The Actor’s Vocabulary – more theatre humour

ETERNITY: The time that passes between a dropped cue and the next line.

PROP: A hand-carried object small enough to be lost by an actor exactly 30 seconds before it is needed on stage.

DIRECTOR: An individual who suffers from the delusion that he/she is responsible for every moment of brilliance cited by the critic in the local review.

BLOCKING: The art of moving actors on the stage in such a manner so as to have them not collide with the walls, furniture, or each other, nor descend precipitously into the orchestra pit . Similar to playing chess, with the exception that, here, the pawns want to argue with you.

BLOCKING REHEARSAL: A rehearsal taking place early in the production schedule where actors frantically write down movements which will be nowhere in evidence by opening night.

QUALITY THEATRE: Any show with which one was directly involved.

TURKEY: Any show with which one was NOT directly involved.

DRESS REHEARSAL: The final rehearsal during which actors forget everything learned in the two previous weeks as they attempt to navigate the 49 new objects and set pieces that the set designer/director has added to the set at just prior to the DRESS REHEARSAL.

TECH WEEK: The last week of rehearsal when everything that was supposed to be done weeks before finally comes together at the last minute. This week reaches its grand climax on DRESS REHEARSAL NIGHT when costumes rip, a dimmer pack catches fire and the director has a nervous breakdown. See also Hell Week

SET: An obstacle course which, throughout the rehearsal period,defies the laws of physics by growing smaller week by week while continuing to occupy the same amount of space.

MONOLOGUE: That shining moment when all eyes are focused on a single actor who is desperately aware that if he forgets a line, no one can save him.

DARK NIGHT: The night before opening when no rehearsal is scheduled so the actors and crew can go home and get some well-deserved rest, and instead spend the night staring sleeplessly at the ceiling because they’re sure they needed one more rehearsal.

BIT PART: An opportunity for the actor with the smallest role to count everybody else’s lines and mention repeatedly that he or she has the smallest part in the show.

GREEN ROOM: Room shared by nervous actors waiting to go on stage and the precocious children whose actor parents couldn’t get a baby-sitter that night, a situation which can result in justifiable homicide.

DARK SPOT: An area of the stage which the lighting designer has inexplicably forgotten to light, and which has a magnetic attraction for the first-time actor. A dark spot is never evident before opening night.

HANDS: Appendages at the end of the arms used for manipulating one’s environment, except on a stage, where they grow six times their normal size and either dangle uselessly, fidget nervously, or try to hide in your pockets.

STAGE MANAGER: Individual responsible for overseeing the crew, supervising the set changes, baby-sitting the actors and putting the director in a hammerlock to keep him from killing the actor who just decided to turn his walk-on part into a major role by doing magic tricks while he serves the tea.

LIGHTING DIRECTOR: Individual who, from the only vantage point offering a full view of the stage, gives the stage manager a heart attack by announcing a play-by-play of everything that’s going wrong.

LIGHTING DESIGNER: Individual who whines, bitches, throws fits, and says “This is the last show I’m doing here! I swear to God!” (rinse, repeat)….

ACTOR [as defined by a set designer]: That person who stands between the audience and the set designer’s art, blocking the view. Also the origin of the word ‘blocking.’.

STAGE RIGHT/STAGE LEFT: Two simple directions actors pretend not to understand in order to drive directors crazy. (e.g. “…No, no, your OTHER stage right!!!!”)

MAKE-UP KIT: (1) [among experienced Theater actors]: a battered tackle box loaded with at least 10 shades of greasepaint in various stages of desiccation, tubes of lipstick and blush, assorted pencils, bobby pins, braids of crepe hair, liquid latex, old programs, jewelry, break-a-leg greeting cards from past shows, brushes and a handful of half-melted cough drops; (2) [for first-time male actors]: a helpless look and anything they can borrow.

FOREBRAIN: The part of an actors brain which contains lines, blocking and characterisation; activated by hot lights.

HINDBRAIN: The part of an actors brain that keeps up a running subtext in the background while the forebrain is trying to act; the hindbrain supplies a constant stream of unwanted information, such as who is sitting in the second row tonight, a notation to seriously maim the crew member who thought it would be funny to put real Tabasco sauce in the fake Bloody Marys, or the fact that you need to do laundry on Sunday.

CREW: Group of individuals who spend their evenings coping with 50-minute stretches of total boredom interspersed with 30-second bursts of mindless panic.

MESSAGE PLAY: Any play which its director describes as “worthwhile,” “a challenge to actors and audience alike,” or “designed to make the audience think.” Critics will be impressed both by the daring material and the roomy accommodations, since they’re likely to have the house all to themselves.

BEDROOM FARCE: Any play which requires various states of undress on stage and whose set sports a lot of doors. The lukewarm reviews, all of which feature the phrase “typical community Theater fare” in the opening paragraph, are followed paradoxically by a frantic attempt to schedule more performances to accommodate the overflow crowds.

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Individual willing to undertake special projects that nobody else would take on a bet, such as working one-on-one with the brain-dead actor whom the rest of the cast and crew (including the director) has threatened to take out a contract on.

SET PIECE: Any large piece of furniture which actors will resolutely use as a safety shield between themselves and the audience, in an apparent attempt to both anchor themselves to the floor, thereby avoiding floating off into space, and to keep the audience from seeing that they actually have legs.

And finally, remember this: “It’s only theatre until it offends someone…then it’s ART!”

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