Stage Vocabulary for Singers

If you hope to sing live on stage, understanding the vocabulary used by the other performers, conductors, and directors is essential. The diagram shows the terms which identify specific places on and in relation to the stage. Whether you are singing in a musical, opera, or concert, the terms and phrases below will be heard in the world of theaters, night clubs, and other performance venues.

A Cappella: singing without any form of instrumental accompaniment

Accompaniment: the instrumentation that plays beneath the singing

Accompanist: a pianist who plays music beneath the singing

Ad-lib: to improvise stage actions or conversation especially when an actor has missed or forgotten lines and other actors must supply the missing information

Amplifiers: equipment that increases the sound captured by a microphone, played on an instrument, or replayed from a record, CD, or tape.

Articulation: in singing the clear production of sound such that the lyrics can be understood; part of diction and enunciation

Auditions: readings before a director to determine the casting of a play

Auditorium: part of the theater where the audience sits; also known as the "house"

Backing Flat: a flat which stands behind a window or door in the set

Blocking: the actors movements; the process of directing an actor as to where they are to move about the stage in conjunction with the progress of the play

Call: some sort of instruction given to the company an example is a rehearsal call which is an instruction to attend a rehearsal at a particular time

Call Backs: an additional audition for the final actors being considered for a part

Cast: the entire group of actors in a production

Casting: the process of determining which actors will play the parts in a play

Choreographer: devises and rehearses the dance routines

Clear the stage: everybody off; a direction given to all actors, musicians, and technicians to leave the stage area prior to the beginning of a performance

Cloth: backdrop scenery painted on fabric

Cover: a song written by someone other than the singer or band performing it: used when talking about club or event singing performances, not musicals or operas

Cross: moving from one side of the stage to the other

Curtain Call/Bows: the carefully choreographed appearance of actors on stage after the performance to acknowledge the applause of the audience

Cue Line: line of dialogue that tells an actor or crew member some action must be taken

Denouement: the resolution or falling action of the play

Dialogue: lines spoken in a play between 2 characters

Diction: to be understood; clear pronunciation of words

Discovered: already on stage when the scene begins

Down stage turn: turning so your body passes through the full front position

Drama: a play of serious nature

Dresser: one whose job is helping an actor in quick changes in costume

Dress Rehearsal: a run through of the entire production with full costume, make-up, music, lights, and sets

Encore: an additional song performed after the planned set in acknowledgement of the audience's enthusiasm for the performance

Enunciation: in singing, creating precise vowel and consonant sounds so that the audience can understand the words in the lyric

Epilogue: a bit tagged on to the end of a play to explain or excuse

Exposition: the beginning of a play used to provide background information

Falling action: the resolution or denouement of a play

Feedback: the annoying screeching sound made when microphones are in front of and too close to the speakers which creates a circular audio loop. Two easy solutions: keep microphones away from speakers and position speakers in front of microphones and facing away from the microphone.

Flats: muslin or plywood-covered frames used to build the walls of a stage setting

Focus: the intended point of interest on stage

Fourth wall: the imaginary "wall" between actors on stage and the audience

Gesture: a specific physical action that communicates emotion, information, or attitude

Green Room: a room backstage in which the performers can sit and relax before, during, and after a show

Half (the): The 35 minutes before the first actors are due on stage. All performers must be in their dressing rooms by the Half.

Hit your mark: Go to the exact position required, sometimes the stage is actually marked with tape to show you precisely where you need to be. Marks are used to coordinate your position with lighting, other performers, and stage effects.

Holding for a laugh: allowing the audience's response to die away before continuing

House: where the audience sits

House Manager: person in charge of everything that happens in the front of the house (box office, ushers, bars, cash, etc)

Inflection: change in tone or pitch during the delivery of a spoken line of dialogue

Intention: what your character wants in a scene

Interior monologue: the stream of thoughts a character thinks while he/she is on stage

Line Reading: refers to the volume, tone, and emotion which an actor applies to the performance of a line of script. The way in which this is done can completely change one's understanding of what is meant by the words.

Marking: to sing through a piece without using full power in order to preserve the voice for the actual performance

Microphones: devices for controlling the volume of different performers either singers or instrumentalists; the sound is controlled at a mixing board or desk

Monitors: equipment for providing sound back to the performer so they can hear more clearly what they are doing

Monologue: a long speech by one character

Motivation: the character's reason for doing or saying something

Musical Director: in complete control of the music for a production; rehearses the singers and musicians, conducts the orchestra or band, and arranges the music

Open: actor is visible to the audience

Open mic: for "open microphone" meaning anyone who wishes to perform can. Normally one signs in at the beginning of the session and is told in what sequence they will perform. Most open mic performances are limited to two songs each of roughly 3 and half minutes duration.

Places: the direction for all actors, musicians, and technicians to go to their proper position and be ready for the beginning of the performance or scene

Platforms: wooden units joined together to build the floors for a stage setting

Prologue: a bit attached to the beginning of a play to explain or provide background material for the audience before the start of the play

Props: small hand-held items used by actors to create the period, character, or setting

Projection: to be heard; to send the voice to the furthest reaches of the venue

Range: refers to the notes that a given performer can sing comfortably

Repertoire: the songs a singer knows and can perform well

Reprise: to repeat, in whole or part, a song which has already been sung in the show

Reverb: Short for reverberation, a term used by musicians and sound engineers. Created at a mixing desk, it gives the voice more color, tone, and presence, during studio and live performances.

Road show: when performances are given in places other than the home-base of the theater group, band, orchestra, or choir

Roadies: traveling stage hands who set up and tear down sets, lights, and sound systems during road shows

Run through: an uninterrupted rehearsal of a scene, act, or the entire play

Set: for a play it means the physical layout of the stage and the flats used to create a scene; in a nightclub or concert it means the sequence of songs which make up a 45 minute performance before a break

Sound check: a pre-performance test of all sound equipment including singers and instrumentalists

Sound engineer: person who controls the sound amplification and mixing board

Stage Banter/Patter: words spoken to the audience usually by the lead singer which provide introduction or transition time while musicians or sets are changed

Stage fright: the fear or anxiety experienced before appearing on stage

Stage manager: in charge of everything that happens backstage

Staging: deliberate choices about where the actors stand and how they move on stage; same as blocking

Strike: taking down, changing out, and putting away costumes, props, and sets after a production

Parts of the stage identified.

Diagram of a Stage

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