The title of this post has nothing to do with a rating system.
Arriving to the theatre building today, I noticed the bustle of activity down the hall in the theatre, and remembered, “Oh yes, today is a 10 out of 12.” In layman’s terms, the actors and crew are called for a 12 hour technical rehearsal, out of which they will work 10 hours: 12 hours, minus two one-hour breaks. A 10 out o 12. “How interesting,” I further pondered, “the jargon of this business- the business of putting on a play.”
So in the spirit of “tech” (the technical rehearsals where the technical elements of the play are incorporated on the stage: lights, sound, costumes, props) here is a little jargon FYI that you might hear backstage if you were “in tech.”
1. Props: short for “properties.” These are the items handled by the actors in the play. Sometimes they are significant to the plot, other times they are set dressing or used only briefly. They are designed, bought, found or made by the Props Artisans. One of the most famous “iconic” props in theatre history would have to be Hamlet’s prop skull that he holds and contemplates during the grave digger scene. (Hamlet, Act V, sc i)
2. Cue-to-Cue: A “cue” is a technical element in the play. For example, the lights coming up is a “cue.” A thunderclap might be a “sound cue.” Here is a definition of a “cue-to-cue” that describes it much better than I could: “A cue-to-cue is a run-through of the show from one technical cue (such as a lighting change, sound effect, or scene change) to another. Cue-to-cue allows the tech crew to rehearse the technical aspects of the show. Actors will come to the stage for their scene, and will lbe asked to start a few lines before a particular technical cue, the cue will run, and then the scene will be stopped and will jump to just before the next technical cue.” (from http://www.fass.uwaterloo.ca/handbook/tech-weekend)
3. Dry tech: This is kind of similar to a cue-to-cue. The difference is that the actors are not called to rehearsal. Because there are a limited number of hours in which the actors can actually be used (according to union contracts and such), there will sometimes be “dry tech” rehearsals where the stage manager and technicians will work through many of the technical elements, but without the actors. Then, when the actors do arrive, they can spend time rehearsing the play in the tech without having to stop and start and wait extra long periods of time while the technical elements get worked out.
4. The “call”: This is, most simply put, the schedule. It’s the times when people are told where to be. At the end of the night, the stage manager sends out the next day’s schedule. The general “call” might be 10am-5pm. Within that stretch of time, an actor might be “called” to a costume fitting at 1:30pm. Or there might be a “fight call” in which time is specifically set aside to rehearse a fight scene. On the night of a performance, actors are “called to dress” (meaning to dress for the top of the show) at “half hour call” (the half hour before the curtain time/start of the show.) As that half hour ticks away, the stage manager will periodically announce the time remaining before “places” (the time when everyone goes to their starting positions for the top of the show.) “Ladies and Gentleman, this is your 15 minute call.” or “Ladies and Gentlemen this is 5 minutes.” The “call to places” is given at 2 minutes before the “curtain goes up” at which point, the stage manager typically announces, “Ladies and Gentleman this is your call to places. Places, please for the top of Act One…”
5. Comps: this term is short for “complimentary tickets.” If you are lucky to know someone who knows someone, they might be able to get you a “comp” for opening night…
6. Break a leg: While there are lots of opinions about the origin of this phrase, it simply means “Good luck” (except it is bad luck to say ‘good luck’ so we say ‘break a leg.)’ My personal favorite story of the origin of this expression has nothing to do with the actor breaking his or her legs. How violent! No, this theory is purely technical: In traditional curtains, the legs of the curtain were constructed from long wooden rods. In the case of many encores, curtains would be lifted and dropped numerous times causing them to “break.” Not very glamorous, I know. There are many more romantic notions of “breaking legs.” Here’s a good link to a few: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Break_a_leg
Well, that’s just a few of the many, many terms particular to the world of theatre. Well done!
Now you can go and “Take 5.”