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Know your stage directions (and theatre terminology)

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It doesn’t matter how experienced you are sometimes when working in the theatre the orientation of the stage can be confusing. This can be especially true when under pressure. How many times have we all been backstage and we cannot for the life of us get our brains into gear to remember which side stage left is!

Vienna Opera Backstage, Austria

Not to worry Kozzii has created this handy little guide. You can even save it on your phone or laptop, print it off, and pop it into your pocket if you’re really struggling when the heat is on.

If you’re new to working backstage sometimes the names of different parts of the theatre and the directions associated with them can be a little daunting (and nobody wants to be the one to admit they don’t know what a stage direction means.) The handy little infographic below will stop those awkward moments in their tracks.

We have also included below a short glossary with explanations of the main directions and terminology you need to know (and how to remember them) You’re welcome!

 

STAGE DIRECTIONS & TERMINOLOGY WORTH KNOWING

Stage right

The part of the stage to the right of centre stage (From the actors perspective whilst facing out to the audience)

Stage Left

The part of the stage to the left of centre stage (From the actors perspective whilst facing out to the audience)

Centre Stage

The point dead centre of the stage.

UpStage

Towards the back of the stage (Tip: If the stage has a rake (See explanation below) then this is the highest point of the stage – If you are walking upstage you’d be walking uphill)

Downstage

Toward the front of the stage. (Tip: If the stage has a rake this is the lowest point of the stage – If you are walking downstage you’d be walking downhill)

Upstage Left

Toward the back corner of the stage left of centre (Left from the actors perspective whilst facing the audience)

Upstage Right

Towards the back corner of the stage that is right of centre (Right is from the actors perspective whilst facing the audience)

Downstage Left

Toward the front corner of the stage left of centre (Left from the actors perspective whilst facing the audience)

Downstage Right

Towards the front corner of the stage that is right of centre (Right is from the actors perspective whilst facing the audience)

Upstage Centre

Towards the back and centre of the stage (Uphill)

Downstage Centre

Towards the front and centre of the stage (Downhill)

Rake or Raked Stage

A stage that slopes upwards away from the audience. Less common or obvious in modern theatres but it is still worth imagining the raked stage to remember upstage and downstage directions.

Wings (Left and Right)

The area immediately off stage, usually there is a wing stage left and right.

The crossover

The walkway between stage left and right not visible to the audience.

The Pit

Traditionally this is at the front of the stage (Below stage level) and is where an orchestra would be placed.

The House

This term generally refers to the auditorium (Where the audience sits). If the house is open then the audience is being let into this space.

Front of House (FOH)

The area for the general public before they enter the theatre eg. Box office, foyer, bar and cafe areas.

Proscenium arch

The frame structure at the front of traditional playing spaces. End on or Proscenium playing is the most traditional audience seating configuration with the audience directly in front of the stage area.

Apron

A section of the stage floor which ‘thrusts’ towards the auditorium. In proscenium arch theatres, this part of the stage is in front of the house tabs.

Tabs (House Tabs)

The downstage curtains separating auditorium from the stage.

SAFETY CURTAIN

A fireproof ‘curtain’ that can be dropped downstage of the house tabs in a proscenium theatre. The purpose of a safety curtain is to protect the audience in the event of a fire.

So that’s the basic terminology and stage directions covered. There are plenty more (Which we will be covering at a later date) but these are the most likely to come up whilst working backstage. You’ll need to know what and where most of these are in order to follow instructions quickly and efficiently when working in wardrobe.

Good luck and remember, the show must go on!

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