Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Theater Terms Defined (A-C)

Hello guys, before I really get further into the study of theater, I want to define a few terms.  This will help you move along quicker and will allow you to refer back to something.  I will make sure that I constantly update this list.


Above:  The area farther away from the audience.  (Ex. Upstage is above the downstage area.)

Action:  Progress made in a play that the audience can see, which includes dialogue, movement, character development, and the relationship between characters. 

Action:  (In Method Acting) The inner motivation of the character; his or her reason for being on stage.  (See Also Intention.)

Ad-Lib(ad libitum- at pleasure) Dialogue or movement said or done without having been planned or written in advance.  Sometimes used to cover up blunders or forgetting a line.

AlignmentThe arrangement of the body, in a straight line, from head to toe.

Antagonist:  The character in the play most directly opposed to the main character, or protagonist.

Apron:  The portion of the stage that is closest to the audience.  In front of the proscenium arch, or house curtain.

Area:  A portion of the stage that is designated for a specific scene.

Aside:  A short speech by a character intended just for the audience.  It not heard by other characters onstage.  It can be used to give information or expose the secret thoughts of the character speaking.


Backstage:  The area in back or on the sides of the setting not seen by the audience.

Balance:  To equalize attention by bringing actors, properties, set pieces, and etc. into harmony to achieve physical equilibrium.

Beats:  (Method Acting) The distance from the beginning to the end of a state of mind or intention of a character, whether or not it is stated in the dialogue.

Below:  A position or area nearer to the audience.  (Ex. The downstage area is below the upstage area.)

Bit Part:  A role with a small number of lines of dialogue.

Blackout:  When an area goes into complete darkness by turning off all stage lights.

Blocking:  The planned movement and stage composition of the play that was developed during the rehearsal process.

Box Set: The setting consisting of three walls and often a ceiling.  The most common setting.

Build: The increase in energy, tension, or emotional key directed toward a climax, either in a specific scene or through the progress of the play.

Business: Detailed pieces of action developed to enhance characterization, establish mood, and etc.  Not the same as the basic stage movement.

Call: The announcement that warns actors when they are to be ready for rehearsals, performances, and individual scenes.

Climax: The high point of interest and/or action in a play, act, scene, or speech.  The climax of a play position so that the actor is turned away from the audience. 

Close: To turn or adjust the body position so that actor is turned away from the audience.

Closed Turn: A turn on stage in which the back of the actor is seen by the audience during the turn.

Company: The people involved in the production of a play.  Also a permanent group involved in a succession of productions.

Counter: A shifting of position to compensate for the movement of another actor in order to achieve a balanced and pleasing stage composition.

Cover: To hide from the view of the audience another actor, a property, or a piece of business.  Often used to not make obvious the faking of an extremely difficult piece of business, as in a stage fight, stabbing, and etc.

Cross: A movement on stage from one area to another.

Cue: The action or dialogue that signals that the next line is to be spoken or certain business and movement is to take place.

Curtain Call:  The receiving of applause by the cast as the curtain is raised at the end of the play.

Cyclorama (also Cyc:) A backdrop surrounding the setting on three sides.  Occasionally used to represent the sky, it is nonspecific in detail.

Click here to go to Terms Defined (D-F).

Please click here for questions and comments.