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Introduction to Theater Theater Arts


  • pg 1
                 for the Theater
1.    Theatrical Personnel
2.    Theater Architecture
3.    Theatrical Terms
4.    Theater Jargon
5.    Theater as a Profession
6.    Stage Directions
7.    Director’s Terms
8.    Theater: Literary Terms
9.    Theater: Styles and Genres in Western Theater
10.   Acting
11.   Dance/Movement
12.   Music
13.   Plays: From Script to Performance
14.   Acting and Literary Terms in Acting
15.   Speech
16.   Anatomical Terms Involving Vocal Performance
17.   Scenic Elements
18.   Basic Design Terminology
19.   Artistic Movements
20.   Color Wheel Terminology
21.   Color Definitions
22.   Color Relationships or Harmonies
23.   Elements of Art
24.   Principles of Design
25.   Vocabulary for Publicity
26.   Vocabulary for Props
27.   Vocabulary for Scenery
28.   Vocabulary for Makeup
29.   Vocabulary for Sound
30.   Vocabulary for Lighting
31.   Theater History Vocabulary: Greece
32.   Theater History Vocabulary: Musical Theater

Note: Every profession has its own jargon. Theater, being a profession, is no exception.
These definitions come from a wide variety of sources, but in particular the NTC’s
Dictionary of Theatre and Drama Terms by Jonnie Patricia Mobley, Ph.D, was used with
the most frequency. While this format is designed to educate, it cannot replace an actual
dictionary. I highly recommend this research book by NTC Publishing Group.
Theatrical Personnel

Company*                A troupe of performers and technicians who join together to
                        perform a show.
Producer                person who puts up the money for the show & sometimes
                        handles business for the show
Board of Directors      Group of people running the theater and therefore having
                        influence on the shows being produced
Artistic Director       person in charge of the artistic elements of the show
Production Manager      in charge of the overall activities of the theater
Director                In modern theater, 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 theater experience. In the very least, the
                        person who is in charge of leading and coordinating the cast
                        and crew and responsible for the outcome of the show itself
Playwright              author of the play
Stage Manager           The person who is in complete charge backstage during the
                        rehearsals and performances, he/she also calls cues during
                        the show and is therefore in charge of running the show
Assistant Director      person who helps the director
Actors                  people who perform
Business Manager        person in charge of the business side of the show/theater,
                        particularly money issues
Fundraiser              attempts to bring in money for the theater
Box Office Manager      Person in charge of ticket sales, reserving seats, ensuring the
                        show is not oversold, even online and phone ticket sales
                        although these are often subcontracted to a group like
Box Office Crew         persons who sell tickets
House Manager           Person who oversees the box office, supervises the ushers
                        and attends to the audience
Publicist               person who is in charge of publicity
Ushers                  persons who help seat audience members
Set Designer            person who designs the set
Lighting Designer       person who designs the lights
Sound Designer          person in charge of designing the sound
Costume Designer        person who designs the costumes
Makeup Designer         person who designs the make up
Technical Director      person in charge of all technical elements of show
Prop Master             person who builds & is in charge of props
Scene Shop Supervisor   person in charge of the scene shop
Set Construction Crew   people who build the set
Prop Crew               in charge of handling props during the show
Master Electrician      person in charge of hanging, focusing and gelling the lights
Lighting Crew               people who hang, focus and gel the lights
Sound Crew                  set up & run sound
Costume Crew                people who construct the costumes
Makeup Artist               person who applies the makeup
Stage Crew*                 group of people charged with running the show, moving set
                            pieces and other items.
Techies*                    Nickname for technical crew members
Assistant Designers *       people who assist designers through the creative process

Production team*            Heads of groups like designers and the director, producers may
                            attend, etc.
Design team*                group responsible for all visual & audible images, this is for the
Librettist*                 The writer of the text of a work (such as an opera or
Lyricist*                   The person who creates and writes the words or lyrics for
Composer*                   Person who writes the music or score for songs or musical
                            sequences in a show
Stage Combat/Fight          Person in charge of blocking and rehearsing the fight
Choreographer*              segments in a show. Segments could range from a slap in
                            the face to multi-person bar fight to sword play to martial
                            arts combat. They are also charged with the safety of those
Choreographer*              The person who designs the dance steps to be used in a
Dramaturg*                  One who researches and studies a play in order to explain it
                            to the actors, serve as an expert with regards to questions on
                            the text, characters, clothing, setting, time period, style of
                            acting, etc.

* indicates that this position is not included on your hierarchy chart.
Next is a copy of the Production Process. The previous vocabulary combined with the
following chart will help you to understand where people fit in to create a show.
Theater Architecture

Formal playing space       Areas designed for theatrical performances including
                           proscenium stage, arena stage, black box theater, thrust
                           stage, and stadium stage
Informal playing space     Acting/audience space that was designed for another
                           purpose. Productions in streets, bus terminals, gymnasiums,
                           parks, and the like are said to use informal playing spaces
Arena stage (also called   audience surrounds acting area
Black box theater          Flexible room for theater performances where the audience
                           seating and playing areas can be rearranged in any way that
                           suits the individual needs of the individual production. It is
                           traditionally painted black inside.
Thrust stage               type of stage that juts out past proscenium
Proscenium stage           Picture-frame acting area with all of the audience sitting and
                           facing the stage, looking through the proscenium arch
Proscenium arch            The picture frame through which the audience watches the
Apron (forestage)          Stage area in front of the main curtain
Raked stage                slanted stage floor
Stage house                whole area of performance including fly space, stage floor,
                           curtains, wings, etc.
Flies                      Area above stage where scenery is hung or stored by lines
                           from the grid
Grid                       Framework high over stage from which are supported
                           curtains, lighting and scenery rigging
Catwalk                    Metal bridge that allows crew to reach scenery or lights
Stage                      where actors do most of their performance
Trap Door or Trap          An opening in the floor of the stage used for appearance and
                           disappearance effects
Grand drape                luxurious fabric used as the furthest downstage curtain
Legs                       Vertically hung curtains used to mask the backstage area
                           from the audience
Borders                    Horizontally hung curtains used to mask the fly system and
                           stage lights from the audience
Traveler                   Curtain that covers the width of the stage and can be opened
Wings                      Offstage areas, right and/or left sides of the stage
Back wall                  structure separates stage from backstage area
Stage door / backstage     entrance for backstage, this is where only the cast, crew and
door                       staff of the show enter the theater
Backstage                  Stage area beyond the acting area where ―behind the scenes‖
                           activity takes place
Call board                 area where information is left for everyone
Dressing rooms             where actors get dressed
Green room                   rest/gathering area for actors, often used before a show and
                             during intermission
Prop table                   items used in the show are put on this to make it easy for the
                             actors to get to them
Scene shop                   area where scenery is built
Paint shop                   place where scenery or other items are painted
Costume shop                 area where costumes are being made
Prop shop                    where props are made
Light booth                  area where light is controlled
Sound booth                  place where sound is controlled
House                        Term used to describe the area of a theater where the
                             audience customarily sits
Orchestra pit or pit         Area immediately below the stage that is usually lower than
                             the auditorium level. Used primarily by the orchestra as it is
                             the area where musicians perform
Orchestra (this is not the   Another name for the House, the audience sits here close to
musicians)                   the stage, it is ground level
Balcony                      upper level for seating
Mezzanine                    a lower balcony for seating
Front of house               Lobby, box office, auditorium area of the theater, the public
Box office                   Place where admission tickets are sold; the power of a
                             performer to attract an audience

The following diagram will help you understand the layout of a typical theater. While all
theaters are different, you should be able to find many of the above terms in a theater.
Don’t forget to examine our theater and locate the architectural elements on the list with
the real thing!
Theatrical Terms

Legitimate theater            Straight drama, without songs, dances or music. The term
                              dates back to eighteenth-century English licensing laws
                              which covered only nonmusical shows. Hence, any show
                              licensed was ―legitimate.‖ In modern times the term has
                              come to mean stage shows distinct from films and
Premiere                      First time a show is being performed or first performance of
                              a show by a theater to the public
On book                       Someone who has a script and is following along to make
                              sure the show is flowing correctly
Cue                           Word, move or technical change which signals another word
                              move or technical change
Prompt book                   Contains script, blocking, notations, warnings, cues, crew
                              charts and other necessary information for producing the
Off book                      Actors have their lines and blocking memorized
Lines                         Dialog for a play
Tag line                      The last line in a scene or play
Production concept            The director’s vision used as an organizing principle for a
                              given production of a play; for example, setting
                              Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in the Roaring Twenties. It is
                              the idea which the show is built around.
Production process            The process in which all of the individual groups involved
                              in theater prepare and create a show
Season                        Shows chosen by a theater to perform over a period of time
Run                           (1) length of the stage engagement of a show at a theater (2)
                              actually performing a show or scene
Run through                   Rehearse scene without interruption
Glib                          Rehearsal where actors say their lines quickly; there are
                              many unique names for this type of rehearsal. Glibs can be
                              done for scenes that actors are having trouble with or they
                              can be done for entire acts or shows.
Tech week                     Week in which technical elements are added to rehearsal
Tech rehearsal                Rehearsal of for a show in which specific technical elements
                              are incorporated into the show. Example: Monday sound
                              will be rehearsed, Tuesday lights will be added, etc.
Dress rehearsal               Rehearsal incorporating costumes
Final dress rehearsal         Last rehearsal before opening the show
Rehearsal (versus practice)   Process of building and growing toward performance. In a
                              rehearsal an actor would evolve, in a practice an actor would
                              work to do a part the exact same way every time.
Dark                          time when the theater is not in use or when a show isn’t
Call                          Posted announcement or a pre-determined time for
                          rehearsal, often information is on call board
Quick study               One who can rapidly memorize a part.
Angel                     Financial backer of a show
Strike                    Removing an item; process of taking apart the show
Load in                   To place the set on the stage where the play is to be
To meet cute              The situation in a romantic comedy in which the principals
                          first encounter each other with clever stage business, witty
                          dialog or both. This device serves to make the principals
                          engaging to the audience.
Mise-en-scene             From French meaning ―action of putting on the stage.‖ It
                          refers to the total environment of a play—the sets, costumes,
                          blocking, visual effects, and props and the composition of
                          these elements. The term also refers to the ―look‖ of a play
                          at any given moment in a performance.
Suspension of disbelief   The audience’s willingness to accept the illusion and
                          conventions of a theater performance
Fourth Wall               Nineteenth century concept of a completely realistic
                          performance space that the audience looked into through a
                          removed or invisible wall

Theater Jargon

―Line‖                    What an actor says when he forgets a line, it is asking for a
                          prompt by someone on book so that the correct may be
―Pick up cues‖            Not allowing time/pauses between cues
Throw away                This happens when an actor under emphasizes a line or
―in the spotlight‖        Focus or attention is on the person ―in the spotlight‖
Stealing the scene        Taking audience attention away from the intended focus of
                          the scene
Upstaging                 When an actor is literally upstage of another actor, causing
                          the downstage actor to turn his back to the audience and
                          give total focus to the upstage actor
Ham                       An actor who overacts
Hokum                     A slang expression for gimmicks used by an actor to get a
                          response from the audience (think giving a cream pie in
Mugging                   Using exaggerated facial expressions as directed for comic
                          effect, out of a desire to upstage another actor, or because of
                          bad acting technique.
Star turn                 The drawing of undue attention by an actor to himself or
                          herself by various means such as vocal quality, facial
                          expressions, never making eye contact with other actors on
Feed line             A ―straight‖ actor sets up the joke for the ―comic‖ actor
Muff                  To say a line wrong, either by mixing up the words or
                      mispronouncing them.
Second banana         The stooge of the lead comic in a show, sometimes his
                      confidant, but always the butt of his jokes. The term derives
                      from an old burlesque routine about the distribution of a
                      bunch of bananas between the lead comic and his assistant.
The Heavy             The villain in the play
Bit part              Small role consisting of few lines and a brief appearance on
Spear carrier         Slang expression for an actor who appears on stage just to
                      fill out a crowd or procession. The term derives from grand
                      opera where such a character often carried a spear.
Actor proof           A play that is so well written and is impervious to all bad
                      acting is said to be ―actor proof‖
Annie Oakley          A complimentary ticket to a performance. Named so
                      because of the custom of punching a hole in the ticket to
                      imitate the effect achieved by the famed sharpshooter who
                      shot a hole through tickets in an exhibition.
Boards                The stage
Chew the scenery or   To overact, indulge in histrionics, flail about, gesture too
chewing scenery       broadly, or behave in an emotional manner, all out of
                      proportion to the content of the scene.
Goes up               Time when a show starts each evening, referring to when
                      the curtain goes up to start the show
Comes down            Refers to the time a show ends each evening and comes
                      from when the curtain comes down at the end of a show.
Drag                  When a man wears woman’s clothing for a part in a show
Pants part            A role in which an actress plays a male role
Dressing the stage    Decorating the set
Greek it              To use fake lettering in scenic design
Hit your mark         A direction for an actor to go to a certain place onstage and
                      deliver a line, make an entrance or perform some stage
In the moment         Living the actions and words of a scene and not anticipating
                      what comes next
Holding for laughs    When actors wait for the audience’s laughter to diminish in
                      order to continue with their lines
―Break a Leg‖         Phrase used to wish theater people ―good luck‖ since good
                      luck is bad luck in theater tradition. This comes from the
                      superstition that if someone wished ―good luck‖ the
                      perverse gods would send bad luck so by wishing bad luck
                      the gods would be tricked into sending an actor good luck
―Places‖              Warning for actors to assume their positions to begin
George Spelvin            A false name used in the play program to conceal from the
                          audience that an actor is playing two roles. It is thought to
                          have been used first in the 1907 production of Brewster’s
                          Millions by Winchell Smith and Frederick Thompson. A
                          director wishing to remain unknown uses Alan Smithee in
                          the program listing.
The ghost walks           A term used by actors for payday. In Shakespeare’s time,
                          the actor playing the Ghost in Hamlet was also the stage
                          manager who delivered the pay to each actor in the cast.
                          Thus, when it was payday, the ghost walked among them.

Theater as a Profession

Head shot                 A black and white photo of the head and shoulders of an
                          actor used in the audition process
Resume                    A short account of a person’s education, career and
                          qualifications prepared by the applicant for a position; in the
                          theater, an 8‖x10‖ black and white head shot photograph is
                          part of the resume
Portfolio                 A place (usually a large folder) where writing and designs
                          are stored for future reference and review or to present for
Audition                  The tryout process of acting, singing and dancing for
                          performers to apply for a role or a part in a particular
                          production or with a company.
Cold reading              An audition where the actor must read from a script without
                          any preparation. Many directors prefer this to a prepared
                          reading, feeling that they able to see more of the actor’s
                          potential and range.
Pre-cast                  To cast certain roles in a production before the auditions are
Callback                  When a select group of actors who auditioned are asked
                          back for a more in-depth process of choosing the cast or
                          company members for a particular show
Summer stock              Theaters that limit performances of shows to the summer
                          months, producing a series of plays often a different one
                          every few weeks
Outdoor drama             Performances in outdoor theaters/amphitheaters
Dinner Theater            A meal and a performance
Educational or academic   A theater that is connected with a school and having
theater                   educational rather than commercial goals.
Repertory company         A theater group that performs the plays in the season’s
                          repertoire, with members taking large parts in some plays
                          and small parts in others.
Straw hat circuit         Summer theaters around the country that book equity
                           companies of hit shows to play for a week or two
Street theater             Performances in the open, usually by groups expressing the
                           concerns of the area or general social problems
Studio theater             A small theater, usually seating no more than fifty, used for
                           workshop productions, experimental plays, or rehearsal
                           when the main stage is unavailable.
Broadway                   Commercial theater productions performed in the theater
                           district in New York City
Off Broadway               Commercial theater productions away from the central
                           theater district in New York City. It refers to both plays and
Off-Off Broadway           Because many playwrights and producers felt that Off
                           Broadway was becoming too expensive and conventional,
                           they found places to perform their pieces away from Off
                           Broadway venues
Regional theater           Also called resident theater. A professional or non-profit
                           theater located away from such major theater centers as
                           Broadway. A few major regional theaters include the
                           Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis and the Goodman Theatre
                           in Chicago
West End                   The London equivalent of New York City’s theater district
Actor’s Equity             This is a union and is the professional stage actor’s
                           association in the United States that regulates actor’s
                           salaries, working conditions and terms of employment.
Equity waiver              Permission from Actor’s Equity to perform in a non-Equity
Actor’s Studio             Acting workshop founded in New York City in the 1940s.
                           Lee Strasberg was the artistic director for many years and it
                           became famous for promoting Strasberg’s version of The
                           Method. Famous graduates like Marlon Brando cemented
                           its fame and it is now a popular television series
                           interviewing stars with host John Lipton.
American College Theatre   An annual competition of college and university productions
Festival                   that begins in local areas and advances to state, regional and
                           national festivals. Sponsored by the American Theatre
                           Association, the festival names the best production of the
                           year and gives awards for acting, writing and designing.
American Theater Wing      The organization that conducts the Tony Awards. It began
                           as a group running canteens for service personnel during
                           World War II. It is now active in educational projects, gives
                           awards and performs in hospitals.
Antoinette Perry Awards    Popularly called the Tonys or Tony Awards, these mounted
                           silver medallions depicting the masks of comedy and
                           tragedy are awarded each year for the best work in such
                           areas as acting, writing and design in New York theater.
                           The award is named to honor Antoinette Perry, an actor,
                             director and theater activist of the 1930s and 40s. The first
                             Tonys were given in 1947,
Olivier Awards               The British equivalent of the Tonys. Name for Sir Laurence
                             Olivier, English actor, director and producer.
Pulitzer Prize               One of several literary prizes awarded according to the will
                             of Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911). In drama the prize is given
                             to the ―best American play performed in New York.‖ It
                             generally shows the power and educational value of theater.
Cabaret                      A nightclub that features song and dance and comedy acts
                             while patrons dine and drink. It can also refer to the
                             entertainment offered.
Variety                      A weekly journal that details the news of show business
Poetics                      Aristotle’s treatise on the nature of art.

Stage Directions

Stage directions             Written description of movement on stage
Upstage (US)                 Area of the stage furthest away from the audience, toward
                             the back wall in a proscenium stage theater
Downstage (DS)               Area of the stage closest to the audience
Stage Right (SR)             The actor’s right side as he faces the audience
Stage Left (SL)              The actor’s left side as he faces the audience
Center or Centerstage (C     Literally, the space at the very center of the stage
or CS)
Upstage Right (UR)           Point far from audience and to the actor’s right, near the
                             stage’s back wall and the SR wing
Upstage Left (UL)            Point far from audience and to the actor’s left, near the
                             stage’s back wall and the SL wing
Upstage Center               Point far from audience and in the center of the center of the
                             stage, near the stage’s back wall
Downstage Right (DR)         Point close to audience and to the actor’s right of center
Downstage Left (DL)          Point close to audience and to the actor’s left of center
Downstage Center (DSC)       Center area of the stage closest to the audience
North (N), South (S), East   Directions used in theater-in-the-round, director and actors
(E), West (W), Northeast     have to pick an area to be N and then every direction falls
(NE), Southeast (SE),        into place clockwise, just like directions on a compass
Southwest (SW),
Northwest (NW)
Exit                         Direction for an actor to leave the stage. Opposite ―enter‖
Enter                        Direction for an actor to come onto the stage. Opposite
Above                        Upstage of someone or something
Below                        Downstage of someone or something
Out-front                    Audience area
Off stage      When an actor is out of sight of the audience
On stage       When an actor is in sight of the audience

Director’s Terms

Table work               Time spent with director and cast, often around a table,
                         reading the script, talking about character and developing
                         the approach to the show
Blocking                 Movement given to actor by the director
Gesture                  Use of hands and arms by an actor, created by the actor
Gimmick                  A device, a bit of stage business, catch phrase, vocal quirk,
                         etc. to hold the audience’s attention
Stage business           Action created by actors to create sense of reality on stage.
                         Example: whittling, knitting, smoking, washing dishes,
                         folding laundry
Shtick, shtik            A piece of stage business, usually designed for a quick and
                         easy laugh
Movement                 Stage blocking or the movements of the actors onstage as
                         the play progresses. Movement conveys meaning—agitated
                         pacing, eager running, etc. The term also refers to the
                         action of the play as it advances from event to event.
Directing                Molding all aspects of production—the acting, scenery,
                         costumes, makeup, lighting—into a unified whole
Director’s concept       Central idea, metaphor that forms the basis for all artistic
                         choices in a production
Director’s notes         Comments and criticism by the director presented to the cast
                         after the performance
Subtext                  Character interpretations that are not in a script but are
                         supplied by an actor; this can be the same or different from
                         the subtext of the play itself
Counter, countering or   Small move made in the direction opposite a move made by
counter-cross            another actor, done to balance stage composition and
Focus                    Directing attention toward a specific thing or event so that
                         the audiences takes note (can be done with through action,
                         lighting, sound, etc.)
Clear stage              Warning for everyone who is not in the next scene to leave
                         the acting area
Cover                    To hide an actor, property or some business from the
                         audience’s view whether intentionally or not
Cross                    An actor’s move from one part of the stage to another
Cheat out                To turn towards the audience while appearing to focus on
                         another player onstage in order to be seen better
Open up                  To play toward the audience
Critique                 Evaluation and suggestions
Cut                      (1) to delete (2) a command to stop action and dialogue
Kill                     Eliminate. Example, ―Kill the house lights‖
Dress the stage          Keeping the stage picture balanced
Ensemble playing         A cast works together to create an artistic whole rather than
                      stressing individual players
Brighten              A direction to an actor to read the line with more liveliness
Byplay                An action that takes place to the side while the main action
                      of the play goes on. The byplay catches the attention of the
                      audience but does not completely distract from the main
Tableau               A grouping of silent, motionless actors representing an
                      incident and presenting an artistic spectacle. The tableau
                      may conclude an act or a series of tableaux may create a
                      pageant of expressions.
Verisimilitude        Creating the impression of reality in the mind of the
                      audience so that it will accept the characters and actions as
                      true to life.
Picture               The general look of the set as seen from an average seat in
                      the house
Take direction        An actor’s ability to do what a director wants
Timing                The pace at which lines, cues or the flow of the show
                      moves, it is similar to tempo
Casting               Selecting the actors to play the characters in show. An
                      audition would be the actual trying out for the roles.
Typecasting           The casting of roles in a play by choosing actors who most
                      closely resemble the physical and personality descriptions of
                      the characters.
Understudy            An actor who is cast as one role but is also cast as the
                      backup for another.
Double casting        The practice of casting two actors or sets of actors who then
                      alternate in performances of the role
Implicit directions   Stage directions implied in the lines of the play
Line reading          The manner in which an actor delivers a line. A director
                      may ask for a specific type of line reading or demonstrate
                      how he/she wishes the line to be read.
Make it larger        A direction to the actor to make the delivery of a line less
                      subtle and more energetic
Pace                  The speed with which a play is performed.
Theater: Literary Terms

Aesthetics          Study of the nature of beauty
Aesthetic           A physical or psychological separation between the audience and the
distance            action of a play. Such separation is necessary to maintain the artistic
                    illusion of the performance. Participatory theater attempts to
                    eliminate this distance.
Criticism           Verbalized responses to the play or script that is meant to enrich the
                    experience for others
Plot                The series of related events that take place in a play.
Introduction or     Events at the start of the show, usually providing information that
opening situation   will help the audience understand what is going on or hook their
Point of attack     The moment in a play at which the main action of the plot begins.
Initial incident    The first, most important event in a play from which the rest of the
                    plot develops
Rising Action or    The series of events following the initial incident and usually build in
Complications       interest toward the climax
Turning Point       The moment in a play when events can go either way; the moment of
                    decision; the crisis
Climax              The point of highest intensity in the action of the play
Denouement or       The unknotting of the event in the play, takes place after climax,
Resolution or       helping to resolve the climax
Falling Action
Conclusion          The last main division of a play; the final result or outcome of the
Oratorical          Historical acting style characterized by a very formal speech
Text                Script, dialogue
Subplot             A second plot subsidiary to the main one in a play.
Subtext             The thoughts, feelings, and reactions implied but never state in the
                    dialog of a play.
Symbol              An object or event used in literature to expand on meaning; also, the
                    use of characters, props and sets to exemplify ideas such as a raven
                    signifying death.
Metaphor            A figure of speech describing something by speaking of it as if it
                    were something else, without using such terms as ―like‖ or ―as‖ to
                    signal relationship. To say ―the dinner was a symphony of flavors‖ is
                    to speak metaphorically.
Anachronism         A person or thing that is out of place chronologically
Archetypal          A character who represents a large group of people sharing the same
character           dreams, goals, etc. An archetypal character grows and changes,
                    unlike a stock character, and by the end of the show they are not the
                    same people as they were at the beginning.
Stock character     A character who is static, two-dimensional and who merely fills out
or static           the cast and elicits a predictable response, not changing in the play
Stock situation   A situation recurring frequently in drama: mistaken identity, rags-to-
                  riches, etc.
Unities           Three principles of dramatic structure required in a play—unity of
                  time, unity of action and unity of place.
Motif              A recurrent character, incident or concept
Irony             Acknowledgement of the difference between reality and appearance
Dramatic irony    Form of irony when the audience knows something in the play that
                  the character does not
Epigram           A short, polished, witty, often satirical comment
Prologue          A speech made to start a play
Epilogue          A speech made to conclude a play
Monologue         A speech by one person
Dialogue          A conversation with two or more people
Soliloquy         A speech in which an actor, usually alone on stage, speaks his or her
                  thoughts aloud.
Stichomythia      Rapidly delivered dialog in which the characters speak alternate lines.
                  The effect is that each character finishes the other’s thoughts.
Foil              A character in a play so different from another in character that
                  he/she highlights the other by contrast
Motivation        The reason a character does something
Obstacle          A character or situation in a play that creates conflict that delays or
                  prevents another character from achieving an objective.
Reversal          A plot reversal when an action produces the opposite of what was
                  desired or expected.
Play-within-a-    A brief play presented during the action of another play.
Playwright’s      Lines in a play that express the author’s feelings on a subject. Also
voice             called playwright’s words.

Theater: Styles and Genres in Western Theater

Drama             A literary composition performed on stage; a play
Genre             A category of plays, for example a comedy, tragedy, melodrama, or
Styles            The way in which a play is written, acted and produced
Tragedy           A play in which the protagonist fails to achieve desired goals or is
                  overcome by opposing forces.
Comedy            A play that deals with treating characters and situations in a
                  humorous way.
High comedy       Intellectual humor
Low comedy        Physical humor
Farce             French for ―to stuff’, it is an extreme form of comedy depending on
                  quick tempo and flawless timing so that the audience does not have
                  time to think about the far-fetched events. It dates back to satyr plays
                   in Greece
Parody             The mockery of a writing style by an exaggerated imitation of its
                   predominant characteristics.
Satire             A type of comedy that uses wit, irony and exaggeration to expose
                   individual and institutional folly, vice and stupidity. Satire aims at
                   directly or indirectly correcting such abuses.
One act play       A short play, running from 15 minutes to an hour. It is performed
                   without intermission.
One man show       A performance by a single actor
or one woman
Participatory      A type of play in which the audience is involved in the performance.
Performance art    A presentation, more often solo than group and highly personal in
                   nature, enhanced by music or art created or finished during the
                   performance. Also created could be slides, films, props sound effects,
Period piece       A play from an earlier time, played in the style, costumes, and sets
                   representing the period it depicts.
Play of ideas      A play in which the main issue or problem is an intellectual one, such
                   as class conflict, morality of war.
Pastoral play      A show set in the country idealizing rustic life.
Problem play       Any play dealing with problems
Propaganda play    A play dealing with a political or social issue and proposing a
Revenge play       Any play about bloody retribution
Punch and Judy     A hand-puppet show, usually given in a park or fair, operated by one
Show               person in a booth the top half of which is the stage. Punch and Judy
                   are married and quarrel constantly. The violence and dysfunction is
                   meant to entertain rather than scare.
Reader’s theater   A performance at which a play is read aloud for an audience rather
                   than truly acted. In reader’s theater the actors may dress alike or may
                   dress in costume; they may sit on stools or stand at lecterns or walk
                   about the stage. The play script is usually held in a folder and,
                   although the play has been rehearsed and the actors are familiar with
                   the lines, there is no attempt to pretend they are not reading.
Revue              A production featuring a collection of songs, dances or sketches.
Showcase           A presentation designed to show off the ability of a particular actor or
                   group of actors.
Revival            A play performed sometime after its original production. To be a true
                   revival, the production should be a faithful recreation of the original;
                   otherwise, it should be called an adaptation or a new version.
Classical          Period of Greek drama and theater; refers to Greek and Roman drama
                   and theater in general
Mystery play       A type of medieval drama concerned with biblical themes, especially
                   events connected with the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus
Miracle play     A type of medieval drama that depicted some miraculous event from
                 the life of a saint.
Morality play    A dramatized allegory developed in fifteenth-century England, in
                 which the vices and virtues are personified as they battle for a human
Passion play     The German equivalent of the English mystery play.
Neoclassicism    Drama imitative of Greek and Roman classical models.
Melodrama        Drama originating in nineteenth-century England that relies heavily
                 on sensationalism and sentimentality.
Romanticism      A nineteenth-century tendency toward florid staging of the grand
                 passions of larger-than-life characters.
Realism          An attempt in theater to represent everyday life and people as they are
                 or appear to be, through careful attention to detail in motivation of
                 characters, costuming, setting, and dialogue.
Naturalism       A form of realism that dispenses with theatrical conventions in order
                 to present a ―slice of life.‖ Absolute detail is seen in everything as
                 the attempt is produce reality. Naturalism is real life on stage where
                 Realism represents real life on stage.
Theatricalism    A reaction to realism of the early 1900s, it asserted that theater is not
                 life bur merely carefully selected and arranged details of the
                 playwright’s, director’s and actor’s vision of life
Theater of the   A form of theater in which language becomes the unconventional,
Absurd           and in which political and social problems are examined and
                 presented to the audience in unconventional ways.
Avant-garde      Abstract approaches to theater; modern movements in theater
Vaudeville       Light entertainment consisting of ten to fifteen individual acts like
                 singing, dancing, acrobatics, comic skits, animal performers, etc., all
                 unrelated in one show. The movement ended with the introduction of
                 sound in motion pictures.


Empathy          The act of the audience identifying with the characters in the play
Sympathy         An audience’s identification with a character so that it trembles when
                 he or she is afraid and rejoices when he or she is happy
Ensemble         The type of acting in which a group of actors really has to perform as
playing          a team instead of individual performances for the total effect of the
                 show to be realized
Mime             From the Greek word mimos meaning ―representation.‖ It is generally
                 taken to mean acting without words. It is also an actor who only
Pantomime        The art of acting without words
Objective        The goal a character has in a particular scene or throughout a play
Openers            The characters who are onstage at, or shortly after, the beginning of
                   the play
Chorus             In Greek drama of the fifth century BC, a group of actors who sang,
                   chanted, spoke, and moved usually in unison
Principals         Leading roles in a show
Persona            The character an actor assumes in a play.
Presentational     A style of performance in which the actors recognize and address the
Representational   A style in which actors observe the convention of the fourth wall,
                   actors do not address or mingle with the audience.
Prior life         A presumed life of a character before his/her appearance in the play.
Raison d’etre      French, meaning ―reason for being.‖ In a play it is the reason behind
                   a character’s words and actions.
Sense memory       An actor’s device for summoning up emotion by recalling a previous
                   real-life event
Relation to        An establishment of relationships in a play so that actors who play
characters         characters connected by blood, marriage, friendship, or conflict will
                   act as though they have been involved in actual relationships and will
                   not give the impression they just met in rehearsal.
Relation to        An establishment of relationships in a play so that actors using certain
objects            objects or wearing certain clothes will act as if these items are really
                   theirs and not as if they saw the objects or garments for the first time
                   in rehearsal.
Repertoire         All the parts an actor has played, or all the plays he or she is familiar
                   with. Also, the plays in production by a company in a single season,
                   or the plays the company knows well enough to present on short
Off book           When an actor knows the lines from a show and does not need to
                   refer to the script
On book            When someone is following along in the script during a rehearsal or
                   show and is able to give the lines to the actors
Run lines          To recite the lines of a play without the accompanying blocking or
                   stage business. This is often done to help actors get off book


  Turnout bent, bending. A bending of the knee or knees. This is an exercise to render
           the joints and muscles soft and pliable and the tendons flexible and elastic,
           and to develop a sense of balance.
      Plié the ability of the dancer to turn his or her feet and legs out from the hip
           joints to a 90-degree position.
 Demi Plié half-bend of the knees. All steps of elevation begin and end with a demi-
  Rond de round of the leg, that is, a circular movement of the leg.
    Port de carriage of the arms. The term port de bras has two meanings: (1) A
       Bras movement or series of movements made by passing the arm or arms
            through various positions. The passage of the arms from one position to
            another constitutes a port de bras. (2) A term for a group of exercises
            designed to make the arms move gracefully and harmonious.
  Pirouette whirl or spin. A complete turn of the body on one foot, on point or demi-
            pointe. Pirouettes are performed en dedans turning inward toward the
            supporting leg, or en dehors, turning outward in the direction of the raised
        Pas step. A simple step or a compound movement, which involves a transfer of
            weight. Example: pas de bourree.
Grande Jete (run and leap) large jete. In this step the legs are thrown to 90 degrees with
            a corresponding high jump.
 Grapevine a ballroom movement that has been adapted to all forms of dance, and
            consists of walking to the side.
    Neutral enables dancer to move in any direction from a state of rest. The
   Position performer’s body is aligned, shoulders over knees, arms at rest, head/chin
            aligned forward.
     Dance The leader of the dancers who usually is responsible for teaching steps
    Captain after the choreographer has demonstrated them
Terpsichore One of the nine Olympian muses, Terpsichore is the patron of dancing.
            The art of dancing is sometimes called Terpsichore.


     Cut-off an indication by a conductor to end a musical phrase.
Syncopation a temporary displacement of the regular metrical accent in music caused
             typically by stressing the weak beat.
        Beat a constant and repeated pulse in music.
     Tempo the rate of speed of a musical piece or passage indicated by one of a series
             of directions (as largo, presto, or allegro) and often by an exact
             metronome marking.
 Crescendo a gradual increase; specifically: a gradual increase in volume of a musical
Decrescendo a gradual decrease.
    Staccato marked by short clear-cut playing or singing of tones or chords.
     Legato in a manner that is smooth and connected (as between successive tones) –
             used especially as a direction in music.
       Piano at a soft volume; also an instrument used as a direction in music.
       Forte fullest volume.
Mezzo Forte medium volume.
   Harmony the combination of simultaneous musical notes in a chord.
    Register the area in which the melody of a song is sounded either on an instrument
  (High and or in the voice.
      Score the notation of a piece of music showing all instrumental and vocal parts.
     Lyrics the words of a song.
    Libretto From the Italian meaning ―little book,‖ it refers to the dialog between the
             songs in a musical show. The writer of this portion is credited after the
             words ―book by.‖
      Opera All words are sung, not spoken
    Operetta A type of theater with music, song and dance, but unlike opera, it has
             spoken dialogue

Plays: From Script to Performance

Script               Printed copy of the play, sometimes referred to as the book
Structure            The overall framework or organization of the dramatic material
Plot                 The series of related events that take place in a play.
Introduction or      Events at the start of the show, usually providing information that
opening situation    will help the audience understand what is going on or hook their
Point of attack      The moment in a play at which the main action of the plot begins.
Initial incident     The first, most important event in a play from which the rest of the
                     plot develops
Rising Action or     The series of events following the initial incident and usually build
Complications        in interest toward the climax
Turning Point        The moment in a play when events can go either way; the moment
                     of decision; the crisis
Climax               The point of highest intensity in the action of the play
Denouement or        The unknotting of the event in the play, takes place after climax,
Resolution or        helping to resolve the climax
Falling Action
Conclusion           The last main division of a play; the final result or outcome of the
Antagonist           Either of two opponents in conflict, or the character who opposes
                     the protagonist.
Protagonist          The main character in a play
Action               That which happens physically in a play and involves a distinct
                     beginning, middle and end.
Conflict             Struggle between two opposing forces which gives rise to dramatic
Crisis               Moment of decision for the leading character; the highest point of
Theme                Basic idea of the play that gives unity to all elements
Central action       The series of events presented in a play. What Aristotle called
                     simply the action or the general movement of the plot.
Complication         An incident that further tangles the plot.
Comic relief         Comedic bits inserted in a tragedy to help break the tension
Schmaltz            Sentimental material or sentimental treatment of material
Repertory           A group of plays presented in rotation over a period of time
Mainstage           In a theater complex with more than one performance space, it is
production          the production on the largest stage. In academic settings, it is the
                    major production of the school term, as apposed to workshop
                    productions or student-written plays.
Canon               The entire body of work by a given playwright.
Closet drama        A play meant to be read but not performed.
Royalty             Money paid to an author for permission to stage his or her play
Copyright           The playwright’s legal ownership and control over production of
                    his or her play in public, and over reproduction in print of whole or
                    huge portions of the script. After seventy-five years, most works
                    are in the public domain and can be printed or performed by anyone
                    without the permission of the author.

Acting and Literary Terms in Acting

Acting Convention   A way of doing things agreed on by an unstated contract between
                    audience and artists
Affective memory    An actor’s technique of recreating an emotion on stage by recalling
                    an equivalent experience in his or her life
Aside               Thoughts of a character delivered directly to the audience with the
                    other characters on stage unable to hear what is being said.
Audition            Competitive tryout for a performer seeking a role in a theater
                    production. The process may include interviews, ―cold‖ readings
                    from the script, the presentation of a prepared audition piece,
                    improvisations, or any combination of these.
Character           Participant in the play whose qualities and traits arise from ethical
                    deliberation. ―People‖ in a play.
Characterizations   Putting together all facets of a character to make that character a
                    living, convincing human being
Dialect             Regional or ethnic speech, sometimes necessary for an actor in a
                    particular role
Dialogue            The lines of a play spoken by characters.
Ensemble            The dynamic interaction and harmonious blending of the efforts of
                    the many artists involved in the dramatic activity of theatrical
Foil                One that, by strong contrast, underscores the distinctive
                    characteristics of another and sometimes prevents someone or
                    something from being successful
Improvisation       The impromptu portrayal of a character or scene without any
                    rehearsal or preparation or script
Improvisational     The actor is assigned a character and given a brief description of a
                    situation to perform with no preparation
Ad-lib              To improvise something—dialogue, stage business—not given
                      specifically in the script. While often done in emergencies, a
                      playwright may choose to indicate business with it (example:
                      ―crowd ad-libs amazement‖)
The Method            Acting style characterized by a variety of techniques to simulate
Soliloquy             Speeches delivered by actors alone on a stage that reveal the
                      character’s innermost thoughts aloud.
Catharsis             Emotional purging or an uplifting release that the audience feels
                      during a performance, particularly at the end of a tragedy
Empathy               Emotional feedback between performer and audience
Ingenue               Young, attractive, innocent female lead in a play, generally the
                      romantic interest, also and actress who plays such parts
Juvenile              The male counterpart to the ingénue and her partner in the romantic
                      plot, also an actor who plays such parts
Leading man/lady      The principle characters in a play, generally older than the ingénue
                      and juvenile, but also attractive and part of the romantic part. In
                      musicals, they are often the singers rather than the dancers
Subtext               Implied thoughts not stated in the dialogue but motivating the
                      speech or action
Timing                To give lines and movements at the exact effective moment
Understudy            Actor who is able to play a given role in an emergency
Character role        A major role in a play, but not one of the romantic leads. Often
                      used to mean a character unlike the actor playing the role in terms
                      of age, voice, or physical characteristics. Also used for elderly and
                      funny characters. Example, Lady Bracknell in The Importance of
                      Being Earnest.
Choices               The decisions of the actor or director as to the way a character in a
                      play will be interpreted in a given production. Most directors prefer
                      to let actors explore their choices before deciding on what will best
                      serve the show.
Tension               The state of anxiety induced in the audience by the threat of danger
                      to a character in a play
Tempo                 The pace of a scene or play.
Direct address        Speech delivered straight to the audience
Dynamic character     A character that grows and changes in the course of the show
Narrator              A character outside the action of a play who explains or comments
                      on events.
Stage Directions      Notes added to the script of a play, generally in italics or
                      parentheses, that provide line readings, business, blocking, or
                      directions for effects.


Articulation     Is the shaping of speech sounds into recognizable oral symbols that go
                 together to make up a word. It is also speaking distinctly.
Enunciation      Is to speak or pronounce words clearly
Pronunciation Is to precisely speak the sounds that make up the words.
Diction       Proper pronunciation, clarity and formation of words
Projection    The act of controlling volume, clarity and distinctness of a voice to gain
              greater audibility for an audience
Build         Increase of vocal intensity toward a climatic point
Topping       To exceed the tempo and pitch of the previous speech
Pitch         The highness or lowness of the sound you make
Key           Average pitch at which you speak
Optimum       The pitch at which you speak with the least strain and with the very best
Pitch         resonance
Melody        In speech, a melody refers to the variations in pitch that help give
              expression to a person’s voice
Monotone      A melody pattern that consists of only one tone
Range         Is the spread between the lowest and the highest notes you can speak
Inflection    Variety in vocal pitch; modulation
Volume        The strength, force, loudness or intensity with which sound is made
Rate          Is the speed at which you talk
Quality       The tone of your voice; it is what makes your voice recognizable to
              others; tones can be nasal, breathy, harsh, hoarse
Nasality      A tone characterized by too much nasal resonance of all vocal sounds
Breathiness   A tone resulting in too much unvoiced air escaping through the vocal
              folds as a person is speaking
Harshness     A tone characterized by an unpleasant, grating sound that may also be
              hard or metallic, caused by tension in the larynx area
Hoarseness    A tone characterized by a thickness of sound or a muffled or rasping
              sound, usually brought on by excessive tension in the larynx area
Message       Ideas and feelings that make up the content of the communication
Sender        Person who sends a verbal and/or nonverbal message
Receiver      Person who receives a verbal and/or nonverbal message
Feedback      Return message that is either verbal and/or nonverbal
Verbal        In communication this refers to words
Nonverbal     In communication this refers to gestures, facial expressions, even
              laughter, clapping, hissing, whistling, etc.
Resonance     Referring to sound, it is the reinforcement produced by vibration.
Resonators    In the human body are bones in the chest , neck and head as well as the
              cavities of the throat, nose and mouth
Articulators  In the human body are the lips, the teeth, the tongue, and the hard and
              soft palates
Vocalization Is affected by four aspects: pitch, volume, rate and quality
(or how you
Anatomical Terms Involving Vocal Performance

Cavity                A partially enclosed area
Nasal cavity          The nose
Soft palate           In the back of the mouth, it is connected to the hard palate and it
                      is where the nasal cavity and oral cavity merge
Hard palate           Roof of mouth
Tongue                Articulator, large muscle inside the mouth
Lips                  Articulators at the opening of the mouth
Teeth                 Articulators in the mouth
Oral cavity           The mouth
Pharynx               Where the nasal and oral cavities meet
Pharyngeal cavity     The throat
Epiglottis            Flap that prevents food from going down trachea
Esophagus             Passage for food to go to stomach
Vocal folds (vocal    Muscles that make up the larynx, they are the primary generators
cords)                of sound
Larynx (voice box)    In the throat, this houses the vocal folds
Trachea (wind pipe)   In the throat, this is connected to the voice box and allows air to
                      pass into the lungs
Pharyngeal cavity     The throat
Lung                  Organ that receives air, transferring the oxygen into the blood
                      stream and expelling carbon dioxide
Diaphragm             A dome-shaped muscle at the base of the lungs
Inhalation            The taking in of air into the lungs
Exhalation            The forcing of air out of the lungs
Respiration Cycle     The respiration cycle is how we breath. When the diaphragm
                      contracts, air is drawn through the mouth and nose, down the
                      throat and into the lungs. When the diaphragm relaxes, air in the
                      lungs is pushed back up through the throat (the trachea and
                      larynx) and out the mouth or nose
Vowel Sounds          Are formed when the oral cavity and the shape of its opening
                      change in size
Consonant Sounds      Are formed in three ways: by moving the tongue to various parts
                      of the mouth; by pointing, arching, or flattening the tongue; and
                      by moving and shaping the lips
Scenic Elements

Batten            Horizontal pipe suspended over the stage from which
                  scenery, lights and curtains are hung
Backdrop          Pieces of scenery that are hung on a batten and often ―fly‖
                  in and out; often painted curtains, without fullness, but can
                  also be full wall units with doors and/or windows.
Borders           Curtains or cutouts suspended at intervals behind the
                  proscenium arch to mask the overhead rigging.
Cyclorama (cyc)   White or blue tautly stretched canvas drop or plaster dome
                  across the back wall of the stage that, when lit, simulates the
Drapery                   Hangings of cloth arranged in folds, especially when hung
                          as curtains
Drop                      Large piece of canvas, usually painted with a scene and
                          serving as a background to the action
Scrim                     Scenery fabric that becomes transparent when lit from
                          behind, opaque when lit from the front; used for
                          transformations, misty effects, etc.
Teasers (borders)         Curtain hanging above and across the stage just upstage of
                          the house curtain and downstage of the tormentors, used to
                          mask the flies and adjust the height of the stage opening.
Tormentors (legs)         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.
Traveler                  Curtain that covers the width of the stage and can be opened
Flat                      Vertical set piece that is often used as an interior or exterior
                          wall of a building in a stage setting
Platform                  Horizontal set piece that is used to create levels that can be
                          acted upon
Special effects           Technical effect—usually spectacular found in a play,
                          television program, or film. Can vary from the relatively
                          simple gunshot to a vast flood or thermonuclear war. The
                          more elaborate special effects may be beyond the capacity
                          of most theater technicians: in this case, a specialist—a
                          special effects artist—may be employed.
Scenery                   Pieces such as drops, flats or platforms used to create a
                          play’s setting
Unit Set                  An arrangement of scenery in which some or all of the
                          pieces can be used in different combinations for different
Multiple setting          More than one setting on the stage at the same time
Deck                      Stage floor
Décor                     The ―look‖ of the play
Detail scenery            Small, easily changed pieces of scenery in a larger formal
                          setting (for example, a desk is brought in to suggest a study
                          and a table is brought in to suggest a dining room, but the
                          background does not change for either scene)
Mixed-media performance   A show that mixes live entertainment with recorded
or multimedia             performances such as slides, video, clips from films,
performance               recorded music
Revolve                   A revolving stage.
Basic Design Terminology

Elevation            A flat scale drawing of the front, rear, or side of a set or set piece,
                     as distinguished from a ground plan.
Floor plan or        Top view of a set showing the setting arrangement
ground plan
Perspective          Method used to create the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional
                     surface; perspective is created by overlapping, size variations,
                     placement, detail, color and converging lines.
Rendering            Designer’s finished drawings or paintings intended to show how the
                     item(s) will look when completed.
Working drawing      Designer’s floor plans and elevations intended to be used to guide
Abstract             A type of art derived from realism but deviating in appearance,
                     leaving only the basic essentials such as shapes, lines, colors, and
                     textures relating to the actual objects
Asymmetrical         A type of visual balance in which the two sides of a composition
                     are different yet still considered to be balanced
Background           The part of the picture plane that appears to be farthest from the
Balance              A principle of design that deals with the appearance of stability or
                     the equalization of elements in a work of art. An artwork that is
                     balanced seems to have equal visual weight or interest in all areas.
                     The two types of balance are symmetrical and asymmetrical.
Chiaroscuro          An Italian word for light and shadow, it is a manner of creating
                     light and shade in drawing and painting, giving the illusion of three-
                     dimensional form in two-dimensional space
Composition          The combining of distinct parts or elements to form whole
Contour              The outline of a figure, body, or mass; also a line that represents
                     such an outline
Craftsmanship        Skill in the production of art
Focal Point          The part of the artwork that attracts the viewer
Foreground           The parts of an artwork that appear closest to the viewer
Form                 A shape having three dimensions: height, width and depth
Horizon line         A generally horizontal line, either real or implied, in a work of art
                     that depicts where the earth and the sky appear to meet.
Linear perspective   A technique of creating the illusion of space on a two-dimensional
                     surface using vanishing points and lines
Medium               Material used for making a work of art such as pencil, paint, wood,
                     ink, etc.
Middle ground        The part of an artwork that appears between the foreground and the
Mood                 A state of mind or feeling reflected in a work of art
Movement             The arrangement of parts of a design to create a sense of motion
                     causing the viewer’s eye to move from one point of emphasis to the
Negative             The empty space surrounding shapes or solid forms in a work of art
Pattern              Lines, colors, or shapes arranged or repeated in a planned sequence.
                     A pattern is also a model or guide for making identical replicas of
                     an original form
Picture plane        The flat, two-dimensional surface of a drawing or painting. The
                     three chief planes of a drawing or painting are the background,
                     foreground and middle ground
Plane                A flat two-dimensional surface
Positive             The objects in a work of art, not the background or the space
space/shape          around them.
Proportion           The relationship of the size or placement or one part of an art work
                     to another part or to the whole. In painting and sculpture for
                     example, an artist tries to show the right relationship or proportion
                     of a nose to a face or a head to a body
Relief               A three-dimensional form that protrudes from a flat background
Representational     Art where likeness of an art object is easily recognized
Rhythm               A tempo, the timing, the movement created by repetition
Scale                The size of something measured against a standard. If a building is
                     drawn in scale, all of its parts are equally smaller or larger than the
Shadow               The shaded areas of a drawing, picture or photograph
Style                Refers to the artist’s unique manner of expression.
Symmetrical or       The same mirror image on both sides of the artwork.
Tactile              Refers to the sense of touch
Three-dimensional    Refers to objects that have length, width, and depth
Two-dimensional      Having only length and width but no depth such as a piece of paper
Trompe-l’oeil        French for ―fool the eye‖. A painting technique designed to make a
                     painting appear so real you want to touch it
Vanishing point      In perspective drawing, one or more imaginary dots or points on the
                     horizon where two or more parallel lines appear to meet.
Volume               The amount of space occupied by a three-dimensional object
Wash                 A thin, transparent coat of paint
Watercolor           A transparent or opaque paint made by mixing powdered colors
                     with water and a binding agent. This term is also used for artwork
                     done with this type of paint.

Artistic Movements

Baroque              a style in art and architecture developed in Europe from the early
                     17th to mid-18th century, emphasizing dramatic, often strained
                     effect and typified by bold, curving forms, elaborate ornamentation,
                     and overall balance of disparate parts.
Classical            Referring to the Greek and Roman eras
Cubism          A nonobjective school of painting and sculpture developed in Paris
                in the early 20th century, characterized by the reduction and
                fragmentation of natural forms into abstract, often geometric
                structures usually rendered as a set of discrete planes.
Expressionism   A movement in the arts during the early part of the 20th century
                that emphasized subjective expression of the artist's inner
Fauvism         An early-20th-century movement in painting begun by a group of
                French artists and marked by the use of bold, often distorted forms
                and vivid colors.
Impressionism   A theory or style of painting originating and developed in France
                during the 1870s, characterized by concentration on the immediate
                visual impression produced by a scene and by the use of unmixed
                primary colors and small strokes to simulate actual reflected light.
Neoclassicism   A revival of classical aesthetics and forms
Pointillism     A system of painting developed by French artist George Seurat in
                the 1800’s. A small point of pure color is placed next to a small
                point of another pure color to produce a third color that is created
                by the eye blending the first two together.
Pop Art         A style of painting and sculpture that developed in the late 1950’s
                and early 1960’s, primarily in the United States. Everyday popular
                images were used as subject matter, e.g., advertising art, comic
Post-           The late nineteenth century art movement begun by artists who
impressionism   objected to the lack of form in Impressionism. Rather than an
                emphasis on the effects of light, these artists explored the formal
                structure of art while expressing personal feelings about the image.
Realism         Art in which the artist attempts to achieve the actual appearance of
                what is seen by the eye
Renaissance     Meaning ―rebirth.‖ A period in European history, beginning in the
                fifteenth century in Italy and spreading to all of western Europe,
                marked by a reawakening and growth in the arts and the birth of
                modern science.
Rococo          A style of art, especially architecture and decorative art, that
                originated in France in the early 18th century and is marked by
                elaborate ornamentation, as with a profusion of scrolls, foliage, and
                animal forms.
Romanticism     Early nineteenth century painting style that featured dramatic
                scenes, bright colors, loose compositions, and exotic settings. It
                also emphasized the feelings and the personality of the artist.
Surrealism      The theory and practice of art that portrays the subconscious or
                phenomena. An art movement beginning in the 1920’s. Pictures
                contain conflicting images, seemingly without rational meaning: for
                example, a bird’s head on a human body or the human form
                combined with furniture.
Color Wheel Terminology
Sequential Order of Colors (this goes in a circle so it doesn’t matter where you start as
long as the colors are next to the appropriate colors)
Red-violet             Warm Color, Tertiary
red                    Warm Color, Primary
red-orange             Warm Color, Tertiary
orange                 Warm Color, Secondary
yellow-orange          Warm Color, Tertiary
yellow                 Warm Color, Primary
yellow-green           Cool Color, Tertiary
green                  Cool Color, Secondary
blue-green             Cool Color, Tertiary
blue                   Cool Color, Primary
blue-violet            Cool Color, Tertiary
violet                 Cool Color, Secondary
Color wheel            A circular chart showing the colors of the visible spectrum
Spectrum               The range of colors usually considered the color circle of a wheel

Color Definitions

Primary colors       Red, yellow and blue. Theoretically all other colors come from the
                     combination and mixing of these colors.
Secondary colors     Colors obtained by mixing two primary colors together. Secondary
                     colors are orange, green and violet (purple)
Intermediate color   The mixture of a primary and a secondary color or two secondary
(tertiary)           colors. Orange and green make citrine, green and violet make
                     olive, violet and orange make russet
Neutral color        Not associated with any single hue. Black, brown, gray and white
                     are considered neutral colors.
Warm colors          Related or analogous colors ranging from the reds through the
(aggressive)         oranges and yellows. They are called ―warm‖ because they are
                     associated with fire or the sun
Cool colors          Colors in which blue is the main basic color. Blue, blue-green,
(receding)           green, blue-purple, and purple are cool colors. They suggest
                     coolness and appear to recede from the viewer.
Hue                  The name of a color
Tint                 A tone of color that is the result of white being added to a basic hue
                     (pink is a tint of red): COLOR + WHITE
Tone                 The general effect produced by the combination of light and dark:
                     COLOR + GREY
Shade                A dark value of a hue made by adding black to the color or its
                     complement. Opposite of tint. COLOR + BLACK
Key color            Dominant color in a color scheme or mixture.
Intensity            The brightness or dullness of a color
Value                  The lightness or darkness of a color
Pigment                Finely ground, colored powders that make paint or dye when mixed
                       with a liquid called the vehicle. Pigments are used to make paints,
                       inks, chalks, etc.

Color Relationships or Harmonies

Color scheme           A planned arrangement of colors
Monochromatic          One color used in varied values and intensities
Analogous              Colors that are closely related because they contain a common hue
                       and are found next to one another on the color wheel. Blue, blue-
                       green, and green are examples of analogous colors.
Achromatic             A colorless scheme using blacks, whites and grays
Complementary          Two colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel.
colors                 Example: Red and Green.
Split Complements      Choosing one color on the wheel and using the color on each side
                       of its complement. Example: Blue, yellow-orange and red-orange.
Diad                   Using two colors that are two colors apart on the color wheel.
                       Example: Red and Orange.
Triad                  Color scheme that has three colors equally spaced from each other.
                       Example: the primary colors red, blue and yellow. Triadic would be
                       color harmony using three colors.
Tetrad                 A contrast of four or more colors on the color wheel
Contrasting colors     Colors used to emphasize and direct attention to points of interest
Tonality               The effect of the colors and values as arranged in a work of art

Elements of Art

Elements of Art         The ―visual tools‖ artists use to create works of art. These include
                        form, shape, line, texture, color, space and value.
Form                    A shape having three dimensions: height, width and depth
Shape                   An area defined by line or color
Line                    The path made by a moving point. It can vary in width, direction
                        and length
Texture                 The roughness or smoothness of a surface (actual) or the illusion
                        of roughness or smoothness (visual) of a surface.
Color                   The hue, value and intensity of an object as seen by the human
Space                   Elements of design referring to the area between, around, above,
                        below or within objects.
Value                   Refers to the lightness or darkness of a color (tint and shade)

Principles of Design

Principles of Design    Principles or guidelines that help artists create works of art and
                        control how viewers are likely to react to these works
Balance              Deals with arranging visual elements in a work of art equally.
                     The two types of balance are symmetrical and asymmetrical
Repetition/Rhythm    Repeating lines, shapes, colors or patterns in a work of art
Unity/Harmony        The oneness or wholeness of a work of art. Where all parts work
                     together to create unity
Movement             Refers to the arrangement of elements in an artwork organized in
                     such a way to create a sense of motion
Emphasis             Accent, stress, or importance to a part of an artwork
Variety              Principles of design concerned with difference or contrast

Vocabulary for Publicity

Barker                     A spokesperson, often in costume, who stands at the
                           entrance to a show to attract customers by a loud and
                           flamboyant sales pitch.
Barnstorming               Touring small towns to perform, using anything from barns
                           to town squares as playing areas.
Bus and truck company      A troupe of actors performing around the country, using a
                           bus for actors and truck for costumes, set, etc. The troupe is
                           usually booked for one night engagements in small towns.
Comp                       Complementary ticket to a show. ―To comp‖ someone is to
                           provide them with a free ticket.
Claque                     Friends and relatives of the actors or people paid by the
                           theater management to attend a show and respond
                           enthusiastically so that critics and others in the audience will
                           think the actors and the play are popular.
Command performance        A performance for a royal or politically powerful person at
                           their request. Now these events are often used as fundraisers
                           for charity.
Latecomers                 Audience members who show up late, after the play has
                           started. Many theaters wont allow them to enter the house
                           until there is an appropriate pause in the performance.
Matinee                    A theatrical performance given in the afternoon
Papering the house         Giving out free tickets to fill the house for a performance
Playbill                   In the sixteenth century, a small flier given to audiences to
                           announce some details of the production. Over time it
                           continued to grow, containing all of the information about
                           the show. It is now the program that is handed out at shows
                           and posters are now put up to announce productions.
Premiere                   The first public performance of a play. Although the play
                           may have had workshop productions and even preview
                           performances, the official opening night is considered the
Notice (reviews)             Reviews by critics; dramatic criticism
Review                       The announcement in print or broadcast media of a
                             production with some description of the cast, plot, and
                             technical aspects. Although the review may offer an
                             opinion, it is not generally considered a piece of serious
                             criticism. However, since a favorable review can make a
                             show a success and a negative one can finish a play, those
                             involved in a production generally take reviews seriously. It
                             is the practice to quote from good reviews in press releases
                             and in paid advertisement for a play.
Road company                 A group of actors who take a show on the road, performing
                             short runs at a series of towns.
Royalty                      The payment made to a playwright for permission to
                             perform his or her play.
SRO                          An abbreviation for ―standing room only.‖ It means that all
                             the seats for a show are sold and only reduced-priced tickets
                             entitling one to stand at the back of the house are left.
                             Because of fire regulations, this is rarely practiced but the
                             term is still used to signify a sold out house.

Vocabulary for Props

Properties                   Set furnishings including furniture, pictures, ornaments,
                             drapes, etc.
Props                        Short for stage properties or props
Properties Manager           Another name for props master, this person is in charge of
                             all of the props
Hand props                   Properties carried on stage by the actors during the show
Breakaway                    Scenery or props designed to break on cue. This would be
                             things like bottles, windows, railings, tables, chairs, etc.
Thunder sheet                Large piece of flexible metal that when shook sounds like
                             thunder; used as a live sound effect

Vocabulary for Scenery

Floor cloth (ground cloth)   Canvas used to cover acting area floor
Grip                         Stage crew member who shifts scenery
Ground row                   Low horizontal scenery that stands alone and is placed
                             upstage to look like scenery in the distance
Box set                      A set representing the walls of a room with the fourth wall
                             open to the audience through which they view the action.
Mask                         To cover from the audience’s view
Practical                    When an item is truly usable, like a light switch that turns
                             on a light or a door that actors can open
rake                         Sloping platform. Example: raked seating would be the
                             audience floor is slanted thus allowing for better visibility
Set                        Scenery creating the setting of the show
Set piece                  A unit or piece of scenery that stands by itself
Shift                      Change scenery
Wagon                      Rolling platform on which scenery is placed for quick
                           changes, a great alternative when there is not a fly system
                           available for scenery
Avista                     The process of changing the scenery in full view of the
Booked flats               Two flats connected together and opened up, like a book,
                           thus self-supporting
Flat                       Basic element of scenery, usually a vertical element that
                           creates walls
Broadway Flat              Wooden frame (laid flat) with canvas stretched on top of it
Hollywood Flat             Wooden frame (on its edge) with wood (usually luann) on
                           top of it
Platform                   Basic element of scenery, a horizontal element that allows
                           actors to stand on it thus allowing for different heights in a
Jack                       A triangular brace used to hold up scenery
Oleo                       The backdrop used in vaudeville performances. Also the
                           front drop painted with advertisements.
Practical or practical     Scenery that actually works on stage (faucet that runs water,
scenery                    a lamp that turns on)
Spike                      To mark a spot on the stage (usually with tape) that is to
                           indicate to the stage crew where to place a set piece or show
                           an actor a place to go.
Set(ing)                   The surroundings in which the action of a play develops.
                           Also the units of scenery that combine to suggest a
                           particular place.
Sight lines                Imaginary lines from the audience to the stage. If an actor is
                           in the sight lines he/she is visible to the audience.

Vocabulary for Makeup

Cake Makeup                Dry or powder makeup that requires water to activate it
Liquid Makeup              Makeup already in a liquid state for application
Cream Makeup               Thick makeup that goes on heavier than liquid
Greasepaint                Traditional theatrical makeup now mostly used on clowns,
                           mimes, Kabuki style makeup, often very greasy in texture
Base or foundation         Gives the basic color used before the rest of the stage
                           makeup, often suggests race, physical condition, age,
Liners or shading colors   Gives a three-dimensional effect by providing shadows and
                           highlights; light colors make things seem larger and dark
                           colors make things recede or seem smaller.
Rouge                      Suggests age or physical condition, red on the cheeks for
                             Santa’s rosy cheeks
Eye Shadow                   Makeup used to accentuate eyes
Powder                       Sets the makeup so that it won’t smudge
Eyebrow pencil               Used for darkening eyebrows, it can also be used to draw
                             lines on the face
Mascara                      Accents eyelashes
Powder Puff / Powder Brush   Used to apply powder
Lining Brush                 Used to apply crème makeup
Stippling sponge             Sponge used to create texture
Cold cream                   Makeup remover
Crepe hair                   Material used for making beards and mustaches
Liquid Latex                 Product that once it comes into contact with air will quickly
                             dry into a rubbery skin. It is used for special effects
Spirit gum                   Sticky substance used to attach prosthetics to the body
Spirit gum remover           Used to get spirit gum off of the body
Putty                        Used to make three-dimensional changes to the actor
Morticians Wax               Used to hide items like tattoos, special makeup has now
                             been made for this purpose
Liquid shoe polish           Used for coloring the hair
Straight makeup              Basic makeup for a person who already looks the part
Character makeup             Used when an actor must change appearance to look old,
                             sick, dead, fatter, thinner, injured, alien, etc.
Makeup Morgue                Collection of inspirational pictures of faces, ages, diseases,
                             makeup, colors, etc.

Vocabulary for Sound

Boom                         A pole used to extend a microphone further onto the set
Noises off                   Any sound effects needed for a dramatic production, often
                             referring to the sound effects, or noises, being made from

Vocabulary for Lighting

Light board                  Electronic device that controls the lighting for a theater
Ellipsoidal or Leko          Spotlight with an ellipsoidal reflector; Leko was a brand
Source 4                     Brand name for lights
Fresnel                      Spotlight with a step-lens that throws an efficient soft beam
Barndoors                    Lighting accessory for Fresnels that house moveable
                             flippers to control the light beam
Top Hat                      Fresnel spotlight accessory that limits the beam to a circular
Intelligent lighting   Lights that can have movement, patterns, gels, intensity, etc.
                       controlled by a light board
Scoop                  A floodlight with an ellipsoidal reflector that throws a wide
                       beam of light to fill a large area
Gel (gelatin)          Transparent colored medium used in front of stage lights
Gobo                   A template of thin metal inserted into a lighting instrument
                       to create a shadow/light pattern
Fade in                Gradually bring up lights
Fade out               Gradually take out lights
Dimmer                 An electronic device to control intensity of lights
Cable                  Electric cord
Blackout               All stage lights go off simultaneously
Focus                  To center the light beam on
Houselights            Auditorium lights used before and after a play as well as at
Spill                  Light leakage from a lighting instrument
Spotlight              Lights with beams that can be focused and that are used for
                       specific illumination.
Work lights            Non-gelled lights used solely for rehearsal.
Arch light             A lighting instrument that uses an electrical current arching
                       between two carbon rods, creating a bright light.
Bloom                  Reflection from a mirror or other polished surface on stage
Boom                   Vertical pipe used to mount lighting equipment
Bounce                 The reflection of light off the floor or walls of the set
Bumper                 Metal hoop on a lighting batten to help prevent it from
                       running into scenery
Bump or bump up        To quickly raise the intensity of stage lighting
Cross fade             Blending one light cue into another
Curtain warmer         Lighting cue used to light up the curtain before a show
                       starts, it is often used for mood lighting even if there isn’t a
                       curtain that is to open at the start of the show
Wash                   A soft, single-color light that bathes the set.
Key light              Light that comes in to light an actor, it is the main lighting
                       for that scene and it is generally light that comes in as if
                       from an actual light source
Fill light             Light that comes in opposite of the key light to help provide,
                       color and definition
Focus                  To adjust the size and shape of the beam of light
Lamp                   The proper name for a light bulb, also a name for any
                       lighting instrument
Lighting plot          The lighting designer’s graphic rendering of the
                       arrangement of lights and their connections for a show
Pin spot               A very narrow spotlight beam, focused on an actor’s head.
Primary colors         In lighting, they are red, blue and green.
Special                  An arrangement of stage lighting to define or emphasize a
                         specific position on stage.

Theater History Vocabulary: Greece

Ritual                   repetition, traditional, religious
Dionysus                 Greek god of wine, fertility and theater
Autonomous theater       unique and self-guiding dramatic art
Drama                    Greek word meaning to do or to act
Tragedy                  Tragos or tragoidia is Greek for ―goat song‖ and is where
                         we get the word tragedy
Dithyramb                a song (possibly even an improvised story) sung by a choral
                         leader and a traditional refrain sung by a chorus
Theatron                 Greek word meaning seeing place, it is where the audience
                         sat to see the show. It was often hollowed out of a
                         mountainside foe better acoustics.
Comedy                   from the Greek word komos meaning a band of revelers
Cothurnus                thick soled shoes to make actor taller
Onkus                    high headpiece made actor taller, recognizable
Chitons                  Basically a tunic worn by Greek actors as a costume, they
                         were belted below the breast and were sleeveless.
Himation                 long mantle was draped around the right shoulder, over the
Chlamys                  short cloak which could be quite colorful and elaborately
Pinakes                  scenery that was painted on boards and placed against the
Periaktois               triangular prisms that revolved for scenery changes
Eccyclema                a small platform wheeled out would show a corpse (all
                         killing would be held off stage and reported to the audience
                         by the chorus or messenger)
Deus-ex-machina          Greek for machine of the gods; An ancient term meaning a
                         machine to raise and lower a god from the heavens to
                         resolve a problem; modern application refers to any
                         unexpected resolution to a problem
orchestra                The acting area, it was a circular space which would vary
                         from 65-85 feet in diameter

skene                    Actors changed costume in the small building first situated
                         at the side of the orchestra and later permanently placed
                         behind it. The skene, from which we derive the word scene,
                         had three doors in its façade through which the actors would

proskenion               Placed at the front of the skene for the actors, two wings
                           (called paraskenia) were placed on either side of it. This is
                           where we get the word proscenium.
paraskenia                 Two wings placed on either side of the proskenion
parados                    To the right and left of the orchestra, it was a wide
                           passageway used for the chorus entering and exiting the
theologeion                A platform on the roof of the skene where actors playing
                           gods or heroes make pronouncements
Prologue                   introduction of the play
Parados                    song sung to bring on chorus
Epeisodian                 passages of dialogue that alternated with singing to help
                           develop the action of the play
Stasimon                   song by the chorus, accompanied by music as the chorus
                           slowly danced. There were two parts, strophe and
Strophe                    Song sung as the chorus moves left during Stasimon
Antistrophe                Song sung as the chorus moved back to the right during
Exodus                     song took the chorus offstage and ended the play
Hypokrites                 Greek word meaning ―actor‖
Pathos                     The suffering of the hero in classical tragedy and the
                           feelings this engenders in the audience.
Periaktos                  A three sided prism made of flats and mounted on casters so
                           that it can revolve and show a different background on each.

Theater History Vocabulary: Musical Theater

Choral reading    Group reading with parts assigned based on the match of content to
                  voice, pitch, tone, and volume
Musical Theater   Genre that includes opera, operetta, musical comedy and musical
Overture          Music played to start the show, often made up of portions of songs
                  within the show
Entr’acte         Musical interlude between the acts of the play; the overture of the
                  second act in a two act musical
Leitmotiv         German meaning ―leading motive‖, it is a bit of music played at the
                  entrance of a leading character or appearance of a situation.

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