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Archive for the ‘Glossary’ Category

V’s Theatre Glossary

Rush Hour Glossary        

(note: this is a work in progress, stay tuned and feel free to ask for a definition of a term you want me to add)   

252 Basics –  A family ministry curriculum (scripts, virtues, activities) available by subscription. We use the 252 Basics curriculum for our Family Ministry programs at Rocky Mountain Christian Church.         

Actor – a person who performs in a dramatic production.        

Actress – a somewhat obsolete term for a female actor.         

Assistant Director – At Rush Hour, the assistant director (AD) is responsible for basic scene blocking, rehearsing the actors, coaching performers to improve stage presentation skills, chasing the director around during rehearsals to write down the notes he wants to give to the cast and crew later, and other duties as assigned by the director.  The responsibilities of the Assistant Director will vary depending upon the needs of the director and the skill set of the AD.   

Back drop – The set piece that lines the back of the stage area.  It can be a curtain, a series of flats, a projection screen or anything that masks the back wall and creates the feeling of a setting for the production.         

a painted, cloth backdrop

Backstage – The area of a theatre that is not open to the public.  Can include the areas immediately adjacent to the performance area/stage, but can also refer to the green room and other actor preparation areas.        

Batten – a pipe or bar, usually suspended from the ceiling over a stage or audience area from which lighting and special effects equipment is hung.         

Black Box Theatre – a minimalist type of theatrical production where actors wear all black, there are no sets or props other than the most basic.  For instance, a box – painted black – might represent a table, a chair, or a piano. 

Blocking – the movement of a performer on stage.  Designing blocking is usually the director or assistant director’s task, although an experienced team of actors may be able to block their own scenes.  When I block a scene, I use a method similar to the way an old-school coach uses X’s and O’s to diagram football plays.    

Bottom Line – The weekly message as defined in the 252 Basics curriculum that helps teach the monthly virtue.  There is a monthly virtue, and each week has a different bottom line that reinforces or teaches more about the practical application of the virtue.  Example:  Bottom Line:  “If you don’t wait, it could cost you.” is a weekly Bottom Line for the monthly virtue of “Patience, which is waiting until later for what you want right now.”        

Bumper music – music played to cover the transition between scenes.  Also sometimes referred to as “transition music.”        

Calling the show – to communicate the warnings (cues), and “go!” commands to the tech crew members operating sound and lighting aspects of a production.  The person calling the show is responsible for the timing and overall management of a production as it is performed.  In some theatres, the “Stage Manager” calls the show from the back of the house, in Rush Hour, we use a management and directing model more similar to TV production environments, so our “Producer” calls the show.        

a catwalk. click to enlarge

Cat walk – the series of walkways above a stage or auditorium used to access lighting and other stage equipment which is suspended above the venue.        

Center stage – The middle performance area of a stage.        

Cheat – (or “cheat out”).  To position oneself so that the shoulders and face are more open to the audience. 

Choreography – Dance moves, or complicated stage directions.        

Closed off – To position oneself so that the body is tuned away (upstage) from the audience.        

Counter –  To “counter”  is to adjust one’s position on stage in response to another actor’s movement.  This technique is used to prevent one actor from standing in the sight lines of another actor, to create more natural movement on stage, or to adjust a vignette that has been altered when one actor moves.        

Counterweight fly system – A sophisticated system of pulleys, weights, and ropes that allow theatrical sets, curtains, etc. to be raised up above or lowered down into the performance area of a stage.  It requires a two-story performance area.        

Counterweight fly system

In case you are wondering, nope, we don’t have one of these systems at either Rush Hour venue.  The author of this glossary just included this because she often gets asked, “What would it take to raise and lower set pieces into the scene.”  My stock answer is… the money to buy a counterweight fly system and add a second floor to our stage.  Of course, I am almost always thinking up new ways to rig a bunji cord system for suspending actors above the stage, I just have never received approval from the director or our insurance company to try it…. Yet.  Mwahahahahaha!        

Cross –  1) To move from one area of the stage to another, or to move in relationship to another actor or object on stage.  Example:  “Gordo, cross in front of the couch to down center to deliver that last line.”  2) The cross-beam structure upon which our savior Jesus Christ was crucified to atone for the sins of all mankind. 3) A producer’s mood when things are not going well.        

Cue – an indication or warning that something is about to happen on stage.  A good translation for the word “Cue” in the theatre might be “READY…”  followed a few seconds later by “… and GO!”  Example: “What’s my cue to enter?”  “Vinny, your cue to enter is when Cammie leaps on the counter and yells ‘Ah HAAAAAA!.”  Example:  “Cue lights up center stage…   and… go lights up center stage.”   

Cue sheet – the list of scenes, transitions, musical instructions and other information needed by the tech crew in the order in which they will be performed. (note to self: ask Marie for a Cue Sheet to post as an example)         

Curriculum – the material we purchase from 252 Basics which includes scripts and supporting materials for our Family Ministry programs.        

Director –  the boss  (not to be confused with a Producer who, according to our producers, is the boss of the whole universe .)        

Downstage – the area of the stage closest to the audience.        

An "escape" move

Escape – Yeah, I made this one up. But it’s useful. It’s a term I use to define the moment when an actor crosses away from another actor, usually to a stage position that is further downstage than their original position.  We use escape moves” to break up the monotony of proscenium performance and usually execute the move on a line where the character is embarrassed, angry, or in disagreement with the other characters on stage.  Example:  “Gordo, I just didn’t know how to tell you.”  [Vinny escapes by crossing downstage right] “I broke your calculator.”     

Family Ministry – a program that includes both children and their parents in a single worship venue.         

Flat – 1) A set piece constructed of a wooden frame covered with muslin or wood. 2) a performance with no energy.  3) an audience with no energy.        

Fly space –  the area above a stage where lighting instruments, curtains, set pieces, etc. can be suspended.        

Front of house – This means different things to different theatres.  In some theatres, front of house means anything regarding ticketing, admission, and audience seating.  At Rush Hour, we use it to refer to the team that runs the sound and lighting portions of a Rush Hour performance (because our producer who “calls the show” works upstairs from a balcony, and the “tech booth” where lights and video are run are manned from an station on the main floor in the “house” (the house is where the audience sits).        

Green room – a room where performers prepare for a production and wait off-stage during a production for their time to perform.        

Two ground rows.

Ground row – a set piece, usually only 1-2 feet high that is often placed along the front of the stage to mask lights, speakers, or other equipment.  A ground row might just be used as a simple set piece.

House – the area of a theatre where the audience is seated.        

Instrument – a lighting fixture.  There are so many different types of lighting fixtures in use in professional theatre today, that I use this term to refer to any lighting instrument so I don’t end up sounding like some old-school dinosaur.  Example:         

          V:         Hey guys, that ‘leko’ is framed too tight, it casts a shadow on faces stage right.”
  <giggle> V, that’s not an old ellipsoidal reflector!  That’s an ‘L shaped LRS‘         

          V:         Don’t you make me climb a ladder to fix that instrument!        

          Tech:  Ahh, no! No, no , no!  We’ll get it tomorrow, V, it’s on the list.        

          V:           Bless your hearts.  Thanks.        

Kidstuf – The name of the original Family Production using the 252 Basic curriculum. Kidstuf was developed at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia.  At Rocky Mountain Christian Church, Niwot, Colorado, we call our version of Kidstuf “Rush Hour.”        

Land – 1) (as in “let it land”) pause for emphasis or slow the delivery of a line so that it stands out from the rest of the scene.  In Rush hour, we often alter the delivery of a line that contains the virtue or the bottom line for that day.  Example:  Gordo, that’s the bottom line, so let it land.     2) Also used in vocal performance to indicate pitch accuracy or emphasis. Example:   “Ginger, if you don’t solidly land that B-flat, Gilligan will never get the key change.”        

Method acting – An “outside in” acting approach where the performer explores a character by physically, actually experiencing what the character experiences.  Example:  The actor lived in a homeless shelter for 2 weeks to prepare for her role as a street kid.  To learn more about method acting, research Konstantin Stanislavski and/or Lee Strasberg.         

Notes – instructions from the director, usually given after a rehearsal, run-through, or performance.  Some actors see it as a badge of honor to receive no notes after a run-through.  More often than not, however, it does not mean their performance was flawless, it probably means the director got distracted during the rehearsal and wasn’t watching them.         

Off book – being “off book” means having your lines memorized.  Example:  The director says we have to be off book by Thursday’s run-through.        

Off the spots – being “off the spots” is to have your music memorized.  Example:  “Vocalists, be off the spots for the worship set, so we can concentrate on choreography.”        

Open – When a director asks a performer to be more open, she’s not asking for a personal revelation.  She’s asking the performer to better position his body for viewing by the audience…  rotating the face, shoulders, and feet to more squarely face the audience. (see “Cheat.”)        

Orange – When the yellow light of the church meets the red heart of a parent, those colors fuse to form orange.  Going Orange is to adopt the idea that family ministry should be a collaboration between church and family.  No more drop offs of the kids for Sunday school – we’re all in this together.  The church’s role is to equip PARENTS to bring up their kids the way God desires. The parents role is to be … well… parents.          

Pit – also called the “fun pit.”  An open, kids-only area set aside at the front of the stage for kids to sit together, dance together and generally have a good time.  Some theatres have a below-stage-level area where an orchestra is located during a performance, this is called the “orchestra pit.”  We don’t use an orchestra or an orchestra pit for Rush Hour.        

Pratt fall –  a choreographed physical move where an actor falls down in a comic or dramatic way. (also spelled “prat fall”)        

Presentational – the term we use at Rush hour to refer to our over-the-top comedic style of acting.        

Producer – The person who manages the timing and execution of show elements during a live performance of Rush Hour. At Rush hour, even though our theatrical Director is the boss, our producers like to think of themselves as “the boss of the whole universe.”  It is best not to mess with this perception.  Just let it go.  For the sake of global harmony, just let it go.        

Proscenium – the type of stage where only the front edge of the stage is open to the audience.        

Rehearsal – the environment and time set aside for actors to practice lines together, learn blocking, and experiment with new ideas for that week’s performance.        

Run-through – the dress-rehearsal that benefits not only the performers, but is specifically meant to allow the producer and tech crew to fine-tune the technical aspects of a production.  This is often the first rehearsal where the cast will hear sound effects, see video/media portions of the show, and understand how their individual segments fit into the overall production.  The run-through is meant to be a start-to-finish performance with as few interruptions/stops as possible.        

Rush Hour – The trademarked name of the family worship experience at Rocky Mountain Christian Church.        

Scrim – a curtain upon which lighting or media effects can be projected.  A scrim is often semi-transparent until lit, and is sometimes used to mask the back wall of a stage.  It can also be used further downstage (closer to the audience) to mask activity behind it, and then be lifted to reveal another part of the stage.        

Sight Lines – the view of the stage as seen from a particular area of the audience.  Example:  “If you put that rolling cart there, you will block the sight lines of the right side of the house, and they won’t be able to see anything on stage.”  or “Cammie, when Gordo moves forward, you need to counter so your sight lines are not blocked by him.”        

Soap Opera Staging

 Slapstick – exaggerated choreographed movement, usually funny ir comically violent, such as a staged fall that look accidental (Pratt falls).  Examples:  The three stooges, Marx Brothers comedy, Dick Van Dyke falling over furniture.    NOTE:  The difference between reality TV and slapstick is that slapstick is safe, planned and purposeful.  Throwing yourself off a roof without stunt training for a reality TV show is just stupidity.    

Soap opera staging – a term I use to refer to the type of blocking where an actor faces the audience full front while pretending to speak to an actor behind them.         

Stage Directions – 1) areas of the stage including upstage, downstage, stage right, stage left, center stage.  Stage directions are defined from the ACTOR’s point of view, not the audience or director.  2) instructions for movement (blocking) given to performers by a director.         

Stage left – The area of the stage to the left of the actor.        

Stage Manager –  in Rush hour, this is the back-stage leader who warns actors that their performance time is approaching, perform set/prop positioning before performance and during scene changes/transitions, and remains in contact with the producer via head-set.         

Stage presence – The overall demeanor of a performer while on stage.  To have a strong stage presence is a good thing and implies that an actor/singer/dancer is confident and moves well on stage.        

Stage right – The area of the stage to the right of an actor as seen from the actor’s perspective.        

Take stage – To appropriately draw attention to oneself on stage.  Crossing to center stage or to a strong down-stage position while speaking loudly is one method of “taking stage.”  Not to be confused with “upstaging” which is to inappropriately draw focus to yourself during a performance.        

Stage Directions

 Teaser – A curtain or set piece at the side of a proscenium stage used to mask off-stage right and left areas from the view of the audience.         

Tech – lighting, sound, special effects and media aspects of a performance.        

Theatre in the round – A stage set-up where the entire stage is surrounded by the audience.         

Turn – this is a Rush Hour term I use to indicate a rapid switch of emotion, attitude, or plot.  Our characters tend to snap from one emotion to the next with no apparent prompting.  It’s like the actors have a sudden “Ah HA!  and now I feel different” moments.  I call these turns.  Sometimes a script makes no sense until you realise a “turn” in attitude or plot has just taken place.    

Up – to “be up” this week, is to be scheduled to perform.  Example:  “Are you up this week?”  “No, I’m off this week, I’m up again on the 23rd.”         

Upstage – the performance area farthest from the audience.  The term is a hold-over from the days when stages were built on a slant so the audience (who stood on flat ground) could see all the areas on stage.  If you rolled a ball from the back of the stage to the front, it would roll downhill or “downstage”  into the audience.      

Upstaging –   to inappropriately draw focus to yourself during a performance.   This is a big no-no. Clowning around behind another actor’s back to draw attention to yourself is self-indulgent.  ick.  blech.  ptueey.  The term comes from the fact that an upstage actor has an advantage in drawing focus to themselves… often other actors have to turn their backs to the audience to connect, placing them at a disadvantage on stage.   

Video – recorded media used during a production, projected on a screen.  Can also refer to a video “still”  (a slide) that is technically projected using video equipment (as opposed to a photographic slide projector).        

Vignette – (pronounced “vin-YET”) a carefully staged moment on stage where the performers are placed to create a specific visual reference or feeling.  The idea is to pose performers so they look like a well-composed painting.  Example:  “I want this Thanksgiving table scene to be a beautiful vignette of family life just before Gordo slings the yams at Tyler.”        

Virtue – 1) Something God is doing in us to change the world around us.  2) One of the  36 ethical and moral traits, skills, or characteristics promoted by Rush Hour (as defined by the 2:52 curriculum).  We present a new virtue each month, such as “Discipline” which is doing what you need to do even when you don’t feel like it.  Or “Patience” which is waiting until later for what you want right now.        

Wings – The area immediately offstage left or right, but hidden from the audience’s view.


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