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Theatre arts has its own special language, of which you might know some of the words but never heard of the others before.
We’ve compiled a small list of words used in theatre arts – there are many more, but these tend to be the most commonly used. Have you ever wondered what it meant when someone “breaks the fourth wall”? Keep reading to find out!
Latin for Ad libitum, it refers to “at one’s pleasure” or “as you desire”, and it’s used in theatre arts when performers improve their lines or their actions.
This technical word is used behind the scenes only. Stage managers call for the ‘beginners’ when they mean the performers who go on stage first for each act.
This is a traditional Italian comedic style including slapstick humour and stock characters from its initial conception in the 16th century.
Comic relief refers to the change in tone; it’s the shift that occurs when a serious play gets a much-needed injection of wit or humour.
A curtain call refers to when the artists bow at the end of the show and after the finale.
This is the area of the stage located closes to the audience.
Have you ever been to a play in which you know more than the characters do? Like in Romeo and Juliet, for example, when the audience knows that (spoiler alert!) Juliet isn’t dead.
A theatre company sometimes plays and performs a number from the show again during the curtain call.
A group working together as equals on a piece of drama, such as performers and/or designers.
Final musical number or final scene in which the climax of the performance occurs to bring the show to a close.
Refers to the imaginary ‘wall’ that exists between theatre actors and the audience. When actors break this fourth wall, they address the audience or acknowledge they’re in a play.
This is a performance style that embodies a social attitude.
An overture refers to the instrumental introduction performed by the orchestra, which often play at the beginning of musicals, opera, and other types of plays.
Immediately recognisable characters that play as stereotypes, such as the Young Lover.
This refers to the moment between a scene and another, when they cross-over between each other.
Actors and actresses are only human, they still get injured and ill. This is where understudies come in; these performers are trained on the roles so they can step in at the last minute if needed.
Similar to downstage, upstage refers to the area located furthest from the audience.
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