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Broadway Glossary

Broadway Glossary

Are you a theatre student writing a term paper? A newbie looking to build up your theatrical knowledge? An old pro seeking to expand your vocabulary? Whether you're just beginning or supplementing your studies, sometimes we all need to brush up on our skills. Enter: BroadwayWorld Glossary! Your one stop shop for technical terms, dramatic definitions, and more! No matter what level you're playing at, BWW Glossary has you covered from A to Z!

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

 TERM DEFINITION

A


act
act
| ˈækt |
verb; noun - to perform a dramatic role; a section of a production, often acts are separated by intermission, also called an act break
acting area
ac-ting a-re-a
| ˈæktɪŋ ˈeəriə |
noun - the area within the performance space within which the actor may move in full view of the audience; a specific portion of such an area actually used for acting during all of part of a performance
action
ac-tion
| ˈækʃn̩ |
noun; verb - the physical movement of an actor on the stage; the movement or development of the plot of a dramatic work, or an incident in that movement.
actor
ac-tor
| ˈæktə |
noun - originally a male performer in a play, with "actress" used for women. Today, "actor" is increasingly used for both male, female, and nonbinary performers.
apron
ap-ron
| ˈeɪprən |
noun - the area of the stage, if any, which protrudes in front of the proscenium arch
audition
au-di-tion
| aˈdɪʃn̩ |
noun - A trial performance to appraise an entertainer's merits
auditorium
au-di-to-ri-um
| ˌɒdəˈtɔːriəm |
noun - the area from which the audience watches a production

B


back of house
back-of-house
| bæk əv ˈhaʊs |
noun - the parts of the theatre behind the proscenium, or behind the stage setting
backdrop
back-drop
| ˈbækdrɒp |
noun - a large curtain, usually painted to represent the sky, a landscape, or some other background, dropped upstage to form the back of a wing set and to mask the backstage space.
background
back-ground
| ˈbækɡraʊnd |
noun - the setting or scenic display before which actors perform; in a script, previous events, environment; background music.
backstage
back-stage
ˈbak-ˌstāj
noun - of, relating to, or occurring in the area behind the stage and especially in the dressing rooms
balcony
bal-co-ny
| ˈbælkəni |
noun - a seating area above the orchestra section of the auditorium. Sometimes a part of this area, particularly in front, is the location for equipment, hence the term "balcony lighting"
black box
black-box
| blæk bɒks |
noun - an unadorned performance space, typically a large room with four walls and no assigned seating or playing areas. Walls are typically painted black, hence the name. The black box is popular because it can be configured in many different ways, with actors on the floor, or on a platform; the audience can also be seated on the floor or on platforms.
blackout
black-out
| ˈblæˌkɑːwt |
noun - a period when all stage lighting is turned off
blocking
bloc-king
| ˈblɑːkɪŋ |
noun - the principal positions and movements for the performers of a production
box office
box of-fice
| bɒks ɒfɪs |
noun - an office (as in a theater) where tickets of admission are acquired
break a leg
break-a-leg
| ˈbreɪk ə leɡ |
noun - a superstitious and widely accepted alternative to "Good Luck" (which is considered bad luck in the theatre)
break character
break cha-rac-ter
| ˈbreɪk ˈkærəktə |
verb - in acting, saying or doing something that is not in keeping with the character one is portraying, most often this is accidental, as when an actor forgets a line or bit of business, or when distracted by an occurrence in the audience or offstage
Broadway
broad-way
| ˈbrɔːdweɪ |
noun - the principal avenue running through the theatre district of New York City near Times Square, and thus the district, and collectively the theatres on or near this avenue; by extension, the commercial theatre of New York.
button
but-ton
| ˈbʌtn̩ |
noun - in staging musicals, a final stage picture or song ending that brings a satisfying conclusion to a musical number.

C


cabaret
ca-ba-ret
| ˈkæbəreɪ |
noun - entertainment held in a nightclub or restaurant while the audience eats or drinks at tables.
call
call
| kɔːl |
noun; verb - specified time of a working session, such as a rehearsal or a performance; stage manager's announcement to summon actors to the stage; to announce cues to a show's technical staff during a performance
choreographer
cho-re-o-gra-pher
| ˌkɒrɪˈɒɡrəfə |
noun - one who designs (and often directs) the dances and stage movement in a musical production
choreography
cho-re-​og-​ra-​phy
| ˌkɔːriˈɑːɡrəfi |
noun - the composition and arrangement of dances
chorus
cho-rus
| ˈkɔːrəs |
noun - a group of singers and/or dancers performing as a unit; group singing or dancing; a song or part of a song to be sung by more than on person; a group or even a single actor who provides commentary on the action of a play, as in a Greek tragedy; a part of a song that is repeated after each verse, typically by more than one singer
close
close
| kləʊz |
verb - to conclude or end a production; to perform in the last number on a program
company
com-pa-ny
| ˈkʌmpəni |
noun - the cast, crew and other staff associated with a show; a presenting theatre organization; a group of actors appearing together in one or more dramatic performances
cue
cue
| kjuː |
noun; verb - the last words of one actor's spoken dialogue, which the next actor to speak needs as a signal to begin; the spoken or written command given to technical staff to carry out a particular operation during a performance.
curtain call
cur-tain call
| kɜ:tn kɔːl |
noun - the appearance of the actors at the end of a performance, to accept the applause of the audience.

D


dark
dark
| dɑːk |
adjective - a theatre that is closed, or with no performances scheduled
debut
de-but
| ˈdeɪbjuː |
noun; verb - an actor's first appearance, whether at the beginning of his/her career, or in a new theatre; to make one's first appearance
deck
deck
| dek |
noun - the stage floor
department
de-part-ment
| dɪˈpɑːtmənt |
noun - one of the principal divisions of the stage staff, headed by a company official--such as wardrobe, scenery, lighting. Thus, department head.
dialogue
di-a-log
| ˈdaɪəlɒɡ |
noun - lines in a stage entertainment or dramatic work, usually those in which at least two persons take part
downstage
down·​stage
| ˈdaʊnˌstedʒ |
adverb - the area toward or at the front of a theatrical stage
drama
dra-ma
| ˈdrɑːmə |
noun - a representation on a stage by actors before an audience; a piece of writing, particularly one of marked emotional intensity
dramaturg
dra-ma-turg
| ˈdrɑːmə turg|
noun - a literary editor on the staff of a theater who consults with authors and edits texts
dress rehearsal
dress re-hear-sal
| ˈdres rəˈhɝːsl̩ |
noun - the rehearsal, typically held the week performances are to begin, during which all costumes and props are used
dresser
dres-ser
| ˈdresə |
noun - a person who helps actors with costume care and costume changes during the performance
dressing room
dres-sing room
| ˈdresɪŋ ruːm |
noun - a room backstage where actors can dress and put on makeup
drop
drop
| drɒp |
noun - a piece of scenic canvas, painted or plain, that is flown or fixed to hang in a vertical position

E


encore
en-core
| ˈɒŋkɔː |
noun; verb - a call by an audience for the reappearance of performers in order to repeat a portion of a musical or dance number; an additional performance following the conclusion of a show
engagement
en-gage-ment
| ɪnˈɡeɪdʒmənt |
noun - an actor's period of employment in a part; in arrangement for a company to play in a theatre for a specified period of time
ensemble
en-sem-ble
| ɒnˈsɒmbl̩ |
noun - a cast of characters, except for the principals; the grouping of the whole stage picture, involving actors and set; the chorus in a musical, sometimes including soloists; said of acting or a cast in which group interaction and support is more important than individual performances.
entrance
en-trance
| ɪnˈtrɑːns |
noun; verb - a door or other access to the stage, for actors; the act of walking onto the stage in view of the audience
Equity
e-qui-ty
| ˈekwɪti |
noun - Actor's Equity Association, founded in 1913, is the labor union representing actors and stage managers in the legitimate theatre in the United States
exit
ex-it
| ˈeɡzət |
verb; noun - a person, or persons, leaving the stage; the point in the script where a person, or persons, leave the stage area
exposition
ex-po-si-tion
| ˌekspəˈzɪʃn̩ |
noun - an explanation, normally in the dialogue, of events preceding the beginning of a dramatic piece or taking place offstage, and which the audience needs to know

F


farce
farce
| fɑːs |
noun - a broadly comic dramatic work based on ludicrously improbable events, unsubtle in idea or characterization, typically fast and funny, with a great deal of action.
finale
fi-na-le
| fəˈnæli |
noun - the final scene of a production
follow spot
fo-llow spot
| ˈfɒloʊ ˈspɑːt |
noun - a luminaire used to follow actors as they move around the stage
footlights
foot-lights
| ˈfʊˌtlaɪts |
noun - a row of lights set at floor level at the front of a stage, used to provide a part of the general illumination and to soften the heavy shadows produced by overhead lighting.
foreshadow
fore-sha-dow
| fɔːˈʃædəʊ |
verb - to hint, in dialogue or by other means, that some later dramatic action will occur
fourth wall
fourth-wall
| ˈfɔːrθ ˈwɒl |
noun - an imaginary wall between the cast and audience which completes the area in which a piece is set
front of house
front-of-house
| frʌnt əv ˈhaʊs |
noun - Every part of the theatre in front of the proscenium arch. Includes foyer areas open to the general public

G


ghostlight
ghost-light
| ghostlight |
noun - a light left burning overnight on stage for the safety of those navigating a dark theatre; also to keep friendly spirits illuminated and unfriendly spirits at bay; also believed to keep the theatrical muse in a "dark" theatre
grand finale
grand fi-na-le
| ˈgrænd fɪˈnɑːli |
noun - a finale on a grand spectacular scale, in which the principals and ensemble participate
grid
grid
| ɡrɪd |
noun - the support structure close to the top of the fly tower on which the pulleys of the flying system are supported. Constructed from metal or wooden beams; arrangement of scaffolding from which lamps are hung in a performance space with no flying facilities.

H


histrionic
his-tri-o-nic
| ˌhɪstrɪˈɒnɪk |
adjective; noun - of or pertaining to acting or actors, used more frequently to mean over-emotional acting
house
house
| ˈhaʊs |
noun - a term used to reference the auditorium, as well as its capacity for a given performance
house left
house-left
| haʊz ˈleft |
noun - the left part of an auditorium from the viewpoint of one who faces the stage
house lights
house-lights
| haʊz laɪts |
noun - the auditorium lighting which is commonly faded out when the performance starts
house manager
house ma-na-ger
| haʊz ˈmænədʒər |
noun - an individual that oversees front-of-house operations at a theatre; persons responsible for the day-to-day operations of the venue, from prepping the house to overseeing the front-of-house staff
house right
house-right
| haʊz ˈraɪt |
noun - the right part of an auditorium from the viewpoint of one who faces the stage

I


impresario
im-pre-sar-i-o
| ˌɪmprɪˈsɑːrɪəʊ |
noun - a producer, especially of musical entertainments
improvisation
im-prov-i-sa-tion
| ˌɪmprəvaɪˈzeɪʃn̩ |
noun - a performance crafted entirely in the moment, typically involving scenes whose elements are informed by suggestions from the audience
improvise
im-pro-vise
| ˈɪmprəvaɪz |
verb - to improvise is to invent lines or business not in a script; to ad-lib
inflection
in-flec-tion
| ɪnˈflekʃn̩ |
noun - the variation in the pitch of an actor's voice as he reveals emotion
ingenue
in-gen-ue
| ˌɪnˈdʒenjuː |
noun - the role of a sweet, naïve young woman; also an actress who plays young women's roles

J


jackknife
jack-knife
| dʒæknaɪf |
noun - a stage used for rapid scene-shifting, consisting of a platform or two on casters, pivoted at one corner to swing off- and onstage
juvenile
ju-ven-ile
| ˈdʒuːvənaɪl |
noun - the role of a young man; also an actor who plays such a role. The female equivalent is "ingénue"

K


kill
kill
| kɪl |
verb - to switch off (a light/sound effect); to strike/remove (a prop).

L


lead
lead
| liːd |
noun - a principal role; also an actor who plays a principal role
leg
leg
| leɡ |
noun - drapes set as masking pieces at the side of the acting area. Usually set up in pairs across the stage and used in conjunction with borders to frame the audiences' view
libretto
li-bret-to
lə-ˈbre-(ˌ)tō
noun - The text of a work for the musical theater
license
li-scense
| ˈlaɪsns |
noun - permission granted to produce a play or musical secured by paying a royalty to the author and/or licenser; terms of a license govern how the copyrighted work must be presented
line
line
| laɪn |
noun - a rope or wire used to hang scenery, etc.; a portion of dialogue, usually a sentence, but also a single row in the script
load-in
load-in
| ˈləʊd ɪn |
verb; noun - the process of, or time-period for, moving sets, props, etc, into a theatre before a production

M


mainstage
main-stage
| mainstage |
noun - the principal performance space for a theatre company or performance venue
marquee
mar-quee
| mɑːˈkiː |
noun - a canopy or roof that projects over a theatre entrance towards the street, usually bearing a sign that advertises the names of the theatre, current production, actors, etc.
masking
mask-ing
| ˈmɑːskɪŋ |
noun - neutral material or designed scenery which defines the performance area and conceals the technical areas
Master of Ceremonies
Ma-ster of Ce-re-mo-nies
| mɑ:stər əv ˈserɪmənɪz |
noun - host; an individual tasked with announcing the various parts of a program
matinee
ma-ti-nee
| ˈmætəˌne |
noun - a musical or dramatic performance or social or public event held in the daytime and especially the afternoon
monitor
mon-i-tor
| ˈmɒnɪtə |
noun - an onstage speaker which allows a performer to hear the output of the PA system, or other members of a band; a video display screen

N


naturalism
na-tu-ral-ism
| ˈnætʃrəlɪzəm |
noun - realism; attempting to depict life and society as it is. Usually used to describe a play in its entirety, but also the individual work of a director or actor.
noises off
noi-ses off
| ˈnɔɪzɪz ɒf |
noun - offstage sound effects, such as thunder, breaking glass, a crash, voices, etc.
number
num-ber
| ˈnʌmbə |
noun - a song or dance in a musical production, so called because each musical selection is numbered for the convenience of the orchestra

O


off book
off-book
| ɒf bʊk |
noun; verb - an actor or cast who has memorized their lines; to memorize ones lines to the end of no longer requiring the use of a script to perform
Off-Broadway
Off Broad-way
| ɒf ˈbrɔːdweɪ |
noun - any professional theatre venue in New York City with a seating capacity between 100 and 499, inclusive. These theatres are smaller than Broadway theatres, but larger than off-off-Broadway theatres, which seat fewer than 100.
offstage
off-stage
| ɒf steɪdʒ |
noun - towards the nearest side of the stage from the center; the area out of sight of the audience
orchestra pit
or-ches-tra pit
| ˈɔːkɪstrə pɪt |
noun - a sunken area where instrumentalists sit to play for onstage performers.

P


pace
pace
| peɪs |
noun; verb - the speed at which a dramatic performance, or any part of it, is played
pantomime
pan-to-mime
| ˈpæntəmaɪm |
noun; verb - wordless performance based in expressive movement of the body; a participatory form of theatre, in which the audience is encouraged and expected to sing along with certain parts of the music and shout out phrases to the performers. Pantomime has a long theatrical history in Western culture dating back to classical theatre.
performing edition
per-form-ing e-di-tion
| pəˈfɔːmɪŋ ɪˈdɪʃn̩ |
noun - a published text of a dramatic work, with alterations from the standard text to match the actualities of stage production, often including staging information
pitch
pitch
| pɪtʃ |
noun; verb - the height to which a voice is raised in tone; to raise or lower the voice, not in volume, but according to the musical scale
places
pla-ces
| ˈpleɪsɪz |
noun - a call to the actors to take their positions on, or just off the stage, as needed for the opening curtain
playwright
play-wright
| ˈpleɪraɪt |
noun - a person who writes plays
producer
pro-du-cer
| prəˈdjuːsə |
noun - the person who arranges for the production of a play or musical, especially the financing and management

R


rake
rake
| reɪk |
adjective; noun - the slope of a stage or an auditorium; a raked stage is one that typically slopes upward from downstage to upstage
rehearse
re-hearse
| rɪˈhɜːs |
verb - to prepare a play for production; in particular, the work with actors to blend lines, characterization, movement and stage business into a coherent whole
repertory
rep-er-tory
| ˈrepətr̩i |
noun - a performing arts organization, usually with a permanent company of actors, where each production has a run of limited length; multiple plays performed on a rotating schedule

S


scene
scene
| siːn |
noun - section of a play or musical depicting a different location or different day or time; the location in which a dramatic action is supposed to occur
scenery
sce-ner-y
| ˈsiːnəri |
noun - the elements of a stage setting, especially those made of wood and canvas, or any other material used to construct platforms, flats, walls, doors and backdrops
score
score
ˈskȯr
noun - A musical composition for a theatrical production
sitzprobe
sitz-probe
| sitzprobe |
noun - In opera and musical theatre, a sitzprobe (from the German for seated rehearsal) is a rehearsal where the singers sing with the orchestra, focusing attention on integrating the two groups; the first rehearsal where the orchestra and singers rehearse together
stage left
stage-left
| steɪdʒ ˈleft |
noun - the left part of a stage from the viewpoint of one who faces the audience
stage right
stage-right
| steɪdʒ ˈraɪt |
noun - the right part of a stage from the viewpoint of one who faces the audience
stagecraft
stage-craft
| ˈsteɪdʒkrɑːft |
noun - the art of producing or participating in the production of a dramatic piece, especially in the technical area
swing
swing
| swɪŋ |
noun - an off-stage performer responsible for covering any number of ensemble tracks

T


teaser
tea-ser
| ˈtiːzə |
noun - a border, usually black, set behind the proscenium and linked with tormentors to form an inner frame to the stage, and to mask the upper parts of the fly tower
technical rehearsal
tech-ni-cal re-hear-sal
| ˈteknɪkl̩ rɪˈhɜːsl̩ |
noun - the first time the show is rehearsed in the venue, with lighting, scenery and sound
theater
thea-ter
| ˈθiːətər |
noun - a building or area for dramatic performances; a place or sphere of enactment of usually significant events or action
theatre
thea-tre
| ˈθiːətər |
noun - dramatic representation as an art or profession
thespian
thes-pi-an
| ˈθespɪən |
noun - pertaining to acting, or an actor. Derived from the name of Thespis, a Greek tragic poet of the sixth century BC, who is said to have first introduced an actor into dramatic presentations, which until then had been performed only by a chorus with a leader.
tormentor
tor-men-tor
| tɔːˈmentə |
noun - narrow masking flats adjacent and sometimes at right angles to the proscenium arch

U


understudy
un-der-stu-dy
| ˈʌndəstʌdi |
noun - a performer cast in the ensemble of a musical (or minor role in a play) who is responsible for covering a lead and/or supporting role(s)
upstage
up-stage
ˈəp-ˈstāj
adverb - the area toward or at the rear of a theatrical stage
upstage
up-stage
| ˌʌpˈsteɪdʒ |
verb - an actor's seizure of the attention of the audience when they have no right to it.
usher
ush-er
| ˈʌʃər |
noun - one who escorts persons to their seats in a theatrical setting

V


visual cue
vi-su-al cue
| ˈvɪʒuəl kjuː |
noun - a cue taken by a technician from the action on stage rather than being cued by the stage manager
vomitorium
vom-i-to-ri-um

noun - a passageway, originally for spectators, used to clear the seating area in quick fashion; also used to describe a ramped passage that allows actors to run onstage from below (and run back).

W


wardrobe
war-drobe
| ˈwɔːdrəʊb |
noun - the general name for the costume department, its staff and the accommodation they occupy
wing
wing
| wɪŋ |
noun - the out of view areas to the sides of the acting area; scenery standing where the acting area joins these technical areas.