- Theatre artists developed their own lingo referring to backstage situations and life on the road. Some of it entered general usage, like "winging it" for doing something without a considered plan, just as actors sometimes had to go on stage in roles they had not learned and thus frequently popped off into the wings to consult the script. Other terms remained within the profession and are lost to posterity except for the occasional appearance in an old play or in vocabulary lists compiled by fans, like Judge Horton, who saved for us such terms as "chesty" for an actor who overrated his own ability, and "knocker" for one who would make unkind comments about a fellow performer. A big-name performer or "headliner" would get "top of the hangers," meaning placement of the name near the top of the bills or posters that billposters hanged on walls about town. A "shape actress" was one who revealed the contours of her body by cross-dressing to play male roles; the term was mildly pejorative in that it implied a reliance on flaunting one's physical attributes as opposed to genuine artistry. "On with others" designated a performer who had to appear in a scene without any dialogue to speak. A "choir snatcher" was a manager whose quest for new talent would take him into local churches on Sundays to spot pretty faces and voices singing in the village choir.Audiences too had popular phrases to describe their theatergoing activities. A "carriage party" was a crush of horse-drawn carriages stopping in front of a theatre a half hour before curtain, a sure indication that the play was drawing a fashionable audience. In the early 20th century, the "subway circuit" referred to outlying theatres, as opposed to those conveniently located on Broadway. Line parties were groups of friends who bought their theatre seats together, all in a row or "line."Variety and even general newspapers popularized words like "ginger" to mean risqué content or suggestive dialogue; a show with too much ginger could face difficulties from local authorities in some cities. A "jay town," populated with "jays" or rubes, was so small that it could support no more than a one-night stand.See also Conway, Jack.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
Look at other dictionaries:
theatrical — the•at•ri•cal [[t]θiˈæ trɪ kəl[/t]] adj. Also, the•at′ric. 1) sbz of or pertaining to the theater or dramatic presentations 2) suggestive of the theater or of acting; artificial, spectacular, or extravagantly histrionic 3) theatricals sbz… … From formal English to slang
theatrical — a slang term referring to a feature length motion picture … Glossary of cinematic terms
break a leg — exclam. good luck; hope all goes well (from theatrical slang, where good luck is a jinx) … English slang
camp — 1) adj homosexual, effeminate or affectedly the atrical in manner, gesture, speech, etc. A word which emerged from theatrical slang into general use in the 1960s. The sense of the term has moved from the specific (a (male) homosexual) to the… … Contemporary slang
slap — I. n British 1. make up, face paint. A piece of theatrical slang which Partridge s Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English dates to 1860 and claims to be obsolete by 1930. In fact the term was still in common currency in the theatre in the … Contemporary slang
Nifty — smart; stylish; fine: nifty little car (originally theatrical slang) … Dictionary of Australian slang
drack — I. n Australian rubbish. An Australian variant form of the more common dreck. II. adj Australian scruffy, shabby, dowdy. The adjective is formed from the earlier noun, itself a var iant of dreck. drag n 1. women s clothing, as worn by men,… … Contemporary slang
Kensington Gore — n British artificial blood. This expression, which is an elaboration of the literary gore , has been in theatrical slang since before World War II and is still heard. It is a pun on the name of the road connecting Ken sington and Knightsbridge in … Contemporary slang
nanty — adj British no, none, nothing. The word was in use in London working class and theatrical slang from the early 19th century until the 1960s; this is an example of parl yaree, the Italian inspired patois of actors, showmen and circus workers.… … Contemporary slang
nanti — adj British no, none, nothing. The word was in use in London working class and theatrical slang from the early 19th century until the 1960s; this is an example of parl yaree, the Italian inspired patois of actors, showmen and circus workers.… … Contemporary slang