Learning the Lingo

New to Alamance Children’s Theatre? Here is a quick introduction to some of lingo you’ll probably hear (and what it all means)!


ACT stands for “Alamance Children’s Theatre” and is pronounced “A – C – T” (as if spelling out the word ACT).

Every other year ACT produces a play designed with a cast of high school students in mind, and we call it an “ACT II Production.” ACT II is pronounced “Act Two.”

After show dinners

This is an optional time where the cast and crew meet at a local restaurant after the show for food and spending time together. The cost is the responsibility of each family.

Artist Covenant

The artist covenant is a document that you will sign at the initial meeting. It is a contract for appropriate student conduct throughout the production (including rehearsals). Breaking the artist covenant may result in discipline or removal from the production. Please read it carefully and make sure your young actors understand the commitment they must have in order for the show to be a success.


The area in a theater that is out of view of the audience is called “backstage.” It includes the wings, dressing rooms, props area, and the shop.

The Paramount Theater has great acoustics, and it’s fairly small. That makes it all the more important that the cast and crew keep very quiet throughout the entire production. Otherwise, they might be heard by the audience (and “break curtain”). This is a big challenge, especially for excited and nervous children! Each night of the production as well as tech week, a backstage parent is assigned to help the producers.

Backstage parent

When it is time for a performance, the children are usually full of energy and nerves. For each night of tech week and for each show, a volunteer parent assists the producers backstage as an extra set of eyes and hands, as well as a soothing and calming presence. Their responsibilities are to keep the children quiet and to assist the producers in various ways. The backstage parent should arrive at call time and be prepared to stay after the show until all the children have been signed out and picked up.

Break curtain

After the house opens, actors and crew should be backstage and completely quiet. They should not allow themselves to be seen or heard by the audience. This is called “Breaking curtain,” and it is bad etiquette!

At the Paramount Theater, there is a side entrance on the right side in front of the curtain. This is considered part of the stage. Everyone involved in the show (cast, crew, directors, producers, etc.) should avoid coming and going through that entrance once the house is open. If needed, you may go out the back of the shop and come around to the front of the theater.

Children will be supervised at all time, and anyone under the age of 12 must be escorted by an adult when going outside.

Call or call time
The director will announce “call” for each night of rehearsal and for each production of the play. This is the time that everyone should be present. Cast and crew members should not enter the Paramount Theater (even if the door is open) prior to call time.

Cast and Crew
The cast is made up of all actors in a production. They will pay a production fee that includes a package of goodies (t-shirts, comp tix, DVD, etc.). The crew is made up of those who work backstage with props, moving sets, working with lights or sound, and so forth.

Cast party
This is a potluck dinner for cast, crew, directors, producers and family. Everyone is recognized for their contributions to the show.

The party takes place immediately after strike and is organized by parent volunteers. Families sign up to bring food, drinks, or desserts. It is a fun time, and your children will love this final act of the production!

Cast Photos
Each show, the producers arrange for a photo of each cast member to be displayed in the lobby of the Paramount Theater during all performances. The date and time will be announced, and the cast and crew will receive the photo after the production is over.

Cast T-Shirt
Cast members receive t-shirts and are expected to wear them to school or out in public to help promote the show. You’ll be asked for your child’s size at one of the parent meetings. At that time you can buy additional shirts for yourself or family. The cost is $15 and is due in advance.

Comp tickets
Families will receive two complimentary tickets to any show for each cast member. Crew members do not get comp tickets. These tickets must be exchanged for an assigned seat ticket at the box office before the show!

One way of fulfilling your volunteer hours is to assist at the concession stand. Volunteers meet 45 minutes before the show starts to receive instructions. You will be able to watch most of the show from the balcony without purchasing a ticket. Signup sheets will be provided.

Parents are responsible for their actor’s costumes. Each member should have a tub, clearly labeled, to keep his or her things organized. The tub (with costume and props) will stay at the theater. No taking costumes home for washing or repair! If you need to take anything home during the production, you must have permission from a producer first! (Don’t take something home then ask permission later J.)

If your costume is hung, make sure that the hangar is labeled with your actor’s name.


See “Cast and Crew

The director is the person in charge of the show. He or she rehearses with the actors and manages the crew in order to create the best production possible. Each director is unique. Some are involved in more areas of the production (like set design, props, costumes, etc.) while others focus on preparing the actors and let the producers handle the other aspects of the show. Usually, if you have a question or concern about the production it is best to contact a producer first, rather than going straight to the director.

Director’s gift
The producers will notify everyone near the end of a production about a collection for a small gift. Just a few dollars, pooled together, goes a long way toward purchasing a nice gift for the director, in order to recognize his or her hard work.

Director’s notes

See “Notes

Dress rehearsal (also known as “dress”)
Near the end of tech week, all cast members will be required to wear their full costume and makeup. This is a full production of the play, including sound. It can be nerve wracking for younger children, and often runs a bit longer than regular rehearsal. ACT has the tradition of allowing parents to take pictures with flash at dress rehearsal. However, check with director first!

DVD of the show
For most productions, a DVD of the show is given to each cast member at the end of the production. Additional copies can be purchased. Crew members have the option to purchase one if desired.

Facebook Page
This is a closed group on Facebook (invitation only) where we share information, photos, and details about the show. It is an informal place to communicate with family, cast, crew, directors, and producers. This is where most important information gets shared, so make sure to send a request to join!

Search for “Alamance Children’s Theatre!” or go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/4790239299/.

Fourth wall
This is the imaginary boundary between the audience and the stage. Unless the play calls for it, actors should not speak directly to the audience or acknowledge its existence. Doing so is called “Breaking the fourth wall.” So, parents, we discourage your from waving to your young actors or trying to get their attention!

Gift table
In the lobby of the Paramount Theater, there will be a table for family and friends to leave small gifts or notes for cast and crew members. ACT normally has small gifts and Star Grams for sale. These gifts let the actors or crew members know that you attended the show and thought of them. The children check the table after the show.

Greet the audience
ACT has a rather unorthodox custom of allowing the cast to mingle in the lobby after the show and greet the audience. Yes, we know this breaks some of the theatrical rules, but we just love the chance for the cast and crew to see their friends and family afterwards. It’s a great time for pictures, too!


See “Makeup and Hair

“The house” actually can mean two things.

First, it’s the seating area of the theater (the auditorium). The cast will often meet in the house before the show to receive any last minute instructions from the director (called “notes”). Once the “house is open” (usually ½ hour before the show) all actors must remain back stage and be completely silent. Remember not to break curtain.

Secondly, “the house” is the people attending the show, the audience.

Between the acts of the play a short intermission gives the audience a chance to get up, stretch, visit the concession stand, and use the bathrooms. Before intermission, small prizes will be given out at random to audience members.

Please be prepared to quickly return to your seats when the lights in the lobby blink off and on.

It is considered bad manners to exit the auditorium during a performance. If you must leave, please consider returning to the balcony rather than the main auditorium. This will minimize distractions.

Actors memorize from the script the words that their character says during the play. This dialogue is called “lines” (as in “lines of text”). If an actor can’t remember the words during the early rehearsal, he or she can call “line” and someone will prompt. If the director tells the actors to be “off book” then they are not allowed to call for lines!

“Running lines” is how you help your actor’s learn their lines. They say their parts of a scene, and you read the other character’s lines.

Load in
This is the day when ACT moves into the Paramount Theater. It is usually the Sunday before the opening weekend of a new production. We bring in all the pieces of the set and props. It is a busy time, and requires a lot of workers and a lot of patience! Cast members over 12 years old and at least one parent are required to help with load-in. The producers will provide more information closer to the time.

See also: “Tech week

Makeup and Hair
The director will give instructions on the type of makeup each actor should use. Most actors will be required to wear some (even the boys) since the strong lights of the theater do funny things.

The director will also work on hairstyles. Once an actor accepts a role in a production, he or she should not get a haircut without first talking to the director.

Usually all makeup and hair styling should be done at home before arriving at the theater.

As the time draws closer to opening nights, most directors will have the cast perform long sections of the play without interruption. He or she takes notes during this time, then goes over the notes, indicating areas for improvement and giving out compliments. If rehearsals run late, the director may email notes. Please be sure to review them with your actors before the next rehearsal.

Off book or Off page

The director will announce which rehearsals will be “off book” meaning that all actors are expected to have their lines and blocking memorized.

Opening Night
After weeks of practice, excitement is high and nerves are frayed! It is time for the first show of the production. Normally this is a Friday night, and it is well attended, so exchange your comp tickets early.

Parent meetings
Initially, all parents are required to attend a parent meeting a few days after the cast list is posted. You will complete and turn in many forms (usually available online at the website AlamanceChildrensTheatre.com). Be prepared to pay the production fee at this time.

Midway through the rehearsal schedule, you’ll be notified of another meeting to finalize volunteer hours and signup for various tasks. This will be the time you receive detailed information about tech week.

Playbill and Playbill Ads
The playbill is the printed program given out to members of the audience. It includes information about the show, greetings from the producers and director as well as short biographies of each cast and crew member.

In the back are advertisements from sponsors and families. These ads help offset the cost of the show, including rental of the Paramount Theater. All families are encouraged to sell ads. We also have a tradition of selling “break a leg” ads, which are personal messages from family and friends to their young actors and crew members.

Two or three volunteers from the ACT board are chosen to be the producers for each show. They are in charge of all aspects of the show except for casting, stage directions, lights, sound, set design/construction, and costumes. They are your primary contact if you have questions, concerns, or suggestions. Please do not contact the director of the show without first checking with a producer!

Production Fee
This fee is paid at the first parent meeting. Families are asked to pay $50 for the first child and $40 for each additional child in the cast. This fee helps pay for the production costs of the show, as well as the cost of scripts, cast t-shirt, comp tickets, and other special items. If this fee would cause a hardship on your family, speak to one of the producers about a scholarship (full or partial).

Crew members do not pay a production fee, but they also do not receive many of the “goodies” (though they may purchase them, if they desire).

A prop (short for “theatrical property”) are the objects that actors handle or use during the show. They are kept backstage in a special area. If a production has a lot of props, one of the techies may get the title “props master.”

Not all objects are props, though. If something is on stage for display and isn’t used by an actor, it is part of the set.

Run and Run through
A “run through” is a rehearsal where the entire cast performs a complete act or the complete play without stopping.

Running lines

See “Lines

A booklet containing all the dialogue and stage directions for a play. Sometimes, ACT rents scripts and actors must pay a deposit (refunded at the end of the show when returned).

The set (short for “setting”) are all the decorations, scenery, and furniture used on stage. If an object is handled by an actor, it’s called a prop.

This is the open area backstage outside the dressing rooms. This is where the sets and props are stored. It is the only place where food or water is permitted (although no food should be eaten while in costume).

Star Grams
These are simple cards you can buy to leave a note on the gift table for a child. They are inexpensive, and proceeds go to support ACT. Some people attach a piece of candy or small gift.

This is the opposite of load in. After the last day of the show, everything has to be removed from the theater on after the final show on Sunday. ACT disassembles and removes the set, packs up the props.

This is a mandatory activity for all cast and crew. The children will change into street clothes and must take all their personal items out to a family vehicle. Everyone will receive a cleaning assignment, which will be posted on the bulletin board at the Paramount Theater.

Parents of children under 12 should be prepared to assist them with their assignments. No one leaves strike until everyone is finished or they are dismissed by a producer.

The cast party takes place immediately after strike!

Actors are a superstitious lot! Here are a few fun ones…

“Break a leg”— This is a popular phrase which means “good luck.” It is typically said to actors and musicians before they go on stage to perform. On the flip side, it is considered bad luck to say “good luck” to someone who is going on stage.

“Don’t wear blue, unless it’s countered with something silver” — This superstition goes back to the days when blue dye was expensive. Failing acting companies would wear blue to try to fool the audience as to their success! Wearing silver proved that you weren’t broke!

“Never give flowers before a performance” —It’s considered bad luck since there’s no guarantee that the actor will have a great performance and “earn” the recognition.

“Never bring a mirror onstage” — This one is both superstitious (bad luck) and practical (mirrors might reflect light on the audience or show hidden parts of the set).

“Every theater has its ghosts” — usually friendly, ghost stories are common at theaters. Most troupes have at least one night off, with the theater empty to confuse the ghosts (and to give the actors a break!) Our own ghost is named Hershel, but it’s all in good fun, and we discourage anyone from trying to scare the young actors!

“Macbeth” — The worst luck for an actor comes from saying the word “Macbeth” in a theater! Instead, actors call it “The Scottish Play” or “The Bard’s Play.” Say it by accident? Quickly recite a couple of lines from Shakespeare to ward off the bad luck!

See also “Greeting the audience

Tech and Techies
“Tech” handles the technical aspects of the production. Crew members who help with tech, such as lights, sound and props, are known as “Techies.” They crew wear black. They assist with props, scene changes, lights, sound and other behind the scenes functions.

Tech week
Starting with load in (the Sunday before the opening weekend), tech week is all about moving into the Paramount Theater and running through the final rehearsals before opening night!

It is a week of dress rehearsals (although costumes may not be necessarily required each night).

This week is incredibly important, and all cast members must be at all rehearsals. Rehearsals tend to last longer. Thursday night before opening night sometimes last later. Often, a reporter for the Burlington Times-News will attend one of these rehearsals in order to prepare a review.

The director will provide information on what will be required each night (costume, makeup, etc.).

Volunteer hours
Parents are expected to volunteer at least five hours for each show. These hours include assisting with set construction, making costumes, making props, assisting with concessions, and working backstage. A signup sheet will be provided

These are the dark areas on the sides of the stage that are hidden by curtains. These are part of backstage (entrances and exits) as well as the stage (can be seen by some seats in the house), so no one should be in these areas until they are ready to make an entrance.

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