J Galt Design: Theatrical Backdrops, Canvases and More

Glossary of Terms

Learn the lingo of the theatre!


(abbreviation A.B. - also called IRON or FIRE CURTAIN)Fire proof curtain (no longer made of asbestos) required for proscenium style stages. The IRON or A.B. slides in a metal trough or smoke pockets on either side of the stage and are located in front of the mains.

A technique of lighting the stage, or action from behind the object or person. When used with a scrim, it produces a hazy or removed look.

1) Permanent or semi permanent lengths of pipe tied to lines from the grid and used for flying curtains, lights or scenery. 2) Pipe or Wood, often 2X4, used to weight the bottom of a soft (unframed) flying piece.

Black curtains at the back and sides of the stage. Drapes or drops, usually black velvet. Also called soft blacks and velours

Cloth, scenery pieces, canvas or any material used to mask the upper portion of the stage area. Also called teasers or valances.

Bring it in
To lower a light bar, pipe batten or scenery from the fly gallery.

A free-standing piece of scenery, e.g. a tree, cut out of board into the correct shape and painted.

Clear please
(Often without the please) An order to strike props, or to get out of the way or a warning that a curtain, drop or flat is going out (up) or coming in (down).

Counter weight system
A system of flying scenery that allows weights to be added to the system to offset the weight of the scenery.

Five types of MAINS: roll, contour, tab, drop (not pictured), and the most common the draw.

Curtain line
The line marking the position of the curtain when closed.

Also known as a cyc. A very large piece of white fabric, tensioned on two or more sides, which covers the entire back wall of the stage. It can be lit in various colors or have slides or gobos projected onto it.

Verb: scenery which is raised into the roof (flown out) or lowered on the stage (flown in). The apparatus for doing this consists of a series of ropes and pulleys in the "fly tower" (a very high roof space) and they raise or lower the scenery by means of a counterweight system or by directly pulling on "hemp lines". The men who operate the "flies" are called "fly men" and the area in which they work is called the "fly floor" of, quite simply, the "flies". People can also be flown (as in every production of "Peter Pan"!) in a harness.

Fly in/out
To raise scenery into the fly gallery or lower scenery onto the stage.

Fly gallery
(rail - fly rail - fly floor) Area used for tying lines, loading counter weights and sometimes operating the fly lines during the show.

Fly man
(fly person) The stagehand that handles the fly ropes. Generally takes cues to fly in or out from the Stage Manager.

(gel) Thin, transparent sheet of color medium used for stage lights. Used to be made from animal jelly and dye, hence the name gelatine. New heat resistant plastic gels are almost exclusively in use now as they are thicker, last longer, are more resistant to fading and will not "bake" and crumble.

House Tabs
The curtains across the front of the stage.

(or TABS) Section of narrow draperies, at the side of the stage, area, masking the wings from the audience.

Main curtains
(or MAINS) Drapery separating the stage from the auditorium.

To obscure from the audience view.

(or MASK) Common name for a flat, drape or ground row or set piece used to mask area of the stage from the audience.

Pin rail
A rail in which belaying pins are set for tying fly lines.

The traditional picture frame type of stage, usually with a curtain. Often abbreviated to "pros".

Sand bag
Canvas bag filled with sand, varying in size and weight, used to weight unused fly lines, jacks or other scenery pieces.

A loosely woven material somewhat resembling cheese cloth and used on stage as a special effects drop. If light is shone on the front and no lights are up behind it, the scrim becomes opaque. When lights are up behind it the scrim becomes transparent. Also called Gauze or Bobbinet.

(pulley) The grooved wheel of a block used to on a grid for flying scenery.

Sight lines
The area of the stage which can be seen by everyone seated in the auditorium. In some (badly designed!) theatres, a member of the audience sitting at the ends of certain rows, can only see two thirds of the stage! Also lines of vision from the extreme positions in an auditorium to the stage.

Smoke pockets
Metal groves or troughs in which the fire curtain slides.

To mark a spot where a particular prop or set piece will be placed.

Spike marks
Marks on the floor to give exact position of furniture, props or set.

Sky cloth
Alternative name for a cyclorama.

Curtains. The curtains which close across the proscenium arch are called "House Tabs". Or drapery legs used as wings.

Border or draperies, hung in flies downstage, forming (with tormentors) an inner frame for the stage or simply masking fly bars and equipment.

Teaser Batten
First pipe or first border. Pipe batten hung close to teaser and act curtain (mains) and used for lighting instruments.

1) A masking piece used to terminate the downstage wall of a set on each side of the stage; 2) or to form an inner frame (inner proscenium) so that the action can be set further upstage.

A track used for hanging draw curtains (curtain often referred to as a traveler).

A border or teaser on stage.

Curtains hung both to mask the back stage area and to shape the on stage area. Also called Blacks.


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