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What The Mezz?!

Theatre Terminology

Do you know your Stage Right from your House Left? Have you ever wondered if there’s a difference between a Balcony, a Mezzanine, and a Dress Circle? And what the heck is a “Swing” doing in the show, anyway?

Test your knowledge and discover some of the basic terms and lingo used in the theatre.




1. The major structural division in a drama, often separated by an intermission break for the audience. 2. What actors do!


A walkway between sections of seats in a theatre. In a theatre, aisles are usually assigned a number (eg. Aisle 1). A typical theatre ticket will include seating section, aisle, row and seat number information unless the event is sold as "general admission".


A member of the cast who is hired to understudy a lead role and is contracted to appear at specific performances (eg. on Wednesday and Sunday matinees) as opposed to stepping in only when the regular cast member is unable to perform.

Amateur Theatre

Productions that are non-paying, involving people who are participating for their own enjoyment.

Artistic Director

The person who oversees the artistic vision of a theatre company or arts organization.

Assigned Seating

A ticket that reserves a specific seat in the theatre for the paying customer, usually including a seating section, aisle, row and seat number (eg. Orchestra section, Aisle 1, Row A, Seat 10).


Process used in casting a production. Actors have the chance to show a director/casting director what they can do, to determine if they are a good fit for a specific role.




Refers to all areas of the theatre that are out of sight of the audience - behind, beside or beneath the stage. These areas are meant for the people who work as part of the show, including performers, musicians, technical crew, stage and company management.


The upper or 3rd-tier of a theatre, often referred to as "the Gods". These seats are farthest from the stage, and usually include the least expensive seats in the theatre.

Bells (FOH)

Bells will sound in the front of house to alert the audience that the show is going to start/continue, usually at intervals of 5, 2 and 1 minute. The start of the bells is coordinated between the Production Stage Manager and the Front of House Manager.


1. The script of a show. (eg. An actor is "off book" when their lines are memorized.) 2. The non-sung text in a musical is known as the Book. (The sung lyrics are the Libretto).

Box Office

1. Part of the theatre front of house where people can purchase tickets in person. 2. In theatre lingo, the "box office" can also refer to the amount of money made in ticket sales on a given performance.


In a theatre, the Boxes are enclosed seating areas at the side of the auditorium. These seats do not usually afford the best view of the stage, but rather, they allow occupants to "be seen" by the rest of the audience and offer more privacy (often used for special VIP guests).



Canadian Premiere

The first regular performance of a theatrical production in Canada.

Capital Investment

A sum of money provided to allow for the development of the production, to get it started and up on its feet. It pays for everything needed in the creation of the show.


The members of the acting company. A Cast List includes the names of actors and the characters/roles they play.

Casting Director

Responsible for finding talent and matching actors with roles; works with a director to assemble the cast of a show. In theatre, the Casting Director often holds the first round(s) of auditions before bringing a selected group of actors to the director for consideration.

Centre Stage

The middle of the stage (also referred to as Mid Stage). This is the most prominent spot on stage with the best sightlines to all seats in the auditorium. Centre Right and Centre Left are also areas within the middle portion of the stage.


1. A named individual within a play. 2. The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual within a play.

Character Role

A secondary or supporting role in a show (as opposed to a Lead Role).


A member of the production team responsible for setting the movement sequences or dance numbers in a show.

Commercial Theatre

A business oriented approach to theatrical production where the objective is to make a profit for the investors.


In theatre, this refers to the cast, crew and other staff associated with a show.


The director of the orchestra, responsible for setting the tempos and leading the musicians and performers.

Creative Team

Refers to the core production and design team who work closely with the Director to achieve the artistic vision of the show. The Director, Producer, Author & Composer (in the case of a new work) , Choreographer, Music Director, Designers (Set, Costume, Lighting, Sound, etc), Stage Management, Dramaturg, Conductor, Casting Director are among the people that comprise the Creative Team.


A hanging piece of fabric that conceals the stage from the view of the audience. Traditionally, the curtain rises or parts at the beginning and closes or descends between acts or at the end of the show. However, whether an actual curtain is used or not, the term "curtain" is used to refer to the start and end of the show. (eg. "Curtain up at 8pm; curtain down at 10:30pm .")

Curtain Call

The bows at the end of a performance; a time given for the audience to acknowledge the performers with their applause.



Dance Captain

Usually a member of the ensemble, the dance captain assists with cast rehearsals, warm ups and maintaining the integrity of the choreographer's vision.


A person responsible for planning the look, form and workings of something before it is built. There are many Designers would contribute to the creation of a show. eg. Costume Designer, Scenic Designer, Lighting Designer, Sound Designer, Projection Designer.


The person responsible for the overall creative and artistic vision of the show. (There are many different Director roles in the theatre. eg. Artistic Director, Fight Director, Technical Director.)


The part of the stage nearest to the audience. Downstage Left, Downstage Centre, Downstage Right are areas towards the front the stage. The literal meaning of the "downstage" relates to this being the lowest part of a raked stage, which angles down towards the audience. A movement towards the audience is referred to as "moving downstage".


Aids in the continuity, clarification and storytelling of a production, often as an advisor regarding the background or historical relevance of a play; the role may also involve assisting a playwright with shaping/editing a new script, serving as liaison between playwright and director, or advising a theatre company on script selection.

Dress Circle

Another name for the 2nd-tier seating in a theatre, used most commonly in the UK. Also referred to as the Mezzanine, or First Balcony (if the theatre has more than one balcony). These are among the best seats in a theatre, and thus command higher ticket prices. Traditionally, the audience seated here would come to the theatre in their finest and showiest "evening dress", hence it came to be referred to as the "Dress Circle".

Dress Rehearsal

A run-through of the entire show, with full technical and creative elements (costume, make-up, lights, etc), prior to first public performance.


A member of the Wardrobe Department who helps actors with costume changes during the performance and costume care.




A group of actors working together. The "ensemble" (also called the "chorus") are performers in a show that sing, dance, and play supporting roles. An "ensemble performance" refers to a production where there is no clear lead role(s) and the focus is on group work.


This refers to the "Actor's Equity Association", the union for professional stage performers and Stage Managers. In Canada, it is called Canadian Actor's Equity Association (CAEA). Performers must earn membership in the union. An Equity Production abides by the agreements and rules set forth by the union.



Front of House (FOH)

Refers to all areas in a theatre that are situated in front of the proscenium arch that are open to the general public / audience. This includes areas such as the lobbies, box office, coat check, public washrooms.

Front of House Manager

Responsible for the day-to-day operations of the theatre's FOH. Duties include overseeing things such as building maintenance, ushering staff, bar/concession and merchandise.



General Admission

A ticket that provides entrance into the performance, but no seating reservation (eg. Doors open at 8pm - General Admission).


A vertical pole with a single, exposed, incandescent lightbulb that is left burning on the stage when all other lights in the theatre have been turned off. For practical purposes, it provides some light for whoever arrives first the next day so they don't trip in the dark. Superstition tells us the real purpose is to provide a light for the theatre ghosts to perform by while the living are away.

Gross Potential (GP)

Projected gross total (including projected discounts) of all tickets sold for a performance, week, or run of a show.

Group Sales

In theatre, a Group refers to a bundle of tickets that are sold for a specific performance in the run of show, as determined by the group size minimum and usually involving a group discount and special terms of sale.




In theatre lingo, this can refer to 1. the audience (eg. "How big is the house tonight?") or 2. the auditorium. The Production Stage Manager must "give over the house" to the Front of House Manager before the audience can be let in to start taking their seats, typically 30 minutes prior to the start of the performance.

House Left / Right

When facing the stage from the audience, your left is House Left; your right is House Right.




The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) is a North American labour union representing technicians, artisans and craftspersons working in live theatre, motion picture and television film production and trade shows. IATSE Local 58 is the chapter representing personnel working event within Toronto and the GTA.

Intermission / Interval

Refers to a short break between sections of a performance, typically 15-20 minutes in length. This time provides a break for the performers and the audience, and is sometimes used by crew members to make more elaborate adjustments to the set. (Intermission is also an opportunity to sell concession items and show merchandise, which are important additional revenue streams independent of the ticket sales revenue).



Lead Role

The main character or protagonist in a play or musical.

Load In

The process of moving the set, props and hardware of a production into the theatre for installation.

Load out

The process of moving an entire production out of the theatre at the end of the run. It will be loaded onto trucks and tranported to the next theatre stop, or put into storage.

Loading Dock

Part of the venue that provides direct access to the backstage areas (including the stage, freight elevators, storage rooms) and is large enough to accommodate the loading in/out of the physical production elements (including sets, lighting, wardrobe, props, etc).


The words to a song. A piece of musical theatre will credit writers of 'Book' and 'Lyrics'. The author of the book writes the script (unsung) and the lyricist writes the lyrics in the songs.




The 2nd-tier of seating in a theatre, usually overhanging the rear portion of the Orchestra seating. These seats are also considered very desirable and are often among the most highly priced seats in a theatre. May also be referred to the Dress Circle, or First Balcony (if the theatre has more than one balcony).


In a musical, this refers to the composer-written music.

Music Contractor

The person responsible for finding the appropriate musicians needed for a production who can play the required instruments and style. The contractor is the liaison between the production's creative team and the musicians, and also between the musicians and their union.


A "musical" is similar to a play but uses music as an essential element of storytelling. The characters in a musical will often communicate their deepest thoughts and feelings through song. The genre of Musical Theatre developed out of light opera in the early 20th century.

Musical Director

The person who oversees the musical content of a production, often also fulfilling the role of conductor.



Non Profit Theatre

Productions that are not intended to yield profits for individual investors or the organization involved. Any profits are reinvested back into the theatre. These productions may be eligible for government arts funding.


This refers to performers, productions, or theatres that are not associated with the Actors Equity Association.

North American Premiere

The first regular performance of a theatrical production in North America.



Online Sales

Buying and selling of goods using the internet.

Open-ended Run

A production that has no predetermined closing date, with option of extending the run as determined by ongoing ticket sales and popularity of the show.

Opening Night

Sometimes referred to a "press" or "media" night, this is the first performance with a paying audience to which members of the press and theatre critics are invited for the purpose of reviewing the show. Depending on the show, it can be a highly publicized gala event, and is usually followed by an opening night celebration.


1. The section of seating on the main floor of a theatre is known as the "Orchestra" (sometimes also referred to as "the stalls", especially in the UK). Often these are the most highly priced seats in the theatre, and are the closest to the stage. 2. The ensemble of musicians that provide the musical accompaniment for a show is also called the "Orchestra".

Orchestra Pit

A lower area located between the stage and the Orchestra seating that provides a space for the musicians (the "orchestra") to play during the show, if the director wishes them to remain unseen by the audience.




A live musical, dramatic or other entertainment presented before an audience. In theatre, we think of a 'performance' as a specific, single unit within the run of a show (eg. '"I have a ticket for the Wed matinee performance of Come From Away, on January 20, 2021".)


The call by stage management to notify cast members to take their opening positions for the start of the act /show. eg. "Places please for the start of Act One."


A written text designed to be performed on stage.

Post Show

Refers to the period of time following the end of the show, when the audience may still be in the theatre (eg. A post show Q&A with members of the cast, or an event reception in the lobby).

Pre Show

Refers to the period of time before the start of the show, when the audience has entered the theatre and may be in the front of house lobby areas or auditorium.


This refers to a limited engagement run of production that happens prior to its planned Broadway debut.


The presenter is responsible for booking the shows for their venue. They may occasionally also be involved as a producer, but not necessarily.


Public performances prior to the official opening (media) night. Traditionally, this period is used to test the show out with a live audience and allows time for some last minute adjustments before the show is 'frozen', prior to Opening Night.


The producer oversees all financial and managerial aspects of mounting a theatrical production. Along with helping to arrange money needed to put on the production, they are responsible for hiring the creative team (and sometimes performers).

Production Schedule

A timetable for preparing a production to be ready for opening. This includes overseeing dates for everything from audition casting, completion of designs and building of the sets/costumes etc, advertising launch, box office opening, rehearsals and getting in to the theatre.

Production Stage Manager

This important role coordinates production work across the organization, especially focussing on the technical / production aspects and logistics. The PSM oversees the stage management team, and is responsible for coordinating every aspect of a production from scheduling to calling cues during a performance to maintaining the director's artistic vision once the show has opened.

Productions Costs

The capital cost of preparing a show, up to the first paid public performance. This includes everything needed to arrive at the first performance, through all stages of the creative development and rehearsals.

Professional Theatre

Productions that are paying, involving people who do the work as a career.

Prompt Book

"Master copy of the script or score that is used by Stage Management to control the running of a show. Also referred to as the "Book" or the 'production bible', it contains all the actors' moves and technical cues in the show, as well as all the important information that is needed by the SM team including contact lists, show reports, emergency procedures, local amenities, venue info, etc. The member of the SM team that is calling cues during the performance is "on the book".

Proscenium arch

The opening in the wall that stands between the stage and the audience in some theatres, often highly ornate and decorative. It forms a picture frame through which the audience views the show and, traditionally, improved the acoustics of vocal projection for the performers on stage.



Quick Change

A costume change that needs to happen very quickly, usually requiring the help of a Dresser. Quick changes take place close to the side of the stage, perhaps in a "quick change booth" erected to afford some privacy.




A response to a theatrical production, traditionally provided as a written essay by professional theatre critics. Along with a short synopsis of the plot, a review examines the production elements and how well they worked together as a whole.


A line of adjacent seats facing the same way. In a theatre, rows are typically assigned a letter (eg. Row A). A typical theatre ticket will include seating section, aisle, row and seat number information unless the event is sold as "general admission".

Royal Theatre

An official "royal" designation that is granted by the British monarch. It is a tradition that dates back to the 17th century, whereby only theatres that were granted "royal patents" were licensed to perform legitimate "spoken drama". The Royal Alexandra Theatre received its official letters of patent from King Edward VII in 1907, and is named after his wife, Alexandra, who was the queen of England at the time.


1. A sequence of scheduled performances of the same show. Productions may have a limited run (eg. 'This production will run for 2 weeks') or a longer run (see "Sit-Down" and "Open-Ended" run definitions). 2. During the rehearsal process, a "run" also refers to a rehearsal of the whole show or a section of it.

Running Costs

The weekly expenses, from the time of first paid public performance, required to maintain and run the show. This includes things like cast/company wages, producer's royalty, management fees and marketing.




A place for an individual audience member to sit. In a typical theatre, seats are assigned a number (eg. Seat number 10). A theatre ticket will include seating section, aisle, row and seat number information unless the event is sold as "general admission".

Show Report (FOH)

A written report provided by the Front of House manager after each performance summarizing all the activity pertaining to the audience eg. amount in bar/concession sales, number of latecomers, response to the show, customer service incidents. (The Production Stage Manager will also file a Show Report in regards to the activity pertaining to the performance and cast/crew backstage).

Single / Individual Sales

In theatre, this refers to the purchase of a ticket(s) for a specific performance in the run of a show, that is not part of Subscription or Group.

Sit-Down production

A production that is not part of a tour and will play a longer engagement at one venue, usually with an "open-ended" run.


A German word, referring to a "seated rehearsal", this is often the first time the orchestra and performers rehearse together. The focus of a sitzprobe is the music, allowing time for the Music Director to integrate and work with the cast and the musicians.

Stage Door

The entrance to a theatre that provides admission into the backstage areas from outside the building. It is the primary entrance for personnel working as part of the show or the venue, and also a popular place for audience members to wait at the end of a performance in the hopes of getting an autograph.

Stage Left / Right

When facing the audience from the stage, your left is Stage Left; your right is Stage Right.


A cast member who is hired specifically as an understudy for the lead or star of the show, and is usually not in the show in another way (eg. as part of the ensemble). It is possible that a stand-by may never get to perform the role for an audience at all, if the star is available to go on for every show.


To remove a prop ("strike the chair") from the stage, or disassemble an entire production ("strike the set") at the closing of a show.

Subscription Sales

In theatre, a Subscription refers to a series of shows that are sold as a package, usually involving a discount and special benefits.


A multi-talented member of the cast of a musical (or play with a large cast) who understudies multiple ensemble roles, and must be prepared to "swing in" to cover one (or sometimes more) ensemble tracks in the show. Even if all regular cast members are performing, the swings are on stand-by backstage and ready to step in if required.



Technical Rider

A document which outlines everything a touring production will require from a theatre venue in regards to staging, sound, lighting, backstage amenities and any equipment, staff or special arrangements that are necessary for the run of the show. The Tech Rider is sent in advance to the theatre's Production Manager, who is responsible for ensuring everything is arranged accordingly.


Selling goods and services over the telephone.


Toronto Musicians Association (TMA) is part of the American Federation of Musicians of United States and Canada (AFM). TMA, Local 149 is the chapter for musicians in Toronto and the GTA. Mirvish Productions has a Collective Agreement with the TMA that governs employment of musicians in the shows that we present at our venues.

Toronto Premiere

The first regular performance of a theatrical production in Toronto.

Touring production

A production that is booked for limited engagements at different theatres, travelling to different stops along the tour route.




Usually a member of the ensemble, a cast member responsible for learning another actor's role (lead or supporting), in addition to their own, so as to be ready to step in as a replacement if needed.


The part of the stage furthest from the audience. Upstage Left, Upstage Centre, Upstage Right are areas towards the back of the stage. The literal meaning of "upstage" relates to this being the highest part of a raked stage, which angles down towards the audience. 2. A movement away from the audience towards the back of the stage. 3. An actor that draws attention away from the main action inappropriately is "upstaging".


Members of the Front-of-House staff who attend to the safety and enjoyment of the theatre audience. Ushers perform a variety of duties, including the important job of helping guests find their seat for the show!



Will Call

This term refers to the in-person pick up of previously ordered tickets at the box office, on the day of the event.


The offstage/out of view space to the sides of the acting area.

World Premiere

The first regular performance of a theatrical production anywhere in the world.