ADC Theatre Lexicon

Edited by A. R. Morgan

Preface to the Second Edition

When some copies of the first edition of the lexicon were discovered lurking in kit form in one of the A.D.C.'s filing cabinets during an office reorganization at the end of the 1980s, it was new to all those present. Several people around at the time got copies, but while almost all found it interesting, a common complaint was that much seemed to be out of date, and the quality of reproduction left quite a lot to be desired. It was clear that what was required was a new edition, brought up to date and re-typeset.

Well, it has taken a few years for anyone to get around to actually doing it, but here is the result. This edition has been typeset in \LaTeX [Microsoft Word v6.0 version altered by D. P. Oswald; converted to this HTML form by R. Loxley] and substantially updated and expanded. The original had around 500 entries, the vast majority of which have been preserved, though some have been marked as outdated, and over 300 new entries have been added. The appendices, particularly the one about lighting, have also been updated to reflect the changes in equipment or practices that have occurred since the first edition was written.


The anonymous author of the first edition deserves the majority of the credit for this work, as do those cited in the acknowledgments therein: Tim Gosling and Elwyn Davies. Thanks are also due to all those who have kindly proof read and suggested entries for both additions.


In running the back-stage of a theatre, an enormous variety of equipment and techniques are employed, drawn from diverse skills and trades. The work rarely requires particularly high standards, but almost invariably the time available is strictly limited. To enable the technicians who do this work to communicate tersely, everything has a name and every technique is described, which in itself makes for a large (and to the uninitiated often incomprehensible) vocabulary. A large proportion of the terms used are special meanings of ordinary English words; this makes them easier to remember, but harder to understand initially. Also, there are far more words associated with this field than one finds in other types of jargon. The net result of all this is a sub-language that is sufficiently confusing to frighten away many aspiring technicians.

This document is primarily intended to enable the novice technician to understand the process of the theatre as quickly as possible, and also to enlighten the slightly more experienced when the odd strange term is used. It is hoped that others who need to converse with the crew may also find it useful. Most of the the words in common use are covered, as well as a sprinkling of common tradenames. More specialist topics which cannot easily be covered as a simple definition are not dealt with. Besides, these areas of activity are for the most part not solely theatrical in nature and so are really outside the scope of this document. The appendices attempt to give a broad introduction to the most important technical aspects of theatre, introducing some of the most common terms in context.

The words are all defined as used in the A.D.C. Theatre, Cambridge. Many of the terms herein are in widespread use in other theatres, but where terms are strictly local to the A.D.C. (or in some cases to Cambridge) this is noted. Note that if an ordinary English word has taken on a special meaning in the theatre, this does not preclude its use with its more usual meaning.

The Lexicon