18 definitons that every theatre lover should know.
An actor’s first performance working on a Broadway contract. This can be the first preview for an actor originating a role, a seemingly average Tuesday years into a show’s run for a replacement, or happen at a moment’s notice for a swing or standby.
An actor responsible for maintaining the integrity of a show’s choreography. Dance captains typically teach the show to replacement actors, help lead rehearsals after opening night, and give dance notes to the cast as needed. The dance captain can be an ensemblist, swing, or occasionally even a principal actor.
A group of actors that work together to support the story in a musical or play. Traditionally, the ensemble is used to populate the world of a show, but can also be used to communicate a point of view or evoke a mood/emotion.
An actor who performs in the ensemble of a play or musical. The specific duties of an ensemblist can vary from show to show, but many are tasked with understudying principal roles in addition to performing their own track.
The first public performance of a production with a paying audience. At this point, the cast is still rehearsing during the day, and changes - from dialogue and music to set pieces and costumes - may be made to the production. The show becomes “frozen” (no more changes) a few performances ahead of opening night, at which point the critics are invited to attend.
Resources: Sam Farrow on Escape to Margaritaville
LEGACY ROBE OR GYPSY ROBE
A robe presented to an ensemblist on the opening night of every Broadway musical with an ensemble. This honor is typically, but not always, given to the ensemblist with the most Broadway ensemble credits. The Legacy Robe ceremony requires the recipient to circle the stage three times, allowing every member of the production to touch the robe, and then bless each dressing room. The recipient then decorates a patch for the robe to represent the musical they received it for.
Resources: Brendon Stimson on Mean Girls
ORIGINAL CAST ALBUM
A theatre outside of New York City that produces musicals and/or plays in-house. Regional theatres may develop new work or produce pre-existing shows. Ensemblists is regional productions may be local or hired from another city.
An actor who is not part of an opening night cast, but later takes over the track of another cast member. The rehearsal process, usually led by a show’s dance captain and music director, is typically very quick for replacements and does not involve any technical elements or other actors until their “put-in” rehearsal, which occurs shortly before their debut performance.
A book created by a production’s dance captain(s) that charts the onstage movement of every track in the show. This tool is used by the dance captain to teach tracks to new cast members/understudies and maintain the choreography over the course of the run.
An actor who understudies a show’s ensemble. Swings typically cover either all male or female ensemble tracks and do not perform unless someone is out of the show. The majority of Broadway musicals with ensembles employ four full-time swings — two male and two female.
An actor’s individual “path” during a performance. This includes onstage choreography/blocking/spacing, backstage traffic patterns, harmonies, features, etc.
An actor who performs another actor’s role in the event that they are unable to perform for any reason (illness, injury, vacation, personal day, etc.). Understudies typically rehearse weekly after a production opens and must be prepared to go on for their understudy role at a moment’s notice. Understudies often perform in the show’s ensemble or also serve as swings.
A swing that joins a production when ensemblists have vacations scheduled. This helps ensure that there are enough offstage covers should any unplanned absences occur during this time.
Resources: Michael Fatica on A Bronx Tale