Theatre people are a breed unto themselves. They work long hours to become someone else and come alive when they are in the spotlight. Or, if they are not actors, they lurk in the dark and do their secret work behind the scenes to make the magic on stage come alive. To the layman, these creatures look like normal people during the day. But stand closer to a group of them in conversation, and you may well think that they are speaking their own language. Theatre does indeed have its own vocabulary and customs, so if you want to understand the secret language of the thespians, here’s a guide of essential theatre terms.
- Break a leg: It’s bad luck to wish someone good luck in the theatre, so “break a leg” is used instead. It doesn’t literally mean that someone has to fracture a femur, though.
- Callback: After an audition, the director often calls back shortlisted candidates for a second audition so they can reach a decision.
- Cue: A command or signal to indicate that a technical action should happen, or that something should happen on stage.
- Downstage: The area of the stage closest to the audience.
- Proscenium arch: If the stage has a curtain, it would be framed by the pros arch. This is the fourth wall of the box in which the stage action takes place, and opens up to the public.
- Stage left/right: These are the sides of the stage from the actor’s point of view.
- Upstage: This is the stage area furthest away from the audience. Upstaging is also used when an actor moves upstage from another and cause them to turn away from the audience, or when an actor draws action away from the main action.
- Wings: These are the out-of-view areas on either side of the stage.