Understand Important Terms For Theatre

Like every industry, theatre has some lingo that may result in some head scratching for outsiders. Don’t worry though, for the most part theatre is relatively straight forward and easy. Lingo isn’t necessary, and virtually everything, from rules to directions can be conveyed just using common terminology.

But just in case, here are some of the more common terms that may get thrown around.

House Lights

In any theatre, there are going to be house lights. This refers to the lights that illuminate the entire interior of the venue, and will generally be lit when an audience is attempting to find their seats. The exact same setup can be seen in cinemas. But, importantly, house lights must be turned off for the show to start. When someone calls for the house lights to be ‘struck,’ this refers to turning them off.

Stage Left, Stage Right

This can be rather confusing, and is one of the more peculiar terms used in theatre. Not because it doesn’t refer to the sides of the stage, but because it refers to them from the director’s point of view. Since the director is not on the stage, but looking at it from a seat in the audience, it means the reverse for the actors who are on the stage, looking out at the director. So, stage left for the director would be stage right for the actors. It’s probably better if the director just points to where he means, else it can all be very confusing.

Downstage, Centre Stage

Downstage is the area of the stage that is closest to the audience. Centre stage, as you probably already guessed, is the centre of the stage.


This refers to the area closest to the back of the stage. However, it can also be used to describe an instance where one actor outperforms another, stealing the audience’s attention. It is not a term generally used in the most flattering of ways, and an upstaged actor will often be annoyed.


Another peculiar theatre term, blocking refers to deciding on the movement and actions taken by actors on stage, during the performance. Deciding on blocking generally occurs during rehearsals.

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The majority know this by now, but a cue is a signal for any actor or technician to do something. The cue for an actor to enter stage may be another actor saying a line, for example.

Dress Rehearsal

A rehearsal in which all props and costumes will be used. An extremely important step, ensuring that all aspects of the production are used as they would in the final musical or stage show.

Exit Stage Left/Stage Right

Referring to the direction in which an actor will exit the stage.


Wings are the areas off the stage, on either side of the stage. An actor that is waiting for a cue will stand in a wing, until it is their time to head onto stage and perform.