Writing for Vaudeville (B)
by Brett Page

Presented by

Public Domain Books


ACT IN ONE.–An act playing in One (which see).
AD LIB.–Ad libitum–To talk extemporaneously so as to pad a scene or heighten laughter.
AGENT, VAUDEVILLE.–The business agent for an act.
APRON.–That part of the stage lying between the footlights and the curtain line.
ARGOT.–Slang; particularly, stage terms.
ASIDE.–A speech spoken within the sight and hearing of other actors, but which they, as characters in the act, do not “hear.”
AUDIENCE-LEFT.–Reverse of stage-left (which see).
AUDIENCE-RIGHT.–Reverse of stage-right (which see).
BACK OF THE HOUSE.–Back stage; the stage back of the curtain.
BACKING.–A drop, wing, or flat used to mask the working stage when a scenery-door or window is opened.
BACKING, INTERIOR.–Backing that represents an interior.
BACKING, EXTERIOR.–Backing that represents an exterior.
BARE STAGE.–Stage unset with scenery.
BIG-TIME.–Circuits playing two shows a day.
BIT, A.–A successful little stage scene complete in itself. A small part in an act.
BOOK OF A MUSICAL COMEDY.–The plot, dialogue, etc., to differentiate these from lyrics and music.
BOOK AN ACT, TO.–To place on a manager’s books for playing contracts; to secure a route.
BOOKING MANAGER.–One who books acts for theatres.
BORDER.–A strip of painted canvas hung above the stage in front of the border-lights to mask the stage-rigging.
BORDER-LIGHT.–Different colored electric bulbs set in a tin trough and suspended over the stage to light the stage and scenery.
BOX SET.–A set of scenery made of “flats” (which see) lashed together to form a room whose fourth wall has been removed.
BREAKING-IN AN ACT.–Playing an act until it runs smoothly.
BUNCH-LIGHT.–Electric bulbs set in a tin box mounted on a movable standard to cast any light–moonlight, for instance–through windows or on drops or backings.
BUSINESS, or BUS., or BIZ.–Any movement an actor makes on the stage, when done to drive the spoken words home, or “get over” a meaning without words.
CENTRE-DOOR FANCY.–An interior set containing an ornamental arch and fitted with fine draperies.
CHOOSER.–One who steals some part of another performer’s act for his own use.
CLIMAX.–The highest point of interest in a series of words or events–the “culmination, height, acme, apex.” (Murray.)
CLOSE-IN, TO.–To drop curtain.
COMEDY.–A light and more or less humorous play which ends happily; laughable and pleasing incidents.
COMPLICATION.–The definite clash of interests which produces the struggle on the outcome of which the plot hinges.
CRISIS.–The decisive, or turning, point in a play when things must come to a change, for better or worse.
CUE.–A word or an action regarded as the signal for some other speech or action by another actor, or for lights to change, or something to happen during the course of an act.
CURTAIN.–Because the curtain is dropped at the end of an act–the finish.
DIE.–When a performer or his act fails to win applause, he or the act is said to “die.”
DIMMER.–An electrical apparatus to regulate the degree of light given by the footlights and the border-lights.
DRAPERY, GRAND.–An unmovable Border just in front of the Olio and above Working Drapery.
DRAPERY, WORKING.–The first Border; see “BORDER.”
DROP.–A curtain of canvas painted with some scene and running full across the stage opening.
DUMB ACT, or SIGHT ACT.–Acts that do not use words; acrobats and the like.
EXPOSITION.–That part of the play which conveys the information necessary for the audience to possess so that they may understand the foundations of the plot or action.
EXTRA MAN, or WOMAN.–A person used for parts that do not require speech; not a regular member of the company.
FANCY INTERIOR.–The same as “Centre-door Fancy” (which see).
FARCE.–A play full of extravagantly ludicrous situations.
FIRST ENTRANCE.–Entrance to One (which see).
FLASH-BACK.–When a straight-man turns a laugh which a comedian has won, into a laugh for himself (see chapter on “The Two-Act”).
FLAT.–A wooden frame covered with a canvas painted to match other flats in a box set.
FLIPPER.–Scenery extension–particularly used to contain curtained entrance to One, and generally set at right angles to the proscenium arch (which see).
FLIRTATION ACT.–An act presented by a man and a woman playing lover-like scenes.
FLY-GALLERY.–The balcony between the stage and the grid iron, from where the scenery is worked.
FLYMEN.–The men assigned to the fly-gallery.
FOUR.–The stage space six or more feet behind the rear boundaries of Three.
FRONT OF THE HOUSE.–The auditorium in front of the curtain.
FULL STAGE.–Same as Four.
GAG.–Any joke or pun. See “POINT.”
GENRE.–Kind, style, type.
GET OVER, TO.–To make a speech or entire act a success.
GLASS-CRASH.–A basket filled with broken glass, used to imitate the noise of breaking a window and the like.
GO BIG.–When a performer, act, song, gag, etc., wins much applause it is said to “go big.”
GRIDIRON.–An iron network above the stage on which is hung the rigging by which the scenery is worked.
GRIP.–The man who sets scenery or grips it.
HAND, TO GET A.–To receive applause.
HOUSE CURTAIN.–The curtain running flat against the proscenium arch; it is raised at the beginning and lowered at the end of the performance; sometimes use to “close-in” on an act.
JOG.–A short flat used to vary a set by being placed between regulation flats to form angles or corners in a room.
LASH-LINE.–Used on flats to join them tightly together.
LEAD-SHEET.–A musical notation giving a melody of a popular song; a skeleton of a song.
LEGITIMATE.–Used to designate the stage, actors, theatres, etc., that present the full-evening play.
MELODRAMA.–A sensational drama, full of incident and making a violent appeal to the emotions.
MUGGING.–A contortion of the features to win laughter, irrespective of its consistency with the lines or actions.
OLIO.–A drop curtain full across the stage, working flat against the tormentors (which see). It is used as a background for acts in One, and often to close-in on acts playing in Two, Three and Four.
ONE.–That part of the stage lying between the tormentors and the line drawn between the bases of the proscenium arch.
OPEN SET.–A scene composed of a rear drop and matching wings, and not “boxed"–that is, not completely enclosed. See “BOX SET.”
PALACE SET.–Palace scene.
PART.–Noun: the manuscript of one character’s speeches and business; the character taken by an actor. Verb: to take, or play, a character.
PLAY UP, TO.–To pitch the key of a scene high; to play with rush and emphasis.
PLUGGER.–A booster, a singer who sings new songs to make them popular.
POINT.–The laugh-line of a gag (see “GAG”), or the funny observation of a monologue.
PRODUCE, TO.–To mount a manuscript on the stage.
PRODUCER.–One who produces plays, playlets, and other acts.
PROPERTIES.–Furniture, dishes, telephones, the what-not employed to lend reality–scenery excepted. Stage accessories.
PROPERTY-MAN.–The man who takes care of the properties.
PROPS.–Property-man; also short for properties.
PROSCENIUM ARCH.–The arch through which the audience views the stage.
RIGGING, STAGE.–The ropes, pulleys, etc., by which the scenery is worked.
RIPPLE-LAMP.–A clock-actuated mechanism fitted with ripple-glass and attached to the spot-light to cast wave-effects, etc., on or through the drops.
ROUTE.–A series of playing dates. To “route” is to “book” acts.
ROUTINE.–Arrangement. A specific arrangement of the parts of a state offering, as a “monologue routine,” or a “dance routine.”
SCENARIO.–The story of the play in outline.
SET.–Noun: a room or other scene set on the stage. Verb: to erect the wings, drops, and flats to form a scene.
SET OF LINES.–Rigging to be tied to drops and other scenery to lift them up into the flies.
SINGLE MAN–SINGLE WOMAN.–A man or woman playing alone; a monologist, solo singer, etc.
SLAP-STICK BUSINESS.–Business that wins laughs by use of physical methods.
SMALL-TIME, THE.–The circuits playing three or more shows a day.
SOUND-EFFECTS.–The noise of cocoanut shells imitating horses’ hoof-beats, the sound of waves mechanically made, and the like.
SPOT-LIGHT.–An arc-light with lenses to concentrate the light into a spot to follow the characters around the stage.
STAGE-DRACE.–An implement used with stage-screws to clamp flats firmly to the floor.
STAGE-CENTRE.–The centre of the stage.
STAGE-LEFT.–The audience’s right.
STAGE-MANAGER.–One who manages the “working” of a show behind the scenes; usually the stage-carpenter.
STAGE-RIGHT.–The audience’s left.
STRIKE, TO.–To clear the stage of scenery.
STRIP-LIGHT.–Electric bulbs contained in short tin troughs, hung behind doors, etc., to illuminate the backings.
TAB.–The contraction of “tabloid,” as burlesque tab, musical comedy tab.
TALKING SINGLE.–A one-person act using stories, gags, etc.
THREE.–The stage space six or more feet behind the rear boundaries of Two.
TIME.–Playing engagements. See “BIG-TIME,” “SMALL-TIME.”
TORMENTORS.–Movable first wings behind which the Olio runs, fronting the audience.
TRAP.–A section of the stage floor cut for an entrance to the scene from below.
TRY-OUT.–The first presentation of an act for trial before an audience with a view to booking.
TWO.–The stage space between the Olio and the set of wings six or more feet behind the Olio.
TWO-A-DAY.–Stage argot for vaudeville.
WING.–A double frame of wood covered with painted canvas and used in open sets as a flat is used in box sets; so constructed that it stands alone as a book will when its covers are opened at right angles.
WOOD-CRASH.–An appliance so constructed that when the handle is turned a noise like a man falling downstairs, or the crash of a fight, is produced.
WOOD-SET.–The scenery used to form a forest or woods.
WORK OPPOSITE ANOTHER, TO.–To play a character whose speeches are nearly all with the other.


Chapter XX - Putting Together the One-Act Musical Comedy With Hints on Making the Burlesque Tab  •  Chapter XXI - The Musical Elements of the Popular Song  •  Chapter XXII - The Elements of a Successful Lyric  •  Chapter XXIII - Writing the Popular Song  •  Chapter XXIV - Manuscripts and Markets  •  Chapter XXV - How a Vaudeville Act is Booked  •  Appendix - Nine Famous Vaudeville Acts Complete  •  Glossary  •