Glossary of Stage and Theatre Terms

Glossary of Stage and Theatre Terms

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Acoustical Reflector Panel (Cloud)
A reflective panel hung in the auditorium, generally above the audience, that is used to direct sound into desired zones. Often decorative in nature.

The science of, and study of sound. The acoustics of a room or space depend on its size and shape and the amount and position of sound-absorbing and sound reflecting materials.

Act Curtain
A curtain (sometimes designed for a specific show) that is opened to signal the beginning of a performance. The Front Curtain is often used for this purpose.

Circular or open-air theater with a large raked seating area.

The portion of stage that extends beyond the proscenium opening.

A carriage or rack that contains weights, usually flame cut steel or cast iron, in sufficient quantity to balance a load.

Arbor Pit
An area located below an opening in the stage floor that permits greater travel for counterweight arbors and pipe battens.

Arena (Arena Stage)
A performance space with seating all round the performers. Examples include theaters, basketball courts, and indoor rodeos.

As Built Drawings (Final Drawings)
Equipment or layout drawings that show equipment as it was actually built and intended to be installed. They may not reflect actual, as installed, conditions.

The area of the theater where visitors sit to view a stage performance.

A hall or seating area within the hall where the audience views a performance.

Auditorium Curtains
See 'Curtains.'

Austrian Curtain
A curtain that is raised (opened) with brailed lifting lines and is sewn with both vertical and horizontal fullness.

Back Curtain
See 'Rear Traveler'

Back Light
Light falling on an actor or subject from behind; used to separate the actor or subject from the background.

The stage area that is located beyond the sight of the audience. Usually behind curtains and other masking devices.

Bar Joist
A beam fabricated using lightweight rolled or fabricated sections that is used for long spans under light loading conditions.

A bar, usually made from steel pipe, from which scenery, lights and curtains are hung.

Batten Clamp
See 'Pipe Clamp.'

A structural member (usually horizontal in a building structure) that resists bending.

Beam Clamp
A device from which a load is hung, attached to the flange of a steel beam without altering the beam in any way.

Belaying Pin
A wood or steel rod, inserted into a hole in a pin rail, that secures ropes attached to a load. They are typically removable.

Black Box
A room (often painted black) that is intended for performance and lacks a permanent configuration, seating, or fixed performance area. Provision for performance lighting and props or curtains is often made.

Bleed Through
The transformation from a scene downstage to a scene upstage with the use of a scrim. This is achieved by slowly crossfading lighting from downstage to upstage. If the scrim is lit steeply, or from the sides, it will appear opaque. If this light is turned off and light is added to the set upstage of it, it will appear to disappear.

An assembly that consists of one or more sheaves and axles in a housing.

The process of arranging moves to be made by actors during the performance, recorded by stage management in the prompt script.

Border Curtain
A curtain used to define the top limit of the stage and to mask or hide lights and unused scenery and curtains.

Brail Curtain
A curtain that is raised (opened) with brail type lift lines and is sewn flat or has horizontal fullness.

Brail Lines
Lifting lines that pass through a row of rings sewn to the back of the curtain and attach at the curtain bottom. The curtain folds up when the lines are pulled.

Brail Winch
A winch designed to work as part of a rigging system to raise and lower a curtain from its bottom support using cables run through rows of rings on the back of the curtain.

Cable Cradle
A device that supports an electrical cable loop and prevents sharp bends. It often has a hole for attachment of a lifting line.

Cable Reel
A drum for holding hose or various types of electrical cable that winds using springs or a motor. The hose or cable is connected at the hub of the drum so the connection to other systemsis maintained as the drum rotates.

Cable Roller
A roller assembly designed to prevent moving cables from contacting any part of a building or adjacent rigging. Not intended to change cable direction or carry loads.

Computer-Aided Design

Used as a lighter alternative to cover flats.

Platform, either over stage or house used to gain access to rigging or stage lighting equipment.

Center Line
An imaginary line running down the stage through the exact center of the proscenium opening. Marked as CL on stage plans and the back of some stage drapery. Normally marked out on the stage floor and used as a reference when marked out or assembling a set.

Certified Rigger
A rigger who has passed the "Entertainment Technician Certification Program" (etcp) exam and is recognized as competent to do rigging for a period of time. This certification is based on both experience and a written test. Regular re-certification is required.

Chain Hoist
A lifting device comprised of an electric motor and gear/chain drive system. Chain hoists are commonly used to lift portable trusses into place for touring concerts and performances.

Device that connects several ropes or cables to one, usually h2er, rope or cable.

(Often referred to as Duvetyne) A woven masking fabric made from 100% cotton. A popular studio backdrop and stage cyc set fabric. It is often black.

Competent Person
The ESTA/ANSI Series E1 standards definition is a person who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the workplace, and who is authorized to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.

Connector Strip
An electrical distribution device designed to provide power to lighting fixtures on stage or in the house. Typically it has multiple circuits, often with more than one outlet or receptacle per circuit.

Contour Curtain
A brail or Austrian curtain rigged so that each lift line may be operated separately to form different shaped openings.

(n) Weights, usually flame cut steel or cast iron, that are placed in counterweight arbors to balance the weight of loads hung on battens. (v) The act of adding or removing weight from a set in order to achieve a balanced system.

Counterweight Set
A rigging system where the load is balanced by a counterweight so that only a small force is required to overcome friction and move the load.

Cross Over
A corridor created by an upstage curtain and the rear stage wall that allows actors and other personnel to cross from one side of the stage to the other side out of sight of the audience.

(Auditorium curtains, auditorium drapery, auditorium draperies, auditorium drapes, theater curtains, theater drapery, theater draperies, theater drapes, theatre curtains, theatre drapery, theatre draperies, theatre drapes) Any fabric panel that is hung as part of a scene or to mask unwanted views.

Curtain Track
A formed or extruded shape that contains moving carriers and supports drapery. They often have a cord or other means to open and close the drapes.

Complete with all necessary accessories. On rope-operated track, this generally includes channel, single carriers, master carriers, live end pulley, dead end pulley, tension floor pulley, lap clamps, hanging clamps, end stops, and cord.

Cyclorama (Cyc)
(1) Curtain at the rear of the performance area used to represent the sky or distant areas. (2) Set of borders, legs, and drops used to define the limits of a performance area.

Cyc Set
General term for legs, borders, travelers; more specifically, all stage drapes except the main curtain and main valance.

Dead End
The end of a rope or part of a device that is not active or load carrying.

Dead Hung
Directly fixed to the structure or attached at a fixed elevation using chain, rods, or cable.

Durably Flame Retardant

Design Load
The load that a system or equipment item is designed to carry. This load can be made up of dead loads, live loads, dynamic loads, and environmental forces.

Digitally Printed Backdrop
Digital graphics printed on grand format printers for use as stage backdrops.

Double Purchase
A rope or cable that passes from a lifting device (arbor, winch, or person) over a block, to a block attached to the load, and tied off at the previous block, is double purchased. The system allows twice as much load to be raised for a given effort, but the rope or cable must be pulled twice as far, so total work done remains the same.

Down Stage
The area of the stage that is closest to the audience. See 'Raked Stage.'

See 'curtains.'

Draw Curtain
See 'traveler.'

Drop Curtain
A curtain that is painted or constructed in a manner that makes it a part of the scenic environment.

Drum Winch
A winch with a drum for wrapping cable as it is taken up. One end of the drum is typically supported by a bearing while the other end is connected to the output shaft of the gear box.

(Often referred to as Commando) A woven masking fabric made from 100% cotton. A popular studio backdrop and stage cyc set fabric. It is often black.

A name given to a pipe batten used to support lighting lighting equipment in a theater.

Elevation Drawing
A drawing that shows the vertical face of an object or system.

Entertainment Services & Technology Association

False Proscenium
A portal that sits in front or inside the real proscenium; giving the set its own "picture frame."

Field Check
A visit made to an installation project for the purpose of obtaining project measurements, checking its status, and finding potential conflicts.

Fire Safety Curtain
A curtain that closes automatically in event of a fire to prevent heat, smoke and flames on the stage from reaching the audience. The curtain may be closed when the space is not occupied to prevent unauthorized access and to prevent falls from the edge of the stage.

A lightweight wood frame covered with scenic canvas or muslin.

Fleet Angle
The angle formed between the centerline of a sheave or drum and another sheave or fixed point.

Floor Block
Pulley mounted at the floor to hold a rope or cable in position and to reverse its direction. Floor blocks meant for rope often incorporate a means of adjustment to accommodate changes in length due to loads or environmental conditions.

Suspended in a manner that permits the equipment to be raised and lowered.

The act of lifting scenery, lights, and curtains.

Fly Gallery
A gallery or catwalk above the stage floor from which counterweight and hemp (rope) rigging is operated.

Fly Loft
The space between the roof and the performance area that is not visible to the audience.

The portion of the stage located in front of the proscenium or main curtain line.

Fourth Wall
The imaginary wall of a box set through which the audience can see the stage.

Flame Retardant by the immersion process.

Fixed Speed
A winch that operates at a single speed with no ability to modify the speed. Fixed speed winches are typically used for low speed setup or heavy load applications.

Front Curtain (House Curtain, Main Curtain, Main Act Curtain, or Proscenium Curtain)
A curtain used to define the stage location to the arriving audience. It is often the curtain closest to the audience and may also perform the function of an "Act Curtain."

Front of House (FOH)
The area of the theater in front of the proscenium arch.

Additional fabric that is added to a curtain to be sewn into pleats. 100 percent fullness means that the curtain would be double its finished width before the pleats are made.

Gridiron (Grid)
An open floor, usually made from light steel channels or grating, that is located near the roof steel. It provides mounting locations for rigging equipment and access to that equipment for inspection and maintenance.

Green Screen
See 'Keying Fabric'

To control the movement of rigging devices by means of slides or rollers moving in tracks or on stretched cables.

Guide Shoe
A rolling or sliding device that connects a counterweight arbor or sliding tension block to guide rails in order to guide its travel.

Guide Rails
Components that confine and control the movement of counterweight arbors and tension floor blocks. See 'J-Guide, A-Guide, Lattice Track, T-Guide, and Wire Guide.'

Hand Line
A line, usually rope, that is pulled by hand to lift or control the movement of a load.

Hand Winch
A device that consists of a hand crank that rotates a drum or pulley through a torque multiplying / speed reducing mechanism.

Head Block
A pulley mounted to support steel that changes the direction of lift and operating lines between the loft blocks and an arbor or winch.

Head Block Beams
Structural framing designed to support the head blocks and all related loads. Usually consisting of one or two beams and associated bracing members.

Heat Resisting Border
A curtain that is placed between stage masking curtains and a heat source, such as a stage light, to prevent a fire. The heat resisting curtain employs a fabric which is fire proof, rated for high temperatures and spreads the heat from hot spots.

Hemp (Rope or Spotline) Rigging
A rigging system that employs ropes and sandbags instead of counterweight arbors or other devices. Usually used for temporary rigging.

See 'Auditorium.'

House Curtain
See 'Front Curtain.'

House Left/Right
The sides of an auditorium as seen by an audience member while facing the stage.

A pulley designed to support one or more cables but not to make direction changes.

Inherently Flame Retardant

In The Round
Theater in the round is a type of audience seating layout in which the acting/performance area is enclosed on all sides by seating.

Index Light
A series of lamps in a special housing designed to illuminate the locking or pinrail area.

Index Strip
A device located at the front of a locking rail to hold line set identification labels.

J-shaped aluminum members fixed in parallel rows for the purpose of guiding arbors or clews.

Kabuki Drop
Technique of dropping a drape from a flying bar. It generally consists of a rotatable bar which is attracted to a standard flying batten. The bar has pointed prongs welded to it, from which the drop is suspended by use of grommets (and bunched horizontally). On cue, when the bar is rotated (so that the pointed prongs point downward), the drape consequently drops rapidly.

Keying Fabrics
Specialty fabric used as a backdrop in special effects for television and movies.

A non-climable structure (usually made of metal) in the shape of a ladder from which stage lighting can be hung in a vertical "stack."

Leg Curtain
A curtain used to define the side limit of the stage and to mask or hide actors, lights, and unused scenery in the off stage area (wings).

A seamless, woven fabric, primarily used as a cyc fabric for stage or studio use. It is a particularly useful backdrop for television.

Lift Line
Any rope or cable located between a load and a winch or counterweight arbor.

Lighting Bridge
A walkway across the stage (fixed or flown) where lights are hung and where they may be adjusted and maintained.

Lighting Designer
The person whose primary responsibility is the visual design of the lighting for a play, show or production. Often, in the theater, the lighting director is responsible for all aspects of the asthetic design of the production.

Lighting Director
The person who is primarily in charge of the lighting for a touring show or television production. Often, the lighting director is also the lighting designer.

Line Set
A system consisting of one or more lift lines and related components operating together to lift, lower, or suspend a load.

Backing of a curtain for a finished look or for protection from the movement of scenery.

Limit Switch
An electro-mechanical switch that trips (changes state) when contacted by a moving device. They are used to halt the motion of a winch or other electro-mechanical device.

Line Shaft Winch
Winch with a series of cable drums connected to a gearbox by a common shaft.

Live End
The end of a rope or part of a device that is active or load carrying.

Live Load
That part of a system load that may be added or deleted (i.e. lights hung from a pipe batten).

Loading Gallery (Loading Bridge)
A gallery above the stage floor where technicians add and remove counterweights from the arbors. Usually located so technicians have access to arbors when battens are at their lowest positions.

Load Sensing
A mechanical or electrical device that senses the load in a cable or block and produce a signal that can be read by a controlling device

Locking Rail (Loading Rail)
A structural railing designed to support rope locks in a way that allows them to be easily operated. It holds the out of balance loads from the rigging system held by rope locks. It also serves as a safety railing for operators and other personnel.

Loft Block
A pulley mounted to the gridiron or support steel that supports and changes the direction of a lift line cable between the load and the head block.

Main Curtain
See 'Front Curtain.'

A set of curtains or scenic elements used to define the visual limits of a performance area.

Motorized Rigging
A theatrical rigging system using powered winches and other devices to move equipment rather than muscle power.

Mule Block
A pulley that supports and changes the direction of one or more cables traveling between loft blocks and head block.

Electrical cable (borderlight cable) with multiple conductors that conducts electrical power to multiple circuit wire ways and boxes on the stage. At least one conductor must be used as a grounding wire.

Multi-Line Block
Any block that can support more than one line. See "Incremental Block" and "Multi-Sheave Block".

Multi-Sheave Block
A block with more than one sheave, each of which can support and change the direction of a rope or cable. Sheaves can be held by a common shaft or by multiple shafts within a common housing.

Tightly woven cotton fabric often used for covering of scenery as well as for bounce drops in lighting.

Non-Flame Retardant

A registered trademark of the National Telephone Supply Company, used to describe compression type sleeves placed at the end of a wire rope to interconnect two ropes or to form an eye at the end.

Off Stage
The stage floor area that is not a part of the acting area and is not visible to the audience.

Olio Curtain
A curtain located between the "Front" or "Act" curtains and the "Rear" curtain that closes off a portion of the acting area for more intimate presentations. It is often colored or decorative.

On Stage
The portion of the stage area visible to the audience, usually defined by masking curtains, scenery, an orchestra shell, or by lighting.

(1) A group of musicians who play instrumental selections (2) The portion of the auditorium on the main floor that is closest to the musicians and the acting area.

Orchestra Lift
A moving platform that is used to adjust the elevation of the musicians in relation to the stage and auditorium. Usually operates within the confines of an orchestra pit.

Orchestra Pit
A depressed area between the stage and audience seating area where musicians sit, so the audience can hear the music and see the performance over the heads of the musicians.

Orchestra Pit Filler
Removable platforms that are used to close off the orchestra pit at the level of the stage or auditorium

Orchestra Pit Lift
A section of the orchestra pit floor that may be raised and lowered by some mechanical (typically motorized) means.

Orchestra Shell
An enclosure on stage, consisting of walls and a ceiling that reflects sound into the auditorium. Usually decorative in nature.

A condition that exists when the weight of a batten, fittings, and attached loads do not equal that of counterbalancing equipment such as counterweight and an arbor. For safe and efficient use, manually operated sets should be balanced to within 50 pounds of neutral.

A barrier device that protects counterweight arbors from scenery, etc. that may be leaned against them. Often also supports index lights.

Paint Frame
A rigid frame, usually made of wood, to which drops and flats may be attached vertically for painting. They are normally rigged to be raised and lowered so painters can reach all areas of the frame

A railing with holes to accept belaying pins. May also act as a safety railing at the edge of a gallery or walkway.

Pipe Clamp
Clamping device that bolts around a pipe for attachment of chain or cable hangers.

Pipe Grid
Horizontal structure hung over a stage or auditorium to support lights and scenery. Made from pipes crossing on right angles at set intervals.

Pivot Block
A pulley designed to adjust to structures at odd angles.

Plan Drawing
A drawing that shows the layout or top view of a construction or object.

Point Hoist
A single line winch, used singularly or in groups, to hold a load at a specific point over the stage. They are the motorized equivalent of spot lines, providing the greatest flexibility possible in automated rigging (Similar to a dimmer per circuit in lighting.).

A portal consists of a header (border) and tabs (legs) that can be moved to adjust the size and shape of the proscenium opening to fit various performance needs. It is usually located just up stage of the front curtain and may have provision for mounting lights.

Purchase Line
See 'Hand Line.'

Projection Screen
Installation consisting of a blank surface and a support structure used for displaying.

The dividing wall or barrier between the audience and the stage.

Proscenium Arch (Proscenium Opening)
The opening in the proscenium through which the audience views a performance.

Proscenium Curtain
See 'Front Curtain.'

Rain Curtain
Main act curtains made in a multitude of metallic or colored layers.

Raked Stage
A sloped platform that is lower near the audience for better visibility and higher at the rear, providing the illusion of distance. This is the source for the terms "Down Stage" and "Upstage."

Rear Curtain
See 'Rear Traveler.'

Rear Traveler (Back Curtain, Rear Curtain)
A two-piece bi-parting curtain located up stage.

Recommended Working Load
The maximum load which J.R. Clancy, Inc. recommends be applied to current, listed products which are in "like new" condition and which have been properly installed, maintained, and operated. "Rated Load," "Safe Working Load," and "Working Load Limit" are similar terms used by other manufacturers.

See 'Masking.'

All of the hardware used to lift, lower, and hold performance equipment on or above a stage.

Rigging Safety Inspection
Regular visual inspections of a stage's rigging assemblies and line sets by a ETCP certified rigger.

Roll Drop
A cloth backdrop or drape flown in on a roller.

Rope Lock
A cam operated device that clamps the hand line that is attached to an arbor in order to prevent movement. Designed to hold the unbalanced load in a set.

Safety Chain
(1) A secondary support line, usually of chain, that supports a fire curtain or other device when the primary support cable becomes slack for any reason. (2) The extra weight of fire curtain safety chains helps the fire curtain accelerate at the start of its travel.

A fabric bag that can be filled with sand and attached to rope rigging as a counterbalance to the load hung from the set.

A curtain made from a semi-transparent material that looks solid when lit from the audience side and becomes almost invisible when back lit.

Section Drawing
A drawing that reveals an imaginary view obtained by making a cut through an object.

A pipe grid or batten that has an integral device for raising and lowering.

A system of cables, pulleys, lifting devices and battens that holds a specific set of scenic elements, curtains or lights.

A U-shaped device with holes at each end to accommodate a pin or bolt; used to connect a rope, cable, or chain to another device or a hanging point.

A component with a groove around its circumference to support and contain a rope or cable and a bearing at its center to permit rotation about a shaft.

Sight Line
The edge or line of view, of what can be seen on stage from the location of the audience.

Single Purchase
A rope or cable passing from a lifting device (arbor, winch, or person) over a block, or series of blocks, to a load is single purchased. Force must be exerted equal to the load to be held or raised.

Sky Drop
See 'Cyclorama.'

Smoke Pocket
A slot, usually of fabricated steel that supports a guide system at the edges of a fire safety curtain and that helps to prevent smoke passing around the edges of the curtain.

Smoke Seal
A fabric flap that mounts on the proscenium wall and contacts the fire curtain in order to form a barrier that reduces the passage of air and smoke between the stage and auditorium.

A platform on which performances are given.

Stage Curtains
See 'Curtains.'

Stage Draperies
See 'Curtains.'

Stage Drapery
See 'Curtains.'

Stage Fabrics
See 'Theatrical Fabrics.'

Stage Left/Right
The left and right sides of a stage as seen by an actor standing on stage facing the audience.

Stage Lift
A section of the stage floor that may be raised or lowered to different levels above and below the stage by some mechanical (typically motorized) means.

Static (Dead) Load
A load that does not change position or magnitude over time.

Straight Lift Curtain
A curtain that can be raised (opened) without folding in any way.

Structural Drawing
An engineering drawing that describes the size, location, and attachment details of the building structure.

Submittal Drawings
Drawings that are prepared by the equipment supplier or installer to describe the equipment and details of the installation to the client. Approval of the drawings by the client indicates his acceptance of the proposed equipment, locations, and conditions of the installation.

(1) A masking leg that is mounted at right angles to the front of the stage. (2) See 'Portal.'

A curtain that is drawn open by a line running through rings located diagonally across the rear of the curtain from the leading edge up to the top on the offstage edge.

Another name for a border curtain. It often refers to the first masking curtain on stage and is paired with the "Tormentor" legs.

Tie Lines
Small cotton lines used to attach drapes to battens.

T-Bar (T-Guide)
"T" shaped members placed in parallel rows to guide arbors or clews. Guides may consist of low friction slides or rollers.

Tension Block
See 'Floor Block.'

Theater Curtains
See 'Curtains.'

Theater Drapes
See 'Curtains.'

Theater Draperies
See 'Curtains.'

Theater Drapery
See 'Curtains.'

Theater Fabrics
See 'Theatrical Fabrics.'

Theatre Curtains
See 'Curtains.'

Theatre Drapes
See 'Curtains.'

Theatre Draperies
See 'Curtains.'

Theatre Drapery
See 'Curtains.'

Theatre Fabrics
See 'Theatrical Fabrics.'

Theatrical Curtains
See 'Curtains.'

Theatrical Drapes
See 'Curtains.'

Theatrical Draperies
See 'Curtains.'

Theatrical Drapery
See 'Curtains.'

Theatrical Fabrics
Any fabric utilized in a theater setting.

A grooved fitting around which a rope or cable is bent to form an eye. It supports the rope or cable and prevents kinking and wear.

Thrust Stage
A room with seats arranged on three sides around a performance space located against the fourth wall. This wall may be used for scenery, back drops, and acting space.

Another name for a leg curtain. These are the first masking legs located after the main curtain.

Track (Stage)
Metal structure, slotted or channeled, in which a curtain can be moved manually or by motorized means.

The path of moving stage equipment and the distance moved.

A curtain on a track that can be opened or closed to reveal or mask a portion of the stage.

(1) A load is "in trim" when the equipment load equals the counterbalancing weight. (2) A set or element is trimmed when it has been placed in the desired position within the performance area.

Trim Chain
A length of chain placed between a lift line and a pipe batten or scenic element to connect them and to facilitate minor height adjustment of the load.

Truss Batten
Two or more pipes or other linear members fabricated together with cross bracing in a trussed configuration. Used in place of a pipe batten for heavy loads or extended distances between lift lines.

Under Hung
Hung from the bottom of a beam or structure.

Up Stage
The portion of the stage that is furthest from the audience. See 'Raked Stage.'

United States Institute of Theater Technology

See 'Border Curtain.' Usually a special border associated with the 'Front Curtain.' May be permanently fixed within the proscenium arch.

A woven, napped material commonly used for stage draperies.

Venetian Curtain
A type of main act curtain that can be raised or lowered using vertical lift lines that are individually adjustable.

An entrance or exit through banked seating.

A geared mechanism, either hand operated or motorized, for use in raising (vertical) or moving (horizontal) equipment. The gearing produces a mechanical advantage in speed and load capacity.

The portion of the stage area located to either side of the acting area.

Wire Grid
An open floor that supports lights or provides access to theatrical equipment. It is formed of woven cables attached to, and supported by, a structural frame.

Wire Guide
Wires placed to control the location and travel of arbors, clews and curtains.

Wire Rope
A wire rope consists of a number of strands laid helically about a metallic or non-metallic core. Each strand consists of a number wires also laid helically about a center.

Working Load Limit (WLL)
See Recommended Working Load (RWL).


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