lights. The lighting plot maps out the color, location, brightness, and shift between lighting cues.

PROPS/PROPERTIES: The objects actors interact with onstage. Items such as books, knives, and parasols are props.

SOUND: The deliberate use of auditory effects, music, and voice to enhance the story told onstage.

STRIKE: At the end of the run of a show, when the set and all other technical aspects are taken apart, clearing the stage for the next show. Strike generally occurs immediately after the close of the last performance.


ACTOR: The person who portrays a character in a play.

CAST: The group of actors who play all the characters in a show.

CHOREOGRAPHER: The person who designs and teaches the dancing and other specialized movement such as stage combat.

DESIGNER: The person or persons responsible for devising and creating technicals aspect of the show such as lighting, sound, costume, make-up, or props.

DIRECTOR: The individual who oversees the mounting of a stage play. He or she is in charge of all designers, bringing everything together to a cohesive whole. He or she also oversees the actors and all action onstage.

DRAMATURG: This person deals mainly with research and development for plays and operas. He or she primarily deals with the historical and cultural aspects of the play.

HOUSE MANAGER: The person in charge of the front of house, including ushers, concessions, playbill distribution, etc.

PLAYWRIGHT: A person who writes plays.

STAGE/RUN CREW: The people behind the scenes who keep the play running. They change scenery, control the elements that fly on and off the stage, help actors with quick changes, and more.

STAGE MANAGER: This person has the overall responsibility of making a show run smoothly. He or she is in charge of all of the stage crew and technicians once the show begins, calling cues and overseeing scenery changes, etc. During rehearsals, the stage manager often acts as a prompter, keeping track of the script for the director and actors.



CENTER / CENTER STAGE: The center position of the stage. Generally considered the most “powerful” position on the stage.

DOWNSTAGE: The section of stage nearest to the audience.

DOWN LEFT: The front left of the stage, when facing the audience.

DOWN RIGHT: The front right of the stage, when facing the audience. After center stage, this is generally considered the second-most powerful section of the stage as it’s the first place audiences trained to read from left-to-right usually look.

STAGE RIGHT: The section of stage to the actor’s right as he faces the audience.

STAGE LEFT: The section of stage to the left of an actor as he faces the audience.

UPSTAGE: The section of stage furthest from the audience.

UP LEFT: The back left section of the stage, when facing the audience. Generally considered the ‘weakest’ position on stage as it is the last place the audience is likely to look.

UP RIGHT: The back right section of the stage, when facing the audience.


BACKSTAGE: The wings, or the parts of the stage off left and off right, unseen by the audience.

BOX OFFICE: The place where tickets are sold.

CONTROL BOOTH: Often in the back of the theatre behind the audience, this is the room where lights and sound are controlled.

COSTUME SHOP: The room where costumes are designed, built, altered, and mended.

DRESSING ROOMS: The rooms where the actors get into their costumes and make-up.

GREEN ROOM: A room backstage for actors to gather, relax, and prepare before or during a show.

HOUSE: The place where the audience sits to watch the performance. A “full house” means every seat for that performance is sold.

LOBBY: An entrance hall or area outside the theatre and house where audiences can wait before a show begins or during intermission.

MAINSTAGE: Usually the largest performance space in a venue and the place where bigger productions are staged.

SCENE SHOP: The place where play sets, scenery, and props are built and prepared for a show.

STUDIO THEATRE: A smaller performance space, often used for experimental productions.



Posted on August 31, 2016, in Uncategorized, Waukesha Civic Theatre and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Theatre Vocabulary.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: