Online Appendix

Learning the Lingo

Acting is believing: to believe is to understand, and in addition to comprehending everything possible about the play, the actor must also understand the theatre, both as a profession and as a place to work. Like every profession, you must learn the theatre’s special vocabulary. Partly technical, partly slang, much of it is standardized on the English-speaking stage. As a working actor, you must be familiar with this language, just as a mechanic must know the names of his tools or a surgeon the names of her instruments.

      Since your theatre teachers and directors will want to speak to you in the vocabulary of the theatre while you are working on your classroom exercises and in production, we are using this online appendix to discuss these terms. Your teacher will identify what portion of the lexicon of the stage you will need immediately. The remainder will be reserved for the time when you are actually working with directors in production.We are also including a section identifying seminal acting teachers and theorists and theatre companies with whom you should be acquainted.

      Refer to this online source often as your work progresses. For convenience, we have grouped the selected terms into categories. Some of the lists are arranged in alphabetical order, while others are arranged in logical groupings.


Acting Terminology

Lines and Dialogue

Character and Script Analysis

Stage Types and Areas

Stage Directions

Body Positions (Proscenium and Thrust)

Actors’ Positions in Relation to One Another (Proscenium and Thrust)

Stage Movement

Specific Types of Theatre Rehearsals

Miscellaneous Acting and Theatre Terms

People and Companies to Know



Acting Terminology


Observing an object and taking away from it qualities that will be useful in developing a character.



Either physical or verbal, action happens in and is dictated by circumstances. Not to be confused with physical movement, a mechanical act, action has purpose and is motivated by your character’s simple objective. Through the psychophysical process, inner thoughts manifest themselves through outward actions.



The ability to adjust and sometimes abandon the present plan of actions when confronted with the unexpected. Adapting to new onstage circumstances force you to try to achieve your character’s simple objective through new tactics.



Similar to adaptation, the technique that allows you to hold fast to the reality of your role while altering simple objectives or actions to fit the changing circumstances of the scene.


affective memory

Incorporating sense and emotion memory, affective memory requires actors to call on personal memories of situations or sensory experiences similar to those of their characters. Stanislavski believed actors needed to take personal memories to the stage and call upon them when playing characters.



circles of attention

The actor’s range of concentration onstage. Stanislavski described three circles of attention: small, medium, and large. Although you have an awareness of and are affected by the medium and large circles of attention, you should keep your focus on the small circle of attention.



A derogatory term in which actors “distance” themselves from their roles, continually pointing out the significance of each action in relation to the total meaning of what the characters are doing and saying.



To give to or to receive from a person, object, or image something constituting a moment of spiritual intercourse. Communion between characters requires you to really talk and really listen to others, remaining in what Stanislavski referred to as the state of “I am.” Communion between the actor(s) and the audience is the spiritual place between the stage and the auditorium where many people live theatre actually happens.



To give complete attention to your character’s simple objective, “your” actions, an object, or to your onstage partners—focusing on the small circle of attention.


creative state

A concentrated state of relaxation in which you can attain your utmost capacity for the inspired creation of your character and the accomplishment “your” simple objectives.



An impulse derived from another person’s action onstage that motivates a verbal or physical response. A cue may come at the end of another person’s line, but many times, this urge occurs before your partner has completed her speech or action. Depending upon “your” decorum, “you” may or may not try to interrupt the other person by fighting to be heard.



Any new information you learn about your character in the rehearsal or performance process; or fresh knowledge your character learns about himself, others, or events during the course of the play.


emotions (primary)

True emotions in life; they are extremely difficult to control onstage.



emotions (repeated)

Stage emotions, a “poetic reflection” of your uncontrollable primary emotions.



emotion memory

Part of affective memory, personal primary emotions that helps you with repeated emotions as reflected through your character’s actions. Most often, true emotion comes out of the given circumstances without thought. Emotion memory exercises, however, are incorporated into rehearsals when you are having difficulty with true emotions required in a particular onstage moment. Emotional recall is the basis for Lee Strasberg’s Method Acting.



Without knowing what will transpire, “your” continuous state of anticipating what will happen next. “You” say or do something with full intention of affecting the behavior of “your” partner. “You” expect him to react a particular way; however, he may or may not give “you” what “you” want. At that point, “you” must adapt your own reaction to what “you” receive.


fourth side

In both interior and exterior settings, the imaginary side(s) of the room or environment that is undefined and left to the imagination of the actor.


historical imagination

A subjective approach to convince yourself that “you” exist in the world of the play. Historical facts are not the issue but rather the external behavior of a unique individual in a particular social order with its own culture, values, fashion, and mores. Your character’s world might even have its own laws of physics, a place where magic is commonplace and human beings can fly just by thought.



Found in every scene of every play, humor is the warmth of human beings in every situation, including the most tragic. It is not about “being funny” but rather about the interchange between people and their ability to cope with even the direst circumstances. Watch people interact at a funeral. They cry. They grieve. They mourn. However, they also smile and hug and laugh through their tears to cope with the unbearable situation.



The power of the mind to form an inner image or concept of something that is unreal or not present. Always taken from your own personal history, you must know how to retain observed behaviors, situations, and abstract qualities, and then have the ability to separate, recall, and adapt them into a new combination for the stage.



Spontaneous invention of lines and stage business (movements and actions) without a fixed text. Improvisation is a serious part of any legitimate acting program, as it teaches students how to handle missed cues, dropped lines, and other malfunctions. Although most performances stem from a playwright’s dialogue and actors have completed weeks of rehearsals, every moment of live theatre contains elements of improvisation.



A derogatory term in psychologically motivated acting in which physical movement, gestures, and lines lack truth. They are perceived as false, presented without intention.


inner images

Specific mental pictures that help you trigger actively traveling thoughts. They are not photographs but rather flashing internal images that underscore your every thought. In reality, inner images happen naturally without consideration. In a secondary reality like onstage, however, you must consciously create real inner images; otherwise all your character’s thoughts and actions will be indicated.


inner monologue

The thoughts that drift through our minds as we act and react; the feelings brought to us by our senses; our stream of consciousness. At any given time, our minds are filled with a multitude of these flashes of thoughts and feelings. Like inner images, inner monologues occur without consideration, but you must consciously consider these streams of conscious and flashing thoughts. Without “real” onstage inner monologues, everything your character does will appear false.


inspiration, mystery of

The goal of Stanislavski’s System. When actors find a consistent and repeatable conscious means to subconscious creativity and truthful onstage behavior, they are said to be inspired.



A validation of and strong belief in every action you make for your character in pursuit of each simple objective.


Method Acting

Developed by Lee Strasberg and based on early teachings of Constantin Stanislavski, it is an internal approach to acting that gives primary focus to affective memory. It does, however, consider all elements of Stanislavski’s System.


Method of Physical Actions

The heart of the Stanislavski System; it is the actor’s logical sequence of actions that leads to the stirring of emotions, thoughts, imagination—all the psychic forces. In life, we sense external stimuli that lead to an internal emotional or psychological response that is then manifested by an outward expression. Through the psychophysical union, the onstage process is reversed, with external action leading to true emotion.


moment before

Just prior to entering the stage, the consideration of where “you” have been, what has just occurred, and “your” reason for entering this new space.



Found in the most fascinating portrayals, all great acting contains an element of mystery, an inexplicable quality that intrigues an audience by leaving unanswered questions about a person’s behavior or motives.



A contradiction between the text and the subtext, which makes the word or action unexpected, vivid, and significant. Human beings are inconsistent. Just when you think someone is going to do one thing, they do something else. Of course, everything geminates from the truthful perspective of your character, but don’t always play the obvious. Consistency is dull. By keeping your audiences (and your onstage partners) guessing, you will add mystery to your character, making her infinitely more interesting.


personal history

Everything you have experienced, felt, read, or observed in life or fiction. Everything in your personal history can be considered and applied to your character’s physical and vocal attributes and “his” thoughts, feelings, inner images, and inner monologues.


physical movement

A physical act stripped of any context or meaning.


public solitude

Achieved when actors are fully focused on their immediate action without any attempt to amuse or pander to the audience. Stanislavski referred to it as “the creative circle of public solitude,” meaning that actors should wrap themselves in their small circles of attention without forgetting the larger circles. Stanislavski’s public solitude should not be confused with a corrupted version of his ideology taught by a handful of fraudulent “Method” training programs in which “teachers” experimented with something they referred to as “Private Moments.” Many books and articles describe the emotional and sexual abuses committed in the name of Method Acting.


psychophysical union

The inseparable connection between internal (psychological) thoughts and feelings and its external (physical) expression. Every mental process is immediately transmitted through the body in visual expression. The reality of the union between the psychological and the physical became the basis for Stanislavski’s Method of Physical Actions, which is the foundational core of his System.



The physical and mental process of transforming your own distinctive qualities into those of your character. The progression of reincarnation occurs throughout the rehearsal period and is complete when you have the ability to think, feel, and behave as your character.




A term synonymous with decision-making, whether subtle or obvious. Not to be confused with risqué choices, risk-taking means to fully commit to exploring your character both mentally and physically, as well as investigating the tactical choices made by your character to enhance “your” secrets and mystery.


second plan

A term coined by Harold Clurman, “your” second plan incorporates the events that occur offstage during the course of the onstage action.



Found in all great acting, a character’s private history that makes him infinitely more interesting by enhancing an audience’s insatiable curiosity about his inner life.


sense memory

Part of affective memory, the use of past sensations—taste, touch, sound, smell, and sight—as a means to substitute the qualities of one thing for another (e.g., drinking water as if it were vodka or burning your finger on a stove that is not actually lit).


Stanislavski’s “I am”

An actor’s state of being that is “right here” and “right now.” At every rehearsal, you must, as your character, relive the moments of action as if they were happening for the first time.


Stanislavski’s Magic “if”

Key to unlocking the imagination; it describes the process by which you place yourself in the given circumstances of the scene. At any given onstage moment, you must ask “What would I do if I were this character in this circumstance?”



Derogatory term meaning to take the audience’s attention when it should be elsewhere.



Your character’s overall plan of attack to overcome opposing forces. Because dramatic circumstances change and because of others’ strategies, “you” must constantly adapt “your” tactics to achieve “your” goal.


System Acting

Stanislavski’s approach to acting, the system is the result of his many years of efforts to determine how an actor onstage can control the most intangible and uncontrollable aspects of human behavior, such as emotions and inspiration. Most contemporary acting teachers in the western hemisphere are heavily influenced by Stanislavski’s System. Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Uta Hagen, Sanford Meisner, Harold Clurman, and Robert Lewis all based their techniques on those of Stanislavski. System actors attempt to find truth in every facet of their characters’ lives, yet they remain one step away from complete belief through their awareness of the large circle of attention. System training permits the actor to create a character through primary focus on the given circumstances.



Your character’s plan, procedure, or expedient for promoting “your” simple objective. Because of external forces and internal inconsistencies or changes of mind, tactics must constantly be adapted to meet the new given circumstances.



The combined rhythmic flow and the speed of execution of the action in a given scene. For every moment of every day, you have an internal and external speed and rhythm, just as the world around you has its own tempo-rhythm. Your tempo-rhythm changes with your circumstances—when you listen to music, when you are on a first date, when you are watching a funny movie, when walk along a beach, and so on. The same is true for your characters, and every onstage action must be executed in an identical tempo-rhythm in life.


verb (action)

Key words used to motivate simple objectives; they motivate a sequence of smaller actions. “To provoke,” “to influence,” “to belittle,” and “to protect” are examples of action verbs that stir the actor’s imagination and give rise to subsequent actions.


verb (static)

Words that do not motivate an immediate sequence of simple actions. Examples of static verbs include: run, sit, jump, hit, and read. Although action verbs in the grammatical sense, to the actor, these static verbs lack progression and are an end in themselves.



Full commitment to your onstage actions; and the depth of your character’s determination to achieve her objectives. You must ask, “to what lengths am ‘I’ willing to go to get what ‘I’ want?”


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Lines and Dialogue

ad lib

Coming from the Latin ad libitum (“at pleasure”), the term applies to lines supplied by the actor wherever they may be required to fill in for an otherwise undesirable pause.



An onstage line shared with the audience but supposedly unheard by the other actors onstage. Although a regular convention in plays of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, modern dramatists rarely use asides.



Setting one word or phrase against another word or phrase. Shakespeare’s line, “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action,” exemplifies an antithetical phrase. Another example would be “It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, . . .” which compares Juliet to the sun and himself (Romeo) to the moon.


A short silence in the dialogue (e.g., “hold the moment a beat before continuing”); also synonymous with unit of action.



To increase the intensity of a line or physical action to reach a climax.



Term used to define the speech (or action) invented by an actor to keep the audience from detecting a mistake.


ladder device

Playwright’s device in which an idea is “stepped up,” like ascending the rungs of a ladder, by a careful progression of words.


operative word

A key word or logical accent within the structure of each phrase of dialogue that gives it clearer meaning. Also referred to as “key words.”



The rate of speed at which the actors speak their lines, pick up their cues, act upon their impulses, telescope the dialogue, and hold the moments of silence.



Derogatory term indicating a momentary suspension in the action where nothing happens.


periodic structure

Playwriting device in which details are piled one on top of another to increase dramatic effect (e.g., Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief, That thou her maid art far more fair than she: Be not her maid, since she is envious; Her vestal livery is but sick and green And none but fools do wear it; . . .)


“pick up cues”

A direction for the actor to begin a counteraction immediately on the impulse to do so—whether it be internally within another person’s verbal or physical action (see telescoping) or at the end of a fellow actor’s action.



Giving special emphasis to a word, phrase, or action (e.g., “If you don’t get off my property right now, I’m gonna call the cops.”) An actor may also be directed to point a movement or a piece of business.



The forward movement of lines and dramatic action toward a predetermined destination.



Using external technique to display thoughts and ideas to the audience. Projection deals with dimension, energy, and clarity to communicate the meaning to an audience of a certain size occupying a certain space.



An opening of the oral cavities that amplifies the vocal sound and giving it strength, tone, timbre, and personal quality.



An onstage moment without dialogue, during which your stream of consciousness, your thought processes, and your attempt to infect others never stop. The more appropriate term for pause.



The actor’s continuous flashes of thoughts that gives meaning to the dialogue and the stage directions. Referred to by Stanislavski as “illustrated subtext,” you must have specific images for everyone and everything that is spoken, heard, or experienced on stage.


tag line

The last line of a scene or an act. It usually needs to be pointed.



Overlapping speeches so one actor speaks before another has finished. It is a realistic technique for providing the illusion of accelerated pace and building a climax.



To “build” or intensify a line or physical action higher than the one that preceded it.


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Character and Script Analysis


Your homework. Analysis includes the completion of the character autobiography, your score of physical and psychological action, and your research.



Another name for a unit of action.



A cleansing or purging of emotions.


character autobiography

A method by which you explore your character’s world by asking questions such as “Who am I?” “What are my circumstances?” “What are my relationships?” and “What do I want?” The autobiography should be written in first person from your character’s point of view.



Two opposing forces in the plot.


elements of drama

As defined in Aristotle’s Poetics, the elements of drama in order of importance include plot, character, thought, diction, music, and spectacle.



The actors’ internal and external reactions to one another in a mutual endeavor to project the super-objective of a play.


given circumstances

The unchangeable facts of the play (e.g., gender, age, profession, physical relationships, place, time, and so on.)


inciting incident

The precise event that serves as the catalyst for the action of the play.


motivating force

What your character wants overall. It is sometimes referred to as the character’s super-objective and is expressed in much the same way as the simple objective.


noun name

A single word that characterizes a unit of action (e.g., “Confession,” “Celebration,” “War”).



A physical or psychological obstruction that hinders the character from completing an action. Obstacles provide conflict and heighten the dramatic effect.



The sequence of physical and psychological actions unveiling character and story.


score of psychological actions

Written in your script on the opposite column from your score of physical actions, it includes the unit number, the noun name, the character’s simple objective, and obstacles.


simple objective

A character’s quest at any given moment, expressed and pursued by use of an action verb that motivates a sequence of simple actions (e.g., to provoke, to defend, to entice). A simple objective is the best-known translation of Stanislavski’s term zadacha (problem).



The basic action that grows out of the play’s super-objective; it is like a spine in the human body that holds the other parts together.



A term referring to individuality and distinctive manner of expression. Style should also not be confused with genre (e.g., realism, absurdism, epic, Shakespearean, etc.).



The play’s central theme or intent that runs throughout the plot; what the author wanted to say. Stanislavski referred to this as sverkhzadacha or “super-problem.”


through-line of action

The chain of logical, purposeful, consecutive actions that gradually disclose the motivating force or super-objective.


unit of action

The smallest whole division of a play—one in which there is a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Also referred to as a beat.


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Stage Types and Areas

proscenium stage

Stage in which the audience sits on one side; a proscenium arch usually separates the acting area from the auditorium. This is still the most common type of stage in the twenty-first century.


thrust stage

Also known as three-quarter thrust, this common type of stage has the audience positioned on three sides of the acting area. Thrust stages sometimes have proscenium arches and a fly system in the upstage portion of the acting area.


arena stage

Also referred to as “in-the-round,” arena stages have audience members seated on all sides.


alternative stage

Also known as “environmental” or “found,” alternative theatre spaces can be any area not traditionally used as a theatre, and it can have any actor-audience configuration.


stadium stage

Stage with the audience sitting on opposite sides with the action taking place in between.



The part of the stage, usually enclosed by the setting, that is visible to the audience in any particular scene.



All parts of the stage not visible to the audience.



The entire stage portion of the theatre building, in contrast with the auditorium, which is designated as out front.



Offstage space at the right and left of the acting areas.


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Stage Directions

diagram of stage areas, proscenium or thrust stage



































stage right

The actor’s right as she faces the audience.


stage left

The actor’s left as she faces the audience.



Toward the audience.



Away from the audience.



Toward the center of the stage.



Away from center. (The direction to move in three feet means to move three feet closer to the center of the stage; to move out three feet means to move three feet farther away from the center of the stage.)



Toward the audience. Synonymous with “downstage of.”



Away from the audience. Synonymous with “upstage of.” (An actor who walks below a piece of furniture walks between the furniture and the audience; an actor who walks above a piece of furniture walks between the furniture and the upstage wall of the setting.)


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Body Positions (Proscenium and Thrust)

full front

Facing directly downstage toward the audience.



Facing approximately 45° (left or right) from full front.



Facing 90° (left or right) to the audience.


three-quarter back

Facing approximately 45° (left or right) from full back.


full back

Facing directly upstage with the actor’s back to the audience.



Body position more toward full front to the audience.



Body position more toward full back to the audience.



A term used without any derogatory meaning when an actor plays in a more open position or performs an action more openly than complete realism would permit.


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Actors’ Positions in Relation to One Another (Proscenium and Thrust)


When two actors are both open to the same degree, allowing the audience to see them equally well.


give and take

When two actors are not equally open, the one who receives a greater emphasis is said to take the scene. The other is said to give the scene.



When one actor takes a position that forces the second actor to face upstage or away from the audience. Since the downstage actor is put at a disadvantage, upstaging has an unpleasant connotation and is generally to be avoided. You should take positions on the exact level of the actor with whom you are playing. Neither intentionally nor unintentionally upstage another actor unless you are directed to do so.



When the downstage actor is blocking the upstage actor from the audience’s view.


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Stage Movement

score of physical actions

A list of the individual character’s motivated movements, forming a sequence that is logical and appropriate for the situation and is capable of being carried out.



The director’s arrangement of the actors’ movements (or individual scores) with respect to one another and the stage space. Blocking helps tell the story, develop characterization, set mood, and create suspense.



Movement from one area to another. When noting a cross in your script, the standard abbreviation is X.


curved cross

In crossing to a person or an object above or below you, it is necessary to cross in a curve so you do not arrive either upstage or downstage of the person or object. Sometimes called an arc cross.



A movement in the opposite direction in adjustment to the cross of another actor. The instruction usually given is counter left or counter right.



An actor’s physical alteration to accommodate a new position by a fellow actor to be in a position beneficial for the audience’s viewing.



To leave the stage; also, an opening in the setting through which actors may exit.



The movement of another actor into a position between you and the audience, thus obstructing you from view.


blocking notations

The notes to yourself written beside the dialogue recording the physical movements of your score. Shorthand notations are incorporated where possible (e.g., XDR to chair = Cross downright to chair).



The director’s physical arrangement of set, props, and actors.


“dress stage”

A small onstage adjustment to improve the composition of the stage picture.



Small actions, such as smoking, eating, slapping, falling, crying, using a fan, and tying a necktie.


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Specific Types of Theatre Rehearsals


The initial table work, where the actors read and discuss the world of the play, the super-objective, motivating forces, simple objectives, obstacles, and so on.


blocking rehearsals

Early rehearsals in which the director communicates his overall score of the actors’ movements onstage with respect to one another and the stage space.


working rehearsals

Rehearsals in which either the director or the actors may stop to work on details of individual units of action.



An uninterrupted rehearsal of a scene, act, or entire play.

tech (cue-to-cue)

Rehearsals where actors are asked to play only the moment leading up to and during a section of the play where technical elements are incorporated into the production.


tech run-through

An uninterrupted rehearsal of the play with all technical elements, excluding costumes and makeup.



Show conditions. An uninterrupted technical run-through with full costumes and makeup.


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Miscellaneous Acting and Theatre Terms

Actors’ Equity Association (AEA)

Also known simply as Equity, this is the union representing stage actors and stage managers.


actor resources (external)

The development of the body and voice as responsive and expressive instruments; vocal dexterity, speech, movement, and gestures are the actor’s principal means of external expression.


actor resources (internal)

An actor’s keen understanding of human psychology, historical imagination, and the ability to control and make effective use of Stanislavski’s theories onstage.


actor training

Using any number of teaching methodologies, actor training is divided into seven parts, the development of mind, body, and voice, plus training in auditioning, rehearsal technique, and performance skills, and cultivating the ability to self-assess.


American Federation of Television and Radio Actors (AFTRA)

The union representing television and radio actors.






The part of the stage that extends toward the audience in front of the curtain. Also termed forestage.



Although not made of asbestos any longer, the fireproof curtain that closes the proscenium opening and separates the stage from the auditorium in case of fire.



A tryout for a film, TV, or stage role. Usually auditions involve a presentation of prepared material and reading from a script, but they can also require improvisation. Also called a tryout.


audition portfolio

Prepared audition material, consisting of a variety of monologues and songs, which can be used at any given tryout.


back drop

The drop farthest upstage in any setting.



A drop or flats used outside an opening in the setting, such as a door or window.



Short for actor biography. A résumé in narrative form, usually for a printed program or press release.


bit part

A small part with few lines.


black and white

Synonymous with headshot.



Any follow-up interview or audition.


call board

A backstage bulletin board on which notices of concern to the actors are posted. Today, many call boards have been replaced with email and Facebook postings.


cast list

The public posting of actors and their respective roles.


casting director

The person responsible for choosing the initial performers for later consideration by the producer or director.


cattle call

An open audition where anyone can attend.



A term synonymous with proper alignment and good posture. Rather than posture that is stiff or artificially frozen, centering involves the correct alignment of our vertebrae that is our body’s natural position.


character breakdown

The description of a character for casting purposes.


character part

Contrasted to straight part, a role usually depicting an elderly, unusual, or eccentric individual.



An unnamed role usually with few individual lines. Also referred to as an extra, bit part, supernumerary, or walk-on.


“clear stage”

A direction to leave the stage, given by the stage manager for everyone not immediately involved in the action.


cold reading

Unrehearsed reading of a scene, usually at an audition.


cold submission

Sending an unsolicited headshot and résumé to an industry professional.



A group of actors who perform together either in an individual play or for a season. Sometimes called a troupe.


contact sheet

Numerous small images of potential headshots printed on 8”x10” paper. Also known as proofs.



Analysis of and commentary on your work.


curtain call

The appearance of actors onstage after the performance to acknowledge the applause of the audience. The term applies whether or not a curtain has been used.


curtain line

The imaginary line across the stage floor that the front curtain touches when it is closed.



Has the ultimate responsibility for the artistic interpretation of the script through her control of the actors and supporting production team.


To play more than one role in a single play.



Any material, often flown, used as backing for a scene.


Equity Membership Candidacy (EMC)

A program devised by AEA to help you gain membership into the union. You may join the EMC program after you have been hired—with a non-Equity contract—as an actor or stage manager with a participating Equity company. After completing fifty weeks (or points), you have up to five years to join the union; your culmination of points does not have to be consecutive or from the same company. You pay a $100 fee when joining this program and the balance of the $1,000 AEA initiation fee with your first union contract. Note: The EMC program can be bypassed either partially or entirely if you are offered a role at an Equity theatre under an Equity contract and pay the $1,000 fee.



A small nonspeaking part: soldiers, townspeople, ladies-in-waiting, and so forth.


The canvas-covered frames that constitute the walls of the stage setting.



The space above the stage in which scenery is suspended. Such scenery is said to be flown.



A point in the rehearsal process where you are asked to solidify your major movements.


front curtain

A curtain closing the proscenium opening that hangs immediately behind the asbestos. It is usually used as the act drop.


green room

A room located close to the stage, in which the actors may warm-up, await entrance cues, and receive guests after the performance.


A steel-structured pulley system located in the flies for suspending scenery.


ground plan

The arrangement of doors, windows, steps, levels, furniture, and so forth for a stage setting; also a diagram showing the arrangements. The director usually explains the ground plan at an early rehearsal. Each actor should draw the diagram in his script.



A general term for an actor’s picture used for auditioning and marketing purposes. These black-and-white photos are also referred to as 8”x10”s—the picture’s dimensions—and glossies.



A character’s continuous dialogue without interruption by another character; also a speech delivered while alone onstage.



A derogatory term for exaggerated facial expressions.


non-content scene

Improvisational scene for two actors with specific yet simple dialogue with no predetermined scenario.


parent union

An actor’s first professional union that may provide eligibility into other acting unions. For example, if an actor has obtained her Equity card, she is eligible for her SAG card.

pension and health payment

An additional amount of money paid by the employer to cover employee benefits under union contract.



A direction given by the stage manager for everyone to be in the proper position for the beginning of an act.



A 4”x6” picture of an actor with name and other information, intended to remind industry professionals of an actor’s recent credits and other news.


presentational theatre

Abstract or nonrealistic theatre that seeks to imitate with a minimum amount of recognizable reference to life.


properties (props)

Any object that an actor handles, such as glasses, books or weapons. Furniture and objects used to decorate the set, like plants or lamps, are set dressing. A personal prop is an object that the actor always carries with them such as a pocket watch or handkerchief.



The wall dividing the stage from the auditorium.

proscenium opening

The arched opening in the proscenium wall through which the audience can see the stage.


representational theatre

Realistic theatre that attempts to represent nature as closely as possible.



List of credits, training, and special skills, usually attached to an 8”x10” headshot.


Screen Actors Guild (SAG)

The union representing film actors.



A stage show designed to promote actors by allowing them to perform in short venues with industry attendance.


Showcase Code

In ninety-nine-seat (or fewer) theatres that are otherwise professional, an agreement under which Equity waives contract provisions under certain circumstances. Previously known as “Equity Waiver,” a term still used informally.


standard union contract

The standard format contract approved by the unions and offered to most union performers before the job.



A director may ask an actor to steal; that is, she wants a movement that will not receive the audience’s attention. The term is also used to mean taking the audience’s attention when it should be elsewhere. Scene stealers, either intentional or unintentional, are not well-liked by any cast.


straight part

A role without marked eccentricities, normally a young man or young woman. See character part.


straight play

Any play—comedy or drama—that is not musical or classical.



The direction given by the stage manager to change the setting for another scene or to dismantle it at the end of a performance.


suspension of disbelief

The audience’s willingness to temporarily accept the actions on stage as truth, although they never completely forget they are watching fiction.


“take five”

The announcement of periodic five-minute breaks. “Take ten” would naturally mean a ten-minute break.


talent agent

The liaison between the actor and casting director. Union-affiliated talent agents can only accept a 10 percent commission from their clients.


talent manager

Another form of representation for the actor, managers do not have a set commission base nor do they have any union affiliations, but they usually work more closely with individual actors.



Short for “trade papers,” the newspapers and periodicals such as the Hollywood Reporter and Variety that specifically feature information on the entertainment industry.



An opening in the stage floor.



Synonymous with auditions.



A performer hired to do a role if the lead player is unable to perform.



Union-approved permission for deviation from the terms of a standard contract.



A small part without lines; an extra.



A class where actors can learn from industry professionals, often for a limited number of sessions.


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People and Companies to Know

Actors Studio Theatre

Founded in 1947 by Elia Kazan, Cheryl Crawford, Robert Lewis, and Anna Sokolow, the Actors Studio became of the top acting training programs in the United States. Based on their Stanislavski work from the Group Theatre, Lee Strasberg took the helm in 1951 and redefined the studios mission to center of teaching Strasberg’s Method.


Adler, Stella (1901-1992)

One of the great American acting teachers of the twentieth century, Stella Adler was a founding member of the Group Theatre and later the Stella Adler Conservatory in New York City. Many renowned actors have studied her method, based on use of the actor’s imagination. Books include The Technique of Acting (1988), Creating a Character: A Physical Approach to Acting (1993), Stella Adler: The Art of Acting (2000), and Stella Adler on Ibsen, Strindbert, and Chekhov (2001).

Alexander, F. Matthias (1869 - 1955)

Founder of the Alexander Technique, a discipline focused on bodily coordination, including psychological principles of awareness, applied for the purposes of recovering freedom of movement, in the mastery of acting, as well as general self-improvement affecting poise, impulse control and attention.

Berry, Cicely (1926 - )

Voice Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratfor-Upon-Avon, England since joining in 1969, she developed ways of working on classical text. Her texts include Voice and the Actor (1973), The Actor and the Text (1993), and Text in Action (20011) investigates how we hear language, as well as how fashions in language are constantly changing, and how this affects the actor onstage.


Boal, Augusto (1931-2009)

Brazilian director, playwright, and theorist. His revolutionary models of political and cultural theatre-making—with increased interaction between the audience and actors—gained an international reputation. Books include Theatre of the Oppressed (1979), The Rainbow of Desire: The Boal Method of Theatre and Therapy (1995), and Games for Actors and Non-Actors (1992, 2002).


Bogart, Anne (1951 - )

American theatre director who developed her version of the theatrical technique of Viewpoints, which she incorporates in much of her work, based on Mary Overlie’s discover of The Six Viewpoints of Dance. Other books include A Director Prepares (2001), The Viewpoints Book (2005), and And Then, You Act (2007),


Boleslavsky, Richard (1889-1937)

An original member of the Moscow Art Theatre’s first Studio, he left Russia in 1920, settled in the United States in 1922, and founded the American Laboratory Theatre in 1923. His book, Acting: The First Six Lessons (1933) introduced Americans to Stanislavski’s theories.

Chekhov, Michael (1891-1955)

Russian stage and film actor, director, and teacher. Member of the Moscow Art Theatre’s First Studio, Chekhov immigrated to the United States in 1928. Stanislavski referred to him as his most brilliant student, his theatrical existentialism influenced and divided the Group Theatre. Chekhov taught a range of movement dynamics such as molding, floating, flying, and radiating that actors use to find the physical core of a character. His techniques, though seemingly external, were meant to lead the actor to a rich internal life.


Clurman, Harold (1901-1980)

Director, critic, author, teacher, and co-founder of the Group Theatre. Drama critic for The Nation, he wrote a chronicle of the Group theatre’s inception and the attempt to make art within America’s marketplace culture called The Fervent Years (1961). Other books include All People Are Famous (1974) and On Directing (1974).


Droznin, Andrei

Russian theatre director and movement coach, he is best known for his stage movement technique that combines Meyerhold’s biomechanics and Stanislavski’s System. Droznin’s technique has become an essential part of theatre training programs throughout the world.

Feldenkrais, Moshé (1904 – 1984)

Centered on movement with the purpose of expanding and refining the use of self through awareness, the Feldenkrais method is designed to improve the movement repertoire of dancers, musicians, and actors. The Feldenkrais method holds that there is no separation between mind and body, and thus learning to move better can improve one’s overall well-being on many levels. Books include The Elusive Obvious (1981) and The Potent Self: A Study of Spontaneity and Compulsion (2002).

Grotowski, Jerzy (1933-1999)

Polish director and acting theorist whose work stressed the importance of the actor; his style bordered on dance choreography. His book Towards a Poor Theatre (1968), declared that theatre should not, because it could not, compete against the overwhelming spectacle of film and should instead focus on the very root of the act of theatre: actors co-creating the event of theatre with its spectators. His work proved seminal in the European and American theatre.


Group Theatre

Founded in 1931 by Harold Clurman, Lee Strasberg, and Cheryl Crawford, the Group was a pioneering attempt to create a theatre collective influenced by the teachings of Stanislavski and modeled on the Moscow Art Theatre. In its ten years of existence, the Group Theatre produced the most important group of theatre practitioners and teachers in U.S. history.

Hagen, Uta (1919-2004)

Preeminent German-born actress known for her portrayals of Blanche Du Bois in A Streetcar Named Desire, Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and Mrs. Klein in Mrs. Klein, Hagen was perhaps known best as a great teacher of acting at her second husband’s HB Studio and through her two books, A Challenge for the Actor (1991) and Respect for Acting (1973). Edward Albee called her “a profoundly truthful actress,” and her teaching advocates an intensely realistic acting, as opposed to pre-determined “formalistic” approaches. In her mode of realism, the actor puts his own psyche to use in finding identification with the role, “trusting that a form will result.”


Laban, Rudolf (1879 – 1958)

Dance artist and theorist, Rudolf Laban’s work laid foundations for Laban Movement Analysis. Widely used by dancers and stage movement teachers, it is a way and language for interpreting, describing, visualizing, and notating all ways of movement. Many movement courses offer Laban work as part of its curriculum, but these are not necessarily his prime legacy. He maintained that he had no method and had no wish to be presented as having one. Rather a spirit of enquiry is the main legacy that unites the scattered and diverse body of people who use his work.


LeCoq, Jacques (1921 – 1999)

French actor, mime, and acting coach, LeCoq is most famous for his methods on physical theatre. He aimed at training his actors in ways that encouraged them to investigate ways of performance that suited them best. His training was intended to nurture the performer’s creativity, as opposed to giving them a codified set of skills. LeCoq’s training involved an emphasis on masks. Starting with the neutral mask, the aim was to aid an awareness of physical mannerisms as they get greatly emphasized while wearing the mask.


Lessac, Arthur (1909- )

Creator of Lessac Kinesensic Training for the voice and body, Arthur Lessac’s taught the “feeling process” for discovering vocal sensation in the body for developing tonal clarity, articulation, and for better connecting to text and the rhythms of speech. Books include The Use and Training of the Human Voice: a Practical Approach to Speech and Voice Dynamics (1967), Body Wisdom: The Use and Training of the Human Body (1981), and The Use and Training of the Human Voice: a Bio-dynamic Approach to Vocal Life (1997).


Lewis, Robert (1909-1997)

American director, producer, writer, and actor, Lewis was an original member of the Group Theatre from 1931–1941 and later founded the Actors Studio Theatre and headed the Yale School of Drama Acting and Directing Departments. His publications remain some of the most accessible interpretations of Stanislavski’s theories ever written. Acting books include Method – Or Madness? (1958), Advice to the Players (1980), and the memoir, Slings and Arrows: Theater in My Life (1984).

Linklater, Kristin (1935- )

Originally from Scotland, Kristin Linklater trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art before relocated to the United States, where she was a founding member of Shakespeare & Company. She later developed her own approach to voice for actors, influenced by her teachers at LAMDA as well as the Alexander Technique. Her work is designed to liberate the natural function of the vocal mechanism as opposed to developing a vocal technique. Books include Freeing the Natural Voice (1976), Freeing Shakespeare’s Voice: The Actor’s Guide to Talking the Text (1992), and Revised and Expanded Edition, Freeing the Natural Voice (2006).


Margolis, Kari

With Tony Brown, founded the Margolis Brown Adaptors Company, Kari Margolis developed a physically-based approach to performance called the Margolis Method, which takes inspiration from the research of such artists as Etienne Decroux, Bertolt Brecht, and Jerzy Grotowski. The goal is to analyze and focus the dramatic force and emotion created by an actor’s physicality to further the creative and expressive process, which seeks to empower the actor to work simultaneously as director, playwright, and performer.


Meisner, Sanford (1905-1997)

One of America’s great acting teachers, who sprang from the Group Theatre of the 1930s. He developed an acting methodology now known as the Meisner Technique. Focused on “the reality of doing,” Meisner's unusual techniques were considered both unorthodox and effective. The goal of the Meisner technique has often been described as getting actors to “live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” The technique emphasizes that to carry out an action truthfully on stage, it is necessary to let emotion and subtext build based on the truth of the action and on the other characters around them, rather than simply playing the action or playing the emotion. His book, Sanford Meisner on Acting (1987) remains ever-popular in acting classes.


Moore, Sonia

The most critically acclaimed American teacher of the Stanislavski System. Besides Stanislavski’s own published works, hers remain the most widely read interpretation of his techniques.


Moscow Art Theatre

Founded by Constantin Stanislavski and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko in 1898, the Moscow Art Theatre was conceived as a venue for naturalistic theatre, in contrast to melodramas that were Russia’s dominant form of theatre at the time. Still active today, it became the best-known Russian theatre and arguably the most influential company in the history of theatre.


Meyerhold, Vsevolod (1874 - 1940)

Russian and Soviet director, actor and producer who provocative experiments known as Biomechanics, deals with physical being and symbolism in an unconventional theatre setting. Meyerhold's acting technique had fundamental principles at odds with the American method actor's conception. Where method acting melded the character with the actor's own personal memories to create the character’s internal motivation, Meyerhold connected psychological and physiological processes and focused on learning gestures and movements as a way of expressing emotion outwardly. Following Stanislavski's lead, he argued that the emotional state of an actor was inextricably linked to his physical state (and vice versa), and that one could call up emotions in performance by practicing and assuming poses, gestures, and movements. He developed a number of body expressions that his actors would use to portray specific emotions and characters. Books include Meyerhold on Theatre, Braun, trans. (1969) and Meyerhold Speaks/Meyerhold Rehearses (1996).


Nemirovich-Danchenko, Vladimir (1858-1943)

Russian co-founder—with Stanislavski—and literary manager of the Moscow Art Theatre from 1898 until his death in 1943. Just before his death, he established the Moscow Art Theatre School, which continues to thrive today.


Rodenburg, Patsy

Director of Voice at London's Royal National Theatre and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Patsy Rodenburg provides a wondrously simple way of releasing the voice and body. She teaches actors to get to the heart of the text by making the necessity for the language to be strongly felt by audiences. In her book, Presence (2007), she explains there are three levels of presence. In Circle One we are focused inwards, concentrating on ourselves and not on the world around us, and in Circle Three we are focused only on the world around us. We do not have presence. Rodenburg argues that only when we're in Circle Two - when we both receive and give - do we have presence. Other books include The Right to Speak (1992), The Need for Words (1993), Speaking Shakespeare (2002), and The Second Circle (2008).


Smukler, David

Director of Canada’s National Voice Intensive, Smukler’s technique is designed around the development of a coherent vocal practice and its symbiotic relationship to physical, intellectual, and emotional investigations, as well as language and creative preparation.


Stanislavski, Constantin (1863-1938)

Russian co-founder and director of the Moscow Art Theatre from 1898 until his death in 1938. The creator of the world’s first and best known systematized study of the acting art. Most of today’s acting technique training is a derivative of Stanislavski’s System. Stanislavski described his approach as “spiritual realism,” a psychophysical approach, which explored character action both from the “inside out” and the “outside in.” Acting books include An Actor Prepares (1936), Creating a Role (1961), Building a Character (1949), and his memoir, My Life in Art (1924).

Skinner, Edith (1904-1981)

Carnegie-Melon and Julliard faculty member and one of the leading speech coaches to many Broadway actors, Skinner’s book, Speaking with Distinction (1990), taught that “vocal production involves the coordination of breathing, vibration, and resonation. In other words, a good voice is one that is firmly supported by the breathing mechanism in the body . . . A good voice issues from a relaxed throat and resonates freely through the pharynx, mouth and nasal passages, producing an appropriate balance of resonance. A good voice is flexible; it can vary in pitch, timbre, volume, and tempo. Speech, the final step in the process, is articulated breath, or breath that is shaped by the articulators into the sounds of language.


Strasberg, Lee (1901-1982)

One of the founders of the Group Theatre and later the Actors Studio and developer of what came to be known as Method Acting, an internal approach based on the early teaching of Stanislavski, emphasizing affective memory. Strasberg demanded great discipline of his actors as well as great depths of psychological truthfulness. He explained, “The human being who acts is the human being who lives. That is a terrifying circumstance. Essentially the actor acts a fiction, a dream; in life the stimuli to which we respond are always real. The actor must constantly respond to stimuli that are imaginary. And yet this must happen not only just as it happens in life, but actually more fully and more expressively. Although the actor can do things in life quite easily, when he has to do the same thing on the stage under fictitious conditions he has difficulty because he is not equipped as a human being merely to playact at imitating life. He must somehow believe. He must somehow be able to convince himself of the rightness of what he is doing in order to do things fully on the stage.”


Suzuki, Tadashi

Japanese director, writer, and philosopher, Tadashi Suzuki created the Suzuki Method of Actor Training, which comes from understanding ancient Greet theatre and experiencing the Japanese performance styles of Noh and Kabuki, both of which emphasize strength in traditional values, discipline, and physical control. His philosophies concern the humanistic relationship between man and earth and manifest in rigorous training practices that demand an extreme level of body control and physical exertion.


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