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Essential Theatre Terminology – The Stage

Ever wondered what the “apron” is, or what the difference is between “flats” and “tabs”? Well, here’s our quick roundup of some essential stage-related theatre terminology to help you feel like a pro!

Moving around the stage:

Upstage – The part of the stage furthest from the audience / the back of the stage. This term originally comes from raked stages, where the stage slopes down towards the audience and hence the furthest part from the audience is literally higher up.

Downstage – The part of the stage closest to the audience / the front of the stage. As above, it’s called downstage because it’s the lowest part of a raked stage.

Stage left/right – Left/Right as seen from point of view of an actor on stage facing the audience. As such, it’s the opposite of the audience’s left and right.

Centre stage – Quite simply the middle of the stage.

Backstage – The part of the stage – and theatre – which is out of sight of the audience. This usually includes the areas behind, beside and/or underneath the stage which are used by the cast and crew involved in the production, but are not accessible to audience members.

Parts of a stage:

Proscenium arch – The arch or frame that separates the stage from the auditorium and through which the audience watches the play.

Apron – The part of the stage in front of the proscenium arch that projects out into the auditorium.

Wings – The areas to the sides of the stage that are out of the audience’s view. Actors usually wait in the wings for their cues to go onstage.

Trapdoor – An opening through the stage floor allowing actors to come up onto the stage directly from below or leave the stage by going down through it.

Stage scenery:

Backcloth – A piece of canvas – either painted or plain – that is hung at the back of the scene to provide a decorative backdrop.

Flats – Lightweight timber frames covered with canvas or plywood that are used to provide a solid backdrop to a stage set. They may have windows or doors built into them to make the setting more realistic and allow actors to have a place to enter and exit the set.

Tabs – Stage curtains that can be used to partition the stage, concealing the back part of the stage to hide a set used in a different scene, for example, while still providing an acting area at the front of the stage.

Truck – A wheeled platform which a set can be built on to allow for an easy scene change – the set is simply wheeled on and off the stage as required.

Ready to tread the boards – that is, take to the stage – yourself? Now you’re clued up on the terminology, why not come and join us at Twyford Drama to put your knowledge to good use!


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