The language we use in the stage business is earthy, comic, angry and profane. There are plenty of obscenities, so this glossary is not for children. Wait 'til your children get their union cards before you show this to them.
If you have any words, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
8 bells, eight bells--8 a.m., start of most morning calls (nautical)
9-to-5 bump-and-grind--the work grind
30 and 55--stagehands in Local #1 with 30 years service can retire at 55 with a reduced pension.
ACT Card--Associated Crafts and Technician card. It is a backdoor way to join IATSE. If you are given a job offer and the IA approves, you get an ACT card and can hold pink contracts. Usually, a stagehand holding an ACT card will apply to another local, to cover their pedigree.
acts with his props--an actor who may damage his props or puts too much emphasis on them.
adult supervision,"Get adult supervision"--find a supervisor, a head or even a designer to detail the work that has to be done. When a small crew of extra men needs direction, sometimes a loudmouth in the group will start barking out orders. A saner crew member might say, "Let's get adult supervision," meaning get the person responsible for the project to sign off on it or to explain what has to be done.
advance propman, advance carpenter--a roadman/roadwoman who will set up a show and will leave after the first preview or after opening. The advance carpenter hands the show off to the house carpenter, etc.
ambush-- In the TV studios, the use of non-union workers (i.e. interns) to shop props for what should be done by union workers. This is done with knowledge of the producers and handed to the prop heads as a fait accompli.
anecdotage--nonmedical explanation for the condition of an older stagehand who tells the same five stories over and over again, usually with him/her as the hero/heroine of the story or airing old grievances, often with most people in the story dead or retired.
animal--stagehand who uses brute force to great or disastrous effect. Can be an expression of admiration or a derogatory term.
archival taping--taping for Lincoln Center
asbestos curtain--fire curtain. There is usually a linolium knife tied to the upstage side of the proscenium to cut the lines in case of fire. These curtains are being replaced, because they are hazardous to people's health.
asshole factory--harsh, unhappy union shop that creates many assholes.
assholes--knots in a rope “Get the assholes out.”
antenna farm--(sound term) lots of rf antenna clustered together. (antenna may be called whips, sputniks, paddles)
audience plant--in the old days, stars had the right to have a certain number of “plants” in the audience to encourage laughter (may be myth)
Audience Extras--steeply discount ticket service, known for its bizarre members
Audition slippers--kneepads (Sarah Gowan, Sapsis Rigging)
automated flies--automated flying pieces. System can be run by house flyman or contract flyman.
B-roll footage--footage of play shot for promotional purposes only
bad stagehand, no doughnut
“back on your heads”--break is over (punchline of devil joke)
backers’ audition--when potential producers see a crude run-through of a play that aspires to Broadway
ballyhoo--doing a figure-eight trick with a frontlight.
banged--to get drunk, to get hit (with a piece of scenery)
“beat the clock” mentality--to do everything as quickly as possible
between hangovers--"He's a good head if you catch him between hangovers.
BFD--big fucking deal...jaded sarcasm.
BFH--big fucking hammer, like a sledgehammer
board op--board operator
“Big trouble”--“How are things going?” “We got big trouble.” Sarcastic response, usually means everything is fine.
bike racks--crowd-control barriers. See also: Giuliani barriers
bio break--polite way to say, often during industrials and possibly over the radio, that you are taking a bathroom break.
bird-dog someone--to harass a coworker, usually maliciously.
birdie--small light put in deck or in scenery
birth defects--legacy stagehands who don't care to work hard.
bit--how a prop is used, a gag onstage. "What's the bit? During the bit, how does the prop keep getting broken?" See also: the business
bitch box--communication speaker (Kip Connell). Also known as a biscuit.
black out--stage goes completely black for several seconds (often for scenery changes, to strike props or for cast to exit)
blackball--to vote against someone coming into the local. They can't really be blocked from joining the local. The two or three people this happened to were all accepted into the local at the next e-board meeting.
bloodbath-rough job or load out, or sarcastic opposite
blood cannon--sprays fake blood on stage (Lieutenant of Innishmore)
blood capsule--gelatin capsule that an actor breaks in his/her mouth during a fight scene or to simulate being shot.
boneyard--area at concert ground load-in where scaffolding that is about to be used is stored. If the area is large enough, stagehands working in the boneyard may drive a golf cart back and forth with necessary pieces to the work areas. The scaffolding is brought to stagehands working on steel as it is needed.
bond--producers must post bond to cover salaries and liabilities in case of sudden closure.
book--union card (possibly Teamster term)
book man--man with union card.
book the flat--open a bifold flat so it doesn’t fall over
born to the blue--person born into a stagehand dynasty, often with a sense of entitlement and arrogance.
born with a union card in his mouth--son/daughter of multigenerational stagehand family
bounce the curtain--bring the curtain in, then immediately out (on
two-man curtains, the man on the left-hand line flies in the air and comes down quickly) so it gives the appearance of bouncing. Also called an opera bounce or bouncing the main.
bowler--man who hides in the bathroom, puts his feet up so he can’t be
bouncing around--working different places, no full-time job
box call--dropping off road boxes and empty electric and motor boxes at start of load out. Sometimes the day before the real loadout starts.
box of rocks--dumb stagehand
brain surgery--"It's not brain surgery"...The work is easy. "It's not brain surgery; it is more like rocket science."
break a leg--good luck (actors)
breaking down conditions--to work during breaks, to work with less men than is required, to cross departmental lines.
break the locks--to unlock the linesets on the fly floor, in preparation for pulling.
break your chops--to make fun of someone, sometimes harmless, sometimes malicious
break your shovel--destroy contact, lose job
breast--to move a pipe or a lineset, or even the house curtain, so you can get something by. "Breast that pipe for me, I can push this dolly by." (Ruth M. Atcherson, Eugene, Ore.)
brick--stage weight, 25lb or 40lb lead, “throw another brick on it,”“throw a lead on.” A leaf is a 1/4 brickbrick in the wall--to ignore existence of another person in the theater (“From now on, he’s another brick in the wall,” said Carmine Ranellone)
bringing him along--to mentor or help a young stagehand, to bring up to speed
bring in the rag--pull in the house curtain
broken flip-flop--worse than a shoe (Scott DeVerna)
break the hour--to move into overtime
broken stud=shovel...”If you break a stud while working on the seats, you are out. You’ll be digging ditches.”
broom up my ass--a statement of exasperation..."If you want me to work any harder, I could stick a broom up my ass and sweep while working." I once faced down a psychotic tech with this line and it worked. What do you say in response? "I'll get the broom."
bug--union stamp on scenery, with local and shop numbers. “They loaded in scenery without a bug.”
buck back--when management pushes you, you buck back to ensure that the work rules are met.
bucket brigade--when stagehands line up to hand pieces or boxes down the line.
bump cap--basically an oversized baseball cap with a hard plastic lining, distributed to many Local #1 stagehands a decade ago, but never used. The brainchild of former trustee Danny Dashman.
bury the curtain--when the house curtain is pulled past its trim, the curtain hits the deck hard and the curtain goods bunch up.
"Bury this"--to get rid of a hamper, a cut piece of scenery or a dead prop, buried deep in the basement or against the upstage wall, possibly blocked by other items.
buyout--in filming or recording, a one-time buyout for crew members.
bus and truck--tour with one-week stops or less.
bust a hump--to work hard
business--the business, the bit where a prop is used. "What is the business where the notebook is used.
busted valise--pathetic soul, screwed up
busted valise local--local full of bad stagehands
Butcher of Broadway--Frank Rich, Times theater critic known for erudite, self-indulgent reviews and for savaging shows in the 1980s and early 1990s.
button up the truck--closing a truck up after it is loaded
button up the trap--closing the trap in the deck after automation and roadboxes have been lowered by motors into the basement. The show deck usually covers the trap for the run of the show.
button job--run automation
“Can’t we all get along?”--when the departments are fighting, Rodney King line during the Los Angeles riots. See also: "Aren't we all on the same side?"
Cha-Ching!--sound you make when it is clear we are going into overtime. Also: Ka-Ching!
California screwdriver--hammer (road term)
to get called before the board--stagehands who break important union rules may get called before the Executive Board of the Local.
(the) call-- how a stage manager calls a show. "The ASM was traning to do the call for "Gypsy."
“Call the hall”--looking for a man.
calling the show--done by the PSM or another stage manager. Calling lighting, sound and automation cues, turning on cue lights for automation and even actor entrances. An adept PSM will call a great show and things run smoothly. Some PSMs call a dangerous show.
can’t get arrested--hard time getting hired
card time--In Local #1, it takes three straight years of $37.5K in the jurisdiction, then you have to wait on the organizational list for a year. If you miss a year, you have to start over again. "I am trying to get my card time done."
Casper--stagehand who hides well, like a ghost
casting couch--the reason to become a producer
ch, rch--to move a piece of scenery or a unit a small amount. An rch is even less than a ch.
“Checks are Bouncing”--nickname for 2001 Broadway revival of “Bells are Ringing”
character actor/actress--actor who plays important comic or dramatic roles, that is neither a lead nor a member of the chorus. Often actresses that age out of playing ingenues, and actors that may not have the charisma or looks to be leading men.
cheap it out (v.): to use cheap, inappropriate materials when building scenery. "The shop used pine when building the deck instead of a hardwood...they cheaped it out."
chewing the scenery--overacting
chicklets--teeth punched out
Chicken Little--a doom-and-gloom stagehand, always sees the sky as falling, can rip the silver-lining out of every cloud.
“coke the stage”--to put Coca-Cola on a slippery deck (adding a small amount of Coke to a mop bucket). Also, propmen will use the liquid rosin mixture called "Slip No More."
climb the trucks--get up on the running boards of nonunion trucks, intimidate drivers during union disputes.
"clear for talent"--sarcastic and usually friendly term used when actors are walking through a group of stagehands.
climbing steel--building scaffolding at concerts. "I am doing steel," "I never do steel."
clown hammer--large orange hard plastic sledgehammer used for banging deck pieces together. Can be short-handled five-pounder, as well. These hammers don't ding the things they hit.
cluster fuck--things are all screwed up, boxed in, big disaster
coffin key--long-handled allen key used for locking platforms together or unlocking them. The recessed lock in the deck is called a coffin lock.
coffin carry--two or four men on a long, rectangular piece, often platforms or actual coffins.
coke the stage--when a deck is slippery or even perceived by actors or dancers as slippery, the prop person will mop with a small amount of Coke in their mop bucket to make the deck less slippery. Sometimes the deck becomes too sticky after mopping with Coke.
combo crew--ramp/studio crew at NBC, may perform some carpentry functions.
company manager--handles finances of the running show, responsible for payroll and approving expenses, reimbursing petty cash.
company meetings--on Broadway, these company meetings are usually called to announce new principals and closings. See: Producer Pep Talks.
conditions--work conditions(i.e. breaking down conditions)
construction rate--additional money for stagehands rebuilding a set in the theater,
building scenery, modifying or manufacturing props, usually skilled mechanics.
costume money--the $160 a week paid to a stagehand for wearing a costume in a Broadway show.
counting the house--Looking out into the house surreptitiously, to estimate the box office success of the show.
cover a track--to do a stagehand's cues.
conversational headlock--when a co-worker talks too much and won't let you get a word in. "Working with Jimmy is like being in a conversational headlock all day."
crash-and-burn--major automation screw up or failure, probably causing a chain reaction.
cross pick--four men carry a heavy piece of scenery
cross the line--cross pickets
crossing departmental lines--doing work in other departments, breaking down conditions.
crushed/crusher/crushface--drunk, got drunk, a drunk
cue lights--lights flipped on by stage manager to indicate cues to men on the fly floor or on the deck. There was a legendary flyman and drinker who would take the bulb out of the flyrail cue light and stick his finger in the socket. When the SM calling the show would flip the cue light, it would jolt him awake. throwing the cue lights.
curley shuffle--moving motor boxes and road boxes back into the theater at the end of a load-in day
curtainman--man who pulls the house curtain. Until several contracts ago, there was a curtainman even when there was no curtain.
cut a man/cut a job--to get rid of men
cut list--men producers want to cut after opening, also a list a carpenter draws up
cutie pie--sleazy, manipulative person (term favored by Scott Mulrain)
D-rate--lowest-paid stagehand on Broadway. "'Til the strike, my wife didn't know she married a D-rate stagehand."
to do the heavy lifting- -a day or period of hard work (unloading trucks, carrying couches to the fifth floor)..."we had some heavylifting to do," "We already did the heavy lifting”
dance floor--raised platform in the front of a trailer. "Make sure the hampers are on the dance floor."
dance captain--actor designated to teach new cast members their roles and to keep the standards up for cast members in long-running productions.
day work--work done by wardrobe members to maintain a show, mending costumes, ironing and more ironing. Also, for stagehands who have a regular show on Broadway, day work means working at other theaters, loading in other shows.
Dead baby seals--sandbags made out of old inner tubes (Sarah Gowen, Sapsis Rigging)
Debbie Downer-- constant complainer. SHOULD be used for both sexes. Based on the old SNL skit.
deck carpenter/deck electrician--man who does cues on deck, as opposed to flyman or front light operator.
deck man--stagehand famous for building stages. Charlie Rasmussen, a Shubert carpenter, was rumored to have leveled his decks with playing cards.
deluge curtain--firefighting device, sends thousands of gallons of water to the deck in seconds
departmental lines--props, carpentry, electric, sound.
design associate--underpaid assistants to scenic designers, costume designers and sound designers. Can be useful, can be an ignorant nuisance. Some try to do the work of stagehands during production period.
(to) diamond--diamond the piece, turn a piece 90 degrees to push it up the ramp of a trailer
diaper--box with baffling, to muffle chain motor sound
dim the lights on Broadway--when a famous actor or director dies, someone of a Helen Hayes stature, the marquee lights on Broadway are dimmed. To be precise, the marquees of all open theaters are turned off for one minute, from 8:00 p.m. to 8:01 p.m., for the marquees are not on dimmers.
to get dinged--to get hit, usually on the head
dinner theater--productions done at the Roundabout Theatre or Manhattan Theatre Club. "This is real theater, not dinner theater."
“Diva Las Vegas”—pejorative term applied by a wardrobe supervisor to a female lead with a long list of complaints.
divot--cut on the head
do me a solid--do me a favor
doe-see-doe--spin piece 180 degrees (misuse of square dancing term...in square dancing, you move 360). Also: end for end
dog house--cursed Broadway theaters, where the theater owners always put the doomed shows, specifically three theaters east of 7th Avenue--the Lyceum, the Cort and the Belasco.
donkey/narrowback--Irish immigrant/Irish American...narrowbacks have much less muscular backs from less hard work. For me, this comes from the Irish influences of Local #1.
"don't get a sunburn"--Warning by a head not to go out drinking on breaks (to get a flushed face)..."Don't come back from coffee with a sunburn."
double dip--working two jobs at once.
doubling, to double--working two payrolls at once
double double--meal penalty
double handle--move pieces multiple times
down low--keep it quiet, also: "on the QT"
Dressers’ Rebellion--At “Check’s Are Bouncing,” dressers rebelled against producer to get paid.
dressing--nonmoving items that are attached to the set by props during the load in.
drop a dime, dimedropper--fink, to report someone.
drop character--for an actor to lose focus, to go out of character.
drop a line--when an actor forgets a line and continues
dropsy--the tendency to drop things. “I have a bad case of the dropsies today.” Also: Butter hands
dumb end--straight casters on a moving piece or a dolly. The smart end has swivel casters.
dummy proof--to mark something or to arrange a preset so that even the dumbest stagehand will get it right.
dummy up--keep quiet, often when management is around
e-board--the Executive Board of the Local.
early man--goes home before the end of the show
Edgewater Boys--New Jersey stagehands from the rough waterfront town of Edgewater, wear shorts until December.
end for end--180 the piece
equity cots--cheap camping cots provided for actors to sleep on. It is a contract requirement, something like one cot per five or six actors.
Evil Gene--Gene O'Donovan, notoriously nasty and dishonest tech, owner of Aurora Productions. Also known as Mean Gene.
extra man--works under a head
fahcocked (Yiddish) or "on the valoop": something is not square or straight.
fade-- to quietly leave the job early, one at a time. “Okay, fade out guys,””you guys, fade”
fade into the woodwork--to not be noticed
failure to answer the call of the union--not accepting or paying for your union card
familied up--family connections, that's why someone has a job.
Fava patent leather left shower sandal--worse than a shoe
front line in, back line out-- flyfloor term
featherbedding--to be paid for a superfluous job
fill in--subbing around, "fill in work."
fill in the pit--to fill the orchestra pit in with platforms to add extra seats in the orchestra section.
fight captain--fight consultant, choreographs fights. On a production with a large cast, it may be a designated actor.
"Fire in the hole!"--warning that pyro will be tested.
fire watch--stagehands or actual firemen hired to standby with fire extinguishers
first broom--assistant to a head propman
flop sweat: when producers start to freak out during production or previews that they may have a flop on their hands, so the creatives are directed to make radical changes, adding or cutting songs and monkeying with the book. Sometimes the freak out is justified and the show is saved, and other times the cuts or addition damage the living organism. "The producer broke into a flop sweat that the show was going to bomb and demanded radical changes to the finale." (term from Patrick Healy, New York Times, April 17, 2014)
fluffer--prop person who is skilled with fabric goods (drapes, pillows and bedspreads). Has different meaning in porn world.
flush the house--before the first preview, to clear the FOH of all production garbage and tech tables.
flush the truck--to empty a truck of all its contents.
flyfloor--where the linesets are located. Usually up on a high concrete platform, but sometimes on the deck (call it a fly rail then)
flyman--stagehand responsible for all drops and flying pieces, supervising men on the flyfloor. Nowadays, pieces are often automated, cutting number of stagehands working the flyfloor
fly rail--the actual linesets and locks.
force majeur--act of nature, acceptable delay without overtime
four bag--four men on a piece ("Let’s four bag the piece”)
foot the piece--put your foot on the bottom of a piece (usu. a flat or column), so somebody can send it up to you
"Fork it"--to move something with a forklift.
four-by-eight--standard-sized platform (4'x8' sheet of plywood top, 2"x4" legs of varying lengths, 5/4" frame)
Foy rig--flying equipment
fragile cookie--person barely holding it together
French alteration--placebo alteration for a troublesome actor, calming them down by pretending to fix a costume (SAPSIS Rigging)
fuck knuckle--idiot, affectionate term
"fuck the road...this is Broadway"...standard response to a roadman who repeatedly bleats "This is how we did it on the road."
fucked up beyond repair--FUBAR (military term)
garden-variety asshole--difficult stagehand with no power.
get it on the load out--when a prop, a flashlight or an important piece of hardware rolls under the show deck, it is often impossible to retrieve. Someone will say, "We'll get it on the loadout," meaning the item will be retrieved then, or possibly never.
get on--to get a job on a load-in or a show. "Did you get on Spiderman?"
"get adult supervision"--find a supervisor, a head or even a designer to detail the work that has to be done. When a small crew of extra men need direction, sometimes a loudmouth in the group will start barking out orders. A saner head might say, "Let's get adult supervision," meaning get the person responsible for the project to sign off on it or to explain what has to be done.
ghosting--people on the payroll not actually there
ghostlight--keeps the ghosts of failed shows away (safety light for firemen) ...on deck, after curtain is pulled out when house clears.
Giuliani barriers--metal barriers put out in front of theaters, named after Mussolini-like former mayor of New York City.
ginsu--two-sided Japanese saw, name comes from old knife infomercial
give 'em the hook--take a bad performer off the stage. Old vaudeville bit, literally using a hook to take a singer or comedian offstage.
glue the locks--sabotage of trucks during labor disputes
"glue guns in the air"--break is over, start work; sarcastic prop version of "hammers in the air"
GM--general manager, person hired by producer to set up the show, hires the tech and the production crew.
go medieval on someone-- to go out of your way to hurt somebody who has wronged you, to torture someone for a slight or a screwing...borrowed from the dungeon scene in "Pulp Fiction." "I'm going to go medieval on his ass after that load in."
good provider--stagehand good at supporting family (mob term)
“going to the balcony to hear what the show sounds like”--the sound designer is going to take a nap
“going to the grid”--if a soundman says this, they mean they are going to take a nap
golden triangle--theaters between West 44th and West 46th Streets (must check geography)(up and down ladders)
go-to guy--hard worker (can be sarcastic)
“Gimme a rub”--help me, usually to pull a heavy piece
Genie weight--big lug, only good for stopping a genie from falling over, person who stands at the bottom of the Genie, usually the least skilled stagehand.
get your ticket--get your union card
gravy--extra benefits. “Working the show is gravy after the load-in.”
“Greek it out”--cover up the brand names on products seen on camera (TV term)
guillotine reveal--house curtain that drops in vertically. Standard in most Broadway theaters. I believe this is an archaic term. Some places use the Austrian curtain, which is pulled up in large swags. You can't go wrong by saying "Pull out the rag."
gum chewers--men, usually in small groups, who come back from meals chewing gum to cover up the smell of booze. "Gum is a necessary evil," said the carpenter.
Gypsy run-through/invited dress--paper is given out to dancers and members of the theatrical community. They clap at everything.
Hairballs--obsessive fans of the musical "Hair" (2009-10 Broadway version)
half and half--dangerous procedure for getting a long, heavy item off a liftgate truck, where you hang half the item off the lift, and men hold the weight up as the lift goes down.
hammer--obnoxious stagehand who enforces rules of a head.
hammer time--flipping sets during a changeover
hammers in the air--break is over
hand off--production stagehand sets up show and hands it off to house head(head gets the overage), to give an actor a prop
hang out--wait for orders where you are
hard flat--wood or metal-framed flat, skinned with plywood. Opposite of soft flat.
hard-soft rule: a rule that is on the books, but that is rarely enforced by management.
Hate Island--mezzanine in CBS scenic shop full of hateful old mechanics
have at it--hit me with your best shot
headbuster--lighting unit hanging on an offstage boom that is perfect for whacking cast and crew in the head. (Sapsis Rigging)
head hubris--when a long-term head decides that he or she will hire people without cards.
"Heads!"--yelled, usually too late, when something like hardware has been dropped from the grid or a high platform.
head up his ass--pompous ass, doesn’t know what he is doing
head up So-and-So's ass--an asskisser.
header, take a header--to fall head first, usually off a ladder (a header is also a scenic piece)
"heard it on the Erie"--to discuss gossip with someone, often the subject of that gossip. "I heard it on the Erie that you got the head's job at the Booth."
heavy hitters--men who make a lot of money, techs, heads
hemp house--house where fly system is rigged with hemp and sandbags
Hessians--short-term labor, not necessarily high-quality stagehands.
“Hey now, there’s a lady in the room”--what is said when a male stagehand is using obscene language or telling offensive stories in front of a female stagehand (or any female) in the room.
hissy fit--hysterical behavior by designers or actors. May result in permanent shunning. See: "brick in the wall"
hit your marks--for an actor, to be at his/her right spot on the stage.; for stagehands, getting a large prop or a piece of scenery to the onstage spike marks.
hoofer--outdated term for dancer
honey badger--a stagehand who rips stuff apart without consideration, fear or skill...taken from the classic YouTube video (D. Chisholm, SF)
honorable withdrawal--to leave a local on good terms, with the possibility of rejoining
horse cock--heavy cable used by electricians
house deck--basic plywood deck that the theater provides. Can be covered with painted masonite or the show deck goes on top
house seats--good tickets reserved for creatives, stars, cast and crew. Must pay full freight, but you can get them at the last minute.
House of Hate--Majestic (where “Phantom” is)
holidays--missing spots while painting or fireproofing. "I don't want any holidays," said the shop foreman.
horse shoes--wooden cover to protect sawhorses while cutting
hooks--places to work
How’s the pack?--how is the truck packed?
Hum head--sound man
humping scenery--moving a lot of scenery, or any kind of hard, repetitious work...”We humped the couches up five flights of stairs.”
hurry up and wait--to do all tasks quickly, then to wait and do nothing
hyphenate--Local 1-IBEW in TV studios, dual cardholder, can move camera equipment (International brotherhood of Electrical Workers).
I.A./International--IATSE (represents only the United States and Canada)
idiot check--to double check a preset before a prop is used in a scene. Also: dummy check.
"I'll Sleep When I'm Dead"--self explanatory, stolen from the Bon Jovi song.
I’m golden--everything’s okay, everything’s great (can be sarcastic)
Indian--basic man on Broadway. "I'm just an Indian."
"I don't mean to be an asshole, but..."--by Broadway standards, the polite way of pointing out an obvious error..."I don't mean to be an asshole, but you've hung that drop backwards."
“I got mine, start the car”--I’m done. also: “I got mine.”
“I got it, Mr. Feller”--sarcastic, brown-nosing line using name of late, famous tech.
ice--money made by box office personnel for selling tickets to hit shows to ticket brokers and scalpers, also to line someone's pocket.
ice cream line--cotton line and bucket thrown down from fly floor, to pull up paychecks or other items (cups of coffee, ice cream)
"If you like him, invite him to dinner": When two stagehands are engrossed in conversation at the expense of working, the crew chief might yell, "If you like him, invite him to dinner," so they go back to work.
"I'll keep you in mind"--if a head says this, he or she will never hire you.
in the bag--drunk
infared--camera that can see in the dark. "The automation man used an infared to make sure the cast and crew were safe as pieces moved during blackouts."
ingenue--young actress, plays romantic roles.
"ink still wet (or not dry) on your card"--new Onesy
Irish affirmative action--Italians
"It's not my first rodeo"--sarcastic response when someone explains a
simple task (road slang), also: “It’s not my first picnic,” “I ain’t got no ketchup on my shirt.”
“It’s live theater, man”--explaining away little errors. "Ah, the joys of live theater."
Iwo Jima--(v) to Iwo Jima something, where a group of stagehands pushes an item up, with one stagehand footing the item, i.e. a boom pipe. "Iwo Jima" comes from the WWII flag raising. (Inspired by Ruth Atcherson, Portland, Ore.)
Jekkies--fanatics of the Broadway show "Jekyll and Hyde"
jerkbag--jerk, technique to raise a pipe in a hemp house (Rod McKenna)
Jerry rigged--sloppy, improvised job, i.e. to jerry rig a Genie so you don’t
need the outriggers (slur against German building techniques from World War II)
Jerry’s Jerks--men who work for Jerry Harris, owner of PRG.
Jesus nails--any nail 4” or longer (Sapsis Rigging)
Judas meal--meal offered by some Broadway producers right after the 2007 strike.
keep jurisdiction--to ensure a stagehand presence in certain places in the theater, i.e. preventing stage managers and interns from doing stagehand work. "The house propman ensured that props carried out all work in the dressing rooms, keeping jurisdiction for the local."
keep your toilet shut--shut up, also: keep your toilet mouth shut.
key man--archaic term for “key” job, with extra pay. Does exist in certain contracts, like the one for the Lincoln Center Festival.
knife the dog--attach scenery or large props to the automation system with a metal or fiber knife, can be L-shaped or round
King of the Flops--producer Mitchell Maxwell, as per NY Post in 4-01, after the Dresser Rebellion at “Bells are Ringing”
knucklebuster--a stop put on ropes on the fly floor.
lay masonite--masonite put down to protect carpets during a load-in/loadout, or to protect a painted deck when you roll a Genie over it.
The League--The League of American Theatres and Producers, Broadway management.
lean on the piece--do something, just don’t stand there
leash--radio, “I’m going to put my leash on.”
Legit--legitimate theater, Broadway theater, working under a union contract, as opposed to (mostly) nonunion off-Broadway. "I'm working Legit."
light pink--IA contract ("light pink contract") that allows the producers to pay stagehands lower rates. "The tour has a 'light pink' contract that is below Broadway rates." Also: modified pink.
"lights on, lights off" studio--a TV studio where there is not much to do, where basically the electrician running the board spends most of his/her time raising and lowering the lights.
like rats in a box--to play men off each other, no room in the basement of a theater, so people begin to argue.
line through your name--to lose a contact, to cross a name off the list, a head intentionally crosses your name off his hiring list... “I just put a line through your name.”
lit up--drunk, can be gregarious or aggressive
"Living the dream"--said when doing work that is particularly filthy or boring.
Local #1 express--the 11:10 pm Metro North train (to upstate New York, Peekskill, etc.)
Local 1A--segregated Harlem local (now defunct), absorbed into Local #1
“lock it”--to lock a light after it is focused
long in the tooth--a little too old, too old to be a chorine or ingenue
longitis--in the case of long-running shows, individual stagehands turn on each other, whole departments stop speaking with each other. See: Phantom
load-in season--March/April and August/September
loading bridge--bridge or platform where stagehands load weights on to arbors
mahoney, lobby pan--dust pan on a stick
Major Nelson--Who’s watching the Genie? Major Nelson
“Make it safe”--put a safety on a light, tie a piece off. “Make it safe and take coffee”
man up--"Stop complaining."
marry the pieces-interlock two similar-sized pieces
masking--drapes, legs used to block sightlines of audience
Mastercard--swing actor who is always in the way of stagehands backstage while he is learning his different tracks. "No matter where you go, he's there," to paraphrase the old credit card commercial.
Mastercard Jr.--the swing actor who takes Mastercard's place
meal penalty--twice the prevailing rate
mechanic--stagehand who is a good carpenter. "Call the replacement room and have them send a real mechanic."
Metropolitan Opera, the Met--the Met stage crew is like the Marines of Local #1, where after a brutal apprenticeship, if you can work there, you can work anywhere in the Local. The hard part can be shedding the combative attitude. Humping 30-foot flats requires great skill.
minting cards-- heads who promote unorthodox (or illegal) methods for men to get Local One cards...”They're minting cards at _____ Theater.”
minuteman--showing up at the last minute (Scott Mulrain)
mop money--money for daily mop call for propman. After the 2007 strike, it is a weekly fee.
mope--constant complainer, depressive
mook--moron (from the movie "Mean Streets," as far as I can tell)
Moscow sprayer--plastic Coke bottle with cap on, hole cut in cap, full of water to spray on wrinkled drops (used by the Eifman Ballet, satire of Hudson sprayer)
mouse, mouse off--to attach the pin to a shackle with a tiewrap.
--> to muscle it off—using brute force to take a trapped automated piece offstage, a group of stagehands moving an impossibly large piece. “We need to muscle the piece into the truck,” “George and I muscled the shower unit offstage.”
national tour--big, usually moneymaking tour off a Broadway show. Usually do multi-month sitdowns. Multiple tours at the same time will be called first national, second national tour. Small tours that play one week and half-week stands are called bus and trucks.
NBC--Nepotism Before Competence
NCC--no card cocksucker
name over the title--star's name over the title. If star is out, customers can get their money back.
neck down--hired to work, not to think
never saddle a dead horse--rigging term for wire rope clips.
nfg--no fucking good (label on busted tools)
non-Equity tour--tour with non-union actors (producers can use shoes from the original Broadway production)
no-show job--an aspiration
no stripes--"I have no stripes," that means that I am not a boss. Conversely, a know-it-all stagehand may start barking orders, and may be asked sarcastically, "Ooh, who gave you stripes?" Also: No feathers.
normal up--restore lights, props (TV)
nose of the truck--front of the trailer.“Throw the furniture in the nose of the truck.”
“Nutsy” Miller’s “sabbatical”--nine years in a Florida prison (in his election statement, Nutsy referred to his “sabbatical” when he was running for B.A.)
180 the piece--spin it around. Also: end for end
obstructed view--discounted tickets on seats where a percentage of the view is obstructed.
OCA--"on camera appearance," set fee for a TV stagehand who is accidentally or intentionally on TV.
off book--when an actor knows his/her lines. On book means that an actor still needs to refer to the script.
on deck--onstage...from the nautical history of stagehands. "The carpenters can be found on deck during the preset."
off the mark--piece is not set on spike marks
on a light--to run a front light
on headset--during show, stagehand that can be reached by headset
on the arm--you’ll get paid, but you don’t have to be there(must tap your arm at the same time).
On-the-job training--new, unskilled and cardless stagehand working at the prevailing rate. If they screw up, you can say “On-the-job training.”
on the pink--to hold a production contract
on the rail--working the fly floor
on your own time--when you've already broken the hour into overtime, or if you can get the work done in less time than the length of your call (8 hours or 4 hours), you are on your own time.
organizational list--list used to bring in new stagehands, now three years at $37,500. Put in place after legal activity by the federal government in the early 1970s to deal with charges of racism. Originally, you only had to make 9K.
orphan--stagehand with no family affiliations, has to make his/her own way in the business, or anyone in a particular local that has no relatives in that local.
Onesy--Local One man/woman
out-of-town closing, when the producers pull the plug due to the quality of show or no money is like a miscarriage--the show was not meant to be born.
out-of-town tryout--out-of-town stop, opportunity to fix the show
overage--money paid to head or extra man for carrying out contract responsibilities ($300-$700 a week)
overhaul a pipe--bring a pipe into the deck to change the weight on the arbor. The pipe is often twitched off (the lineset is twisted with a twitchstick) for additional safety.
overhire--worker hired at a scenic shop during a busy season. Not a regular. "The overhires were let go after the Met shop finished building the new opera."
p.a.--production assistant, often young women, sometimes romantic targets for married stagehands.
padding the payroll--adding extra hours not worked or extra men not present
page a tab--to pull a tab back for entrances and exits
"paid by the hour"--when a skilled stagehand's talents are wasted doing menial labor, like sorting garbage, it is a good thing to mutter, "I'm paid by the hour."
paint boy--scenic who mixes paint in scenic shop (can be woman or middle-aged person)
paint call--deck painting, touch up by scenics before opening night
(a) pair of shoes from the hall--ordering two stiffs from the hall (brawn matters here, not skill) for a brutal day on the loadin or loadout.
panties in a twist--actor hissy fit
paper--comp tickets. ”They papered the house.” Standard practice during previews and when reviewers are in, but a very bad sign during a normal run. See: producers’ pep talk
pay bump--to be bumped up to the next pay level, when an extra man subs for a head. Also: bump up
personal--tool belonging to an individual stagehand, not the company (“That Makita is my personal”), or a personal prop that remains on an actor’s person and is handled by his/her dresser (a lighter, a handkerchief, a wallet)
persuader--hammer, “Use your persuader.”
phantom/ghost--name on payroll, but no body
Phantom lift: When a stagehand is pretending to vigorously to lift a heavy piece of scenery and is letting others do the real work. See also: soft hands.
Philly loadout--push the gear out of the theater and slam the door shut.
phoning it in--actor/actress doing bare minimum
piano call--move a piano, usually pushing it out right after the show for next day's rehearsal.
picket captain--responsible for maintaining picket
pickle--chain motor controller
picture call--actors or dancers will hold a pose as the curtain goes out for bows.
pig iron--stage weight (D. Chisholm, SF)
places--the show is about to begin, actors and crew must be in the right place.
pirate eye—shutting one eye before you go onstage during a blackout. When you open both eyes onstage, you are acclimated to the dark and can grab relevant props.
piss line--hose running from fly floor to the alley (holdover from heavy drinking days). I think there is a piss line in the Broadhurst. Men in hemp houses have been known to pee in the sand barrel.
"piss on that sandbag"--add more weight(sand) to that sandbag (Sarah Gowan, Sapsis Rigging)
“playing through”--(golf term) polite way to say “get out of my way”
please-and-thank-you house--houses with well-mannered heads. Yes, even on Broadway, good manners can survive.
police the deck--make sure the deck is clean, usually during load ins.
Polish Tea Room--Edison Cafe
post notice, notice is up--post closing notice, usually on Tuesday for
Sunday. Equity rules requires one-week notice.
posting work rules--action by management that can provide a reason to strike
preset--set props, check out lights and automation
producer pep talk--cast and crew pep talk onstage, “We are going to run it,” closing notice then goes up next week
prop and drop--to prop a show and hand it off to the house head.
prop genius--stagehand who usually works in props, who only works in props.
prop welder--glue gun.
props and crafts--making paper goods for a show, tools required are limited to scissors and glue sticks. "Get me some crafty people for tomorrow...it is a day of props and crafts."
playoff music--to get someone off the stage at an awards show
play out music--orchestra plays as audience leaves
pre-resume culture--Resumes still doesn't matter that much in the theaters of Broadway. More often it is your skill set--you can build a spiral staircase or you can fix a Vari-lite, or it is who you are related to, or who is your rabbi.
principal(s)--star(s) of show
props is tops--self-esteem building line by propmen
props is mops--rejoinder to "props is tops"
"Props: same pay, half the weight"--propmen don't usually carry heavy scenery, but get paid the same as the people that do.
prop trauma--actor freaks out over prop and becomes a possible candidate for shunning.
PSM--production stage manager, supervises whole Broadway production, may takeover directorial duties after production is up and running. Under the PSM are the stage manager (SM) and assistant stage manager (ASM)
psycho button--when you accidentally or intentionally touch the one thing that will make an easygoing stagehand go berserk. Often, the relationship is never the same or completely destroyed. "I pushed his psycho button and he never spoke to me again."
"puddle the dress": to carefully arrange a dress on the floor so an actress can step into it during a quick change. The dress is quickly pulled up, zipped and the actress can go back onstage. The preset dress looks like a puddle of fabric. (Wardrobe term.)
pull it out of my ass--when a director or PSM makes a ludicrous request--"Can you get me a taxidermied rabbit by tomorrow?", you can reply brightly, "Let me pull it out of my ass." Line may result in job termination.
"Pull out the rag"--Pull out the house curtain.
“Pull rope, get banana”--just doing my job and getting paid
pull the foot out--pull out the bottom of a piece so it doesn’t fall over.
"Put the weight in"--leaning a heavy piece against the wall safely.
"Put your coat on and go home"--said when a stagehand really screws up.
pyro license--ability to do special effects, having a pyro license granted from the FDNY.
pulls--number of fly cues a man on the rail will have. A two-man pull is for a heavy piece.
put a man on--adding a man due to heavy work
put-in rehearsal--rehearsal for new lead or actor going into show.
quarter rounds--blanks with 1/4 gunpowder charges (also half rounds and eighth rounds)
QC booth--quick-change booth, offstage or in basement. Can be made of hard flats with a curtained opening, or soft goods.
quick change--costume change by actors in a short period of time
raked deck--sloped deck, in vogue in 1990s. Equity maximum = one inch per foot. Bad for knees.
raceway--metal trough attached to the ceilings of theater basements that hold cable
rag--house curtain. "Pull out the rag."
Real good, then--nonsense term, often said when you pass someone on a crossover.
redheads--red dumpsters, used for construction debris only. "Pull the redheads in the alley at the end of the day."
rehash--redoing chunks of the scenery during a load-in, rehashing the Broadway set for a tour (usually to make it easier to load into roadhouses).
rentals--fee for lighting package, automation.
renting the bus--instead of just throwing someone under the bus, you actually rent the bus to do the dirty deed. "That stage manager is going to rent a bus to take that stagehand out."
replacement room--where stagehands go to shape.
restore--put props, scenery back in place.
retirement job--a long-running show on Broadway like "Mama Mia" or "Phantom."
Rialto--old term for Broadway, street of theaters
right of way--an actor or stagehand has the right of way on the stairs when heading to the stage.
road contract--pink contract for road stagehand
road dog--stagehand who sleeps around on the road.
roadhouse--suburban theaters with large numbers of seats, where producers make buckets of money off culture-starved Americans in the heartland.
road scum, road apple--contract stagehand. Also, contract scum
(not) rocket science--it's easy. "It's not rocket science." also: "It's
not brain surgery."
rope wrench--knife (Sarah Gowan, Sapsis Rigging)
round file--garbage can. "Put it in the round file."
rover--stagehand who works both sides of the stage, a deck light that is moved during the show (often in a wooden box). also: shinbuster
(the) run--how long a show will last, or how long it lasted. "We ran for only three months." "We have an open-ended run." "The show was a limited run of 14 weeks."
run-of-show rental--automation equipment, sound, electrics or a rare prop may be rented for the length of a run. Usually a flat fee. Weekly rentals are how the shops make money.
running crew--men or women who work the show
safety--cable used to secure lights to pipe; can also be a tie wrap as a safety on a shackle.
sand bucket--backstage requirement by FDNY. Usually full of cigarette butts.
sausage bag--long, narrow sandbag
scab it out--hire scabs en mass
scenics--Local 829/U.S.A. scenic artists. Now part of IATSE
schmata--drape, cover (Yiddish)..."Throw the schmata over the table."
schmutz--dust, dust bunnies in unclean area, big chunks of dust that stick to stagehands working in the ceiling.
seat call--House propman or propwoman will bring in extra people to repair broken seats, usually before a new show loads in.
“the Scottish play”--so you don’t have bad luck by mentioning that play by name
self-winder--someone who is easily wound up by gossip or a rumor, often done intentionally by others. See also: wind him/her up.
senior man--oldest person or longest cardholder on crew, when head is not around, may give orders.
shake hands with the piece--pick up the piece. also: get acquainted with the scenery
shape up, shaping, shape the hall--look for work (longshoreman’s term, lit. showing up to show you are in shape). Before most last-minute replacement work was routed through the union hall, men would show up to the theater with their tools, shaping the load in or loadout to look for work.
shinbuster--item that is shin height, hurts when you bump into it...usually a rover.
"shit rolls downhill"--abuse travels down the line.
shit stirrer--malicious gossipmonger
Shoe-man Capote--a pun off the name of the dead novelist to indicate a stupid stagehand.
show doctor--comes in to save hopeless shows, Jerry Zaks
show deck--on top of house deck
shoe, shoemaker--moron. See also "Shoe-man Capote."
shop mechanic--skilled carpenter from scenic shop, sometimes has no sense of stagecraft
shopper--person hired to shop for TV show or during production of a Broadway show, usually a propperson.
"shove with love": to push an undertrained or hesitant actor onstage. "The stage manager instructed the other actors to look out for the swing and to take care of her. 'If she's about to miss an entrance, give her a shove with love.'"
shunning--to pointedly ignore a difficult or traitorous crew member. Based on a Shaker practice.
shut your yap--shut up
sightlines--backstage areas where you may be seen by the audience, “in the sightlines”
sightline problems--badly masked show
signature fuck up--mistake always repeated by particular person
sins of the father--depriving a young stagehand of work or blackballing him/her because you can't stand his/her father
sit down--tour stays in a city for a while, meeting
sit on my duff--sit on my behind
sit the hall--look for work at the replacement room at the union hall. Also, shape the
sit on a show--to stay on a show for a long period of time
site survey--measuring the stage and the theater and checking out the dressing rooms for incoming shows. Often a bad sign for ailing shows if you see the tech for the next show taking measurements. Screwing up the measurements during this site survey will make the load-in a very expensive nightmare (i.e. the set won't fit).
skater--work only when the boss is in sight.
"skinny the forks"--close the forks on a forklift
skosh--move a skosh, move the piece a bit.
"slapped on the pee pee"-- to be reprimanded by stage management for something you did wrong, often in a condescending way. "The men on the fly floor were slapped on the pee pee for talking too loud during a quiet scene."
“slip a slice of pizza under the door”--catered meal instead of a meal penalty
SNAFU--situation now all fucked up (military)
snowbag--a piece of duvateen with slits attached to two pipes and filled with snow
spike marks--marks for drops, large props and scenery, usually made with glow tape by stage management.
soft hands--stagehand pretending to work hard, can be accompagnied by WWF-type expressions when pretending to help lift things
SOL--old jazz term, shit outta luck. "You are SOL...we just used the last sidearm."
squawk box--intercom, usually on rail. Also: bitch box.
spill the truck--to empty the contents of a truck to find one item or two let the trucker leave.
spot a motor--put a motor in place to lift a heavy object. Also: to hang a motor
spotting call--the first call of the load-in, where the carpenters come in to lay out the points for hanging scenery.
"stabs you in the chest"--somebody who will say nasty things to your face. "In Hollywood, a true friend stabs you in the chest."
staged reading--when talent, often named talent, gives a reading with scripts for potential producers.
Stage Door Johnny--civilian loverboy
stagehand bush telegraph--how gossip gets around
stagehand rumor: (noun) a story or piece of gossip making the rounds in the Broadway Theater District that has been distorted by an extended game of telephone through many stagehand whispers and dosed with a certain amount of debt settling and character assassination. Often, the truth has been flayed alive and made into a wallet. "It is a stagehand rumor, so it might be 30 percent true."
stage manager’s console--call desk, often offstage
stand down--stop what you are doing (World War I term from the trenches, attack has been called off)
stand on your wallet--sarcastic comment to man believed to make a lot of money
stand-up guy--honorable man (mob term)
star dresser--dresses leads, may handle some personal business, may get substantial tips.
“stealing food from my kid’s mouth”--to take work away from me
stick the knife in--premeditated revenge. "When the designer finally screwed up, I got the chance to stick the knife in."
stiff, stiffing a job--holding a job, terrible worker
straight-eight studio--no overtime.
storage trailer--scenery/props loaded into a trailer for storage in an open yard.
strike guy--union man on strike
strike captain, picket captain--runs picket,
strikebreaker--crosses picket lines, Also: scab--replacement worker
string-puller--in some theaters or TV studio, the department head may not be the power. The string-puller may be an extra man who does the hiring or makes the policy decisions.
strom--generic item, “Give me the strom.”
STW--"straight to wardrobe." When an actor or an actress slays at an audition and gets the role, the casting agent or director might write on his/her resume, "STW," meaning the job is there, measure them for a costume
swag--free goods, sometimes taken without permission
swing--actor understudy who knows more than one role, on standby
swapping payrolls--moving back and forth between contract and house payrolls to get card time (illegal, but pervasive)
swing period--Midnight to 8am, eight hours between calls, penalties if the eight hours is not observed.
swordsman, horndog--stagehand/actor Romeo
"SU/SU"--"Show up and Shut up," stop complaining about job conditions or a bad boss.
summer stock/regional theater on Broadway--Studio 54, the Sondheim (part of the Roundabout empire)
sunburn--red face from drinking. "Don't come back from coffee with a sunburn," said the head to his men.
sunroof-elevator cover that drops down and retracts under the deck
stand behind--when someone comes into the Local, their rabbis and friends stand behind them
take a gander--take a look at something
take a punch--I can take a punch, I can handle difficult bosses
"Take a break, we've got it covered"--sarcastic line when a stagehand takes a phonecall on his/her cell phone while others are working hard.
take a picture-- you’re fired, you are not going to see this place again
“taking food out of my kid’s mouth”--depriving a person of work, thus affecting his/her family's income.
take the piss out of someone--to break chops, can be affectionate or nasty
talent--actors, or new meat...”Check out the talent,” as in new pretty, chorus girls.
tap the mat--give up, surrender (wrestling term) ‘The producers want us to tap the mat. We say no.”--Jimmy Claffey
tea cup and doily boy--prop man
tech period--period after scenery is loaded in, dry run of automation
and lighting. Also: tech, "The show is in tech."
tech tables--wooden tables on horses out in the house during tech period, for tech, directors and designers.
"techs are not your friend"--most techs will cut jobs when they can.
TDF--Theater Development Fund, promotes NY theater.
“telephone, telegram, tell a stagehand”--propensity of stagehands to gossip.
10 out of 12s--Equity rules during tech period that actors can work 10 out of 12 hours.
tie it off--tie a tag line to a cleat, tie a piece of scenery to the wall
tit job--easy work
tits on a bull--useless
the "G", the Garden--Madison Square Garden
the hang--the weight of the objects in the air for a particular show, including scenery and lights. "The hang for Zarkana was 110,000 pounds."
the restore--usually one or several days where a Broadway theater is restored to its original rental condition. Carpenters will rehang the house curtain if it was removed, propmen will replace seats that have been removed.
this guy’s a real mo--the guy’s a moron
throw me in--to publicly fink on someone, reveal culprit behind a
throwing the cue lights--SM turns on cue lights for fly or deck cues. "The SM threw the cue lights early."
thrown in--to have a man do cues without training.
to throw under the bus--to throw somebody in in an aggressive fashion
throw the piece up--pushing a scenic flat up to another stagehand
training contract--half pay on pink contract for four to eight shows
travel agent--referring to a particular Broadway head..."He's the travel agent...if you piss him off, he’ll put you on vacation."
turnaround--in TV, take sets down, put sets up
"take a walk around the block"--work is slow, hide for a while
T.V. commando--one who works in television, generally thought to run around a lot not accomplishing much.
"TV: same politics, half the rate"--In New York City, there is less pay in TV, but same backbiting as Broadway.
to be piped, to get piped--hit with a pipe coming in
to get banged--to get hit
track-- specific show cues for stagehands or wardrobe. When a swing stagehand comes in, they do a specific track. "I am swinging in the prop department at 'Jersey Boys.' I know all the tracks."
trim--the stopping point for a scenic piece coming from the flies. Trim is marked by a ribbon or tape.
triple threat--can’t sing, can’t dance, can’t act (sarcastic use of original meaning, which was a performer who could sing, dance and act).
trouping--archaic term for going on the road...”We trouped through the Southwest.”
22-man rule--was once the load-in minimums on musicals. now 17, as of 2007 contract.
twitching off the pipe--using a twitchstick to twist the lineset.
twitchstick--thick wooden dowel with a sharpened point, used to twist the lineset when a pipe is overhauled.
two-fers--two tickets for the price of one (by TDF, bad sign for show)...pioneering coupon by TDF for 2-for-1 Broadway tickets.
Union lights out--derogatory expression, that non-stagehands (creatives, etc) can’t work on stage when the union stagehands are on break.
upright--scenery or carpentry dolly, upright piano
walk around--to take a walk around, looking for items that need to go on the truck during a loadout.
walkaway--leave everything as it is and go home
walker--archaic term for a musician that is on the payroll, but doesn't have to show up, such as the four musicians once required for a straight play. One producer made four walkers play in the bathroom during intermission.
watch the paint--not much work, “Go watch the paint dry,” “We’re
watching the paint dry.”
"wave the flag"--keep a presence on deck, particularly for propmen, using the pickup and broom on deck to keep a presence. (Philip Feller)
wearing blacks--black clothes, required for mimes and road stagehands
weekly--techs, composers, high-powered production stagehands get weekly checks for setting up a show. Some production people collect 4 or 5 checks a week if they have multiple tours out.
"We'll get it on the loadout"--for anything that rolls under the show deck.
Weeping Willow--constant complainer, a name given to the old scenic at East Coast Theatrical Supply in the 1980s.
"We're going to run it!--producer line at the producer pep talk, when a show's ticket sales have dropped, a bad sign that the closing notice is coming soon. This is akin to saying, "We are driving the train off the cliff."
Westies--stagehands, doorman or other Broadway figures who grew up in Hell’s Kitchen which is loosely bordered by 42nd Street and 50th Street, 8th Avenue and the Hudson River. Also an Irish gang famous for brutality in the 1970s and 1980s.
West Coast a drop--drop it into the deck without folding or catch a drop in your arms and tie it like a long snake
West Coast a cable--coil straight down from the grid, into a box
"What, did you just bring your tongue?"--said to a chatty stagehand who didn't bring many tools to the job site.
white gloves--A person that doesn’t seem to get dirty, or doesn’t seem to really do any work.
wheelies--wheelchairs, as in how many wheelchairs are in the audience tonight, and how many handicapped seats have to be pulled to accommodate them.
"When the scenery was made out of wood and the men were made out of steel"--mocking line when an older stagehand starts telling a story about how tough stagehands used to be. "Wheels hadn't even been invented yet when I started in the business, sonny."
"When you're mad"--the all clear, when stagehands are ready to push something big or to do something that requires brute strength.
"When's the strike?" When the comedian Jerry Lewis was in the revival of "Damned Yankees" in the mid-1990s, every time he would pass a knot of stagehands speaking in hushed voices, he would say in a stage whisper, "When's the strike, boys?"
Who's who in the zoo--availability. "The head said, "I need to know 'who's who in the zoo.'"
Who's your rabbi?--mentor, who gives you the work?
(to) Wildhorn someone--The main Broadway reviewers for the New York Times hate the composer Frank Wildhorn, so his musicals always get savaged. Repeated vicious reviews about the same composer or playwright by the same reviewer means that the artist has been Wildhorned.
wood--pay, “the wood’s in”
workcall--usually a weekly 4-hour call where stagehands fix and maintain props, electric and automation. Cutbacks on workcalls are often a sign that a show is heading into financial trouble.
worked his way through the kick line--story from “The Producers”--TV star came into the show and slept with every woman on the kick line. The kick line is an old-style vaudeville/Rockettes number.
working my last good nerve--annoying someone. "You are working my last good nerve." (the late and very talented Sal Sclafani)
work me like a rented mule--sarcastic comment when it's a hard day of work. Also: "treated me like a red-headed stepchild"
work to rule--adhering very closely to work rules, slowing down work to infuriate management.
worklight rehearsal--only worklight used, no crew needed.
Workshop--for musicals and plays, lead producers will commission a workshop with crude props, blocking and a sound system. Stage managers, a production propman and a soundman will be hired for the job. Workshops can be quite costly and ornate. Actors are paid for these events. Producers and theater owners are invited to the runthroughs. If you do the workshop, you might wind up getting to do the actual show when it goes to Broadway. Bad workshops can die with a whimper, saving millions.
“Watch your cruller”--pipe coming in, something heavy overhead (Scott Meicionis)...for those who live under rocks, a cruller is a doughnut.
whack up the last cue-- several stagehands will divide up final cues so
each can go home early on separate nights.
"Where are you stacking them?"--you are working too slowly, breaking chops.
white contract--Local #1 contract, abused horribly so roadmen could get Local #1 cards. Last one is on "Mama Mia."
Whore Hole--staircase hooker comes up through in “Jersey Boys”
“Who do I have to fuck to...”--statement of exasperation..."Who do I have to fuck to get my payroll signed?"
work with your hands, not with your mouth--something to say to a overtalkative stagehand
"the Wrap"--an eight-hour call at SNL to wrap all the rental goods for return
wrecked--to get drunk. “After a suicide at the Met during an opera, the show was delayed. Three stagehands went to their lockers and got wrecked.”
“write when you get work.”--sarcastic line if you take to long going on an errand (Joe Ippolito).
up my ass--sarcastic statement of where you found something. "Oh, yeah, the sidearm was up my ass."
Upsky, downsky?--fake Russian, for use with stagehands from the Eifman Ballet (City Center)
undated resignation letter--how Shubert’s keep certain heads in line.
underminer--stagehand who will undermine other members of the crew for personal advancement or because he/she can't help him or herself.
union busting--intentional acts by management to destroy a union.
union label--hammer mark on scenery
uses the same water all week--several gross propmen, how they mop
yard dogs--men who stay outside theaters and are designated to load trucks (Larry Morley, possibly out-of-town term)
yellow card--minimums during load in, break yellow card
"You got your watch on today?"--sarcastic comment by boss to stagehand plagued by chronic lateness.
"You're killing me"--exasperated line when somebody gets in your way constantly or is blocking your worksite on stage with scenery or props. The proper response: "If only it were true."
"Okay, 8 a.m on Tuesday. Do I have to be there?"
fragile cookie--not wrapped too tight--busted valise
“What’s the worst thing about having a wife and a mistress? Seeing
“Mama Mia” twice. (originally used to be for “Cats”)
“Reggie Carter is harder to find than Osama bin Laden”--Artie Siccardi, during the load-in of "Mama Mia"
"The Tech is not your friend"
“Do just enough work not to get fired.”
“When I learn my cues, the show closes.”--Al Steiner
“What, and quit show business?” (based on elephant/circus joke)
“For you, the grid’s the limit”--Pete Wright
"Give me a hand. I lost my third arm in an accident." --Pete Wright
“Sex on the road is a professional courtesy”--Elaine Stritch
“The road don’t count.”--stagehand explanation for out-of-town infidelity.
"Cooperation is used when you fail to get your way."--Tim Brannigan
"Gene O'Donovan hand raises the biggest assholes on Broadway"...a reference to the infamous tech, whose inexperienced assistants are more famous for attitude than theater knowledge.
Local #1 has no safety issues because we observe no safety rules.
“You get nothing and you’re going to like it.”--Pat O’Connor
“If the cable goes under the boat, don’t worry about it. Put your coat on and go home.” Tommy Glover, teaching his cues to a young stagehand at “Showboat.”
“I’ve been on Broadway since it was in black and white.” --Marty Fontana
“I’m going to rewrite the laws of Broadway.” --Garth Drabinsky, Canadian impresario, fighting extradition in Canada after his pump-and-dump stock scam through LivEnt. He was sentenced to seven years in prison in Canada (in 2009), as well, but is free pending appeal.
“I’m going to rewrite the laws of Broadway.” --Mitchell Maxwell, AKA King of the Flops, producer of numerous bombs, known for roping in numerous dentists to back his shows.
A stagehand marrying a Rockette is akin to adopting a greyhound about to be putdown.
“People don’t leave the show whistling the scenery.”
“My father used to say 'That is my last and final offer, and if you don't like that one, I have another one for you.’”-- Union attorney Steve Spivack on his legendary attorney father.
“The next stop for this show is a landfill in Staten Island.”
Why do soundmen only count to two?
On three you pick.
“You get nothing, nothing and nothing.”--Matty Lynch
“Don’t tick off the head or he’ll watch you drown.”
"There is no 'I' in 'team' but there are three 'U's' in SHUT THE FUCK UP!"
“But how was the show, Mrs. Lincoln?”--what Richie Anderson says after
big automation screw ups at Jersey Boys
“An actress wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire.”
“This is not a job. This is a hostage crisis"...a reference to the long hours worked at the old WWF theater in the Paramount on West 43rd Street.
“I got the prop job at Show World. I have to mop 20 times a night.” --Dylan Foley
“Why do I need a flyman? We are only prehanging electric?”--a general
manager during Legit contract negotiations.
A show is going down when:
--workcalls are canceled
--actors are hired because they fit costumes.
--producers stop paying rentals/royalties
--producer pep talk occurs
--soundmen are not allowed to order batteries.
“At 9:55 am, the shout of 'Coffee' is better than 'I love you.'”
Downward progression of stagehand desirability:
--Young, no card guys: chorus girls and chorus boys will check you out. Dates and sex may occur.
--Journeyman--After marriage to high school sweetheart disintegrates due to long hours, a man is ripe for marriage to female dressers and Rockettes on the verge of retirement.
--Older stagehands--Chorus boys with daddy complex will check you out. Male dressers will remember your birthday, may bring you a cake.
Two general managers are sitting in the house during a load-in and see
a stagehand walk across the deck.
"Boy, I'd like to fuck that guy," says one.
"Out of what?" asks the other.
(alternative punchline: “Haven’t you already?”)
I am marketing a stagehand doll....it comes with coffee-grip hands, one
red and one blue shirt, and one pair of jeans, because that is all you
need. There is also an interchangeable paper coffee cup or a can of
Bud. The dolls are inexpensive, but you have to buy all three at once--the
propman, the electrician and the carpenter.
“I want to be a producer. Drink champagne until I puke.” --line from “The Producers.”
If you want any information about when a show is loading in at a Shubert house, ask the doorman.
"We are in the fog of war."--producer during recent negotiations.
APPLICATION TO BECOME A BROADWAY DOORMAN:
--How many cats do you have? 10 or more?
--How many years have you lived with your mother?
--How many days after your mother died did you report her death to the police? (sample answer: 12 days, after the food ran out of the fridge)
FAMOUS STAGEHAND DRINKING AND EATING PLACES, PAST AND PRESENT:
--McHale’s, torn down in 2006
--Kevin St. James, torn down in 2008
--Shandon Star on 9th Avenue--now a Burger King
--McLaughlin’s--now a restaurant called Matt’s
--Luigi’s, the most reasonable Mexican-Italian food in the Theater District
Why is the musicians local named 802?
That’s the time they show up.
“Is this pit getting smaller or is it just me?”--proposed counseling
class at Local 802
What do you call a drummer whose girlfriend breaks up with him?
What’s the definition of a gentleman? Can play accordion but doesn’t.
Definition of an optimist: Mandolin player with a beeper.
OTHER STAGEHAND INSIGHTS:
"What do you think we have, two hats and a cane?"--Dan Foley retort to
“Are all the single guys at your wedding going to have police records?”--asked by a dancer at Wicked to a stagehand getting married.
“McHale’s was my off-Broadway credit”--Dede, ex-dancer, ex-McHale’s
bartender, now assistant wardrobe supervisor.
“He’s been on the road so long, if he didn’t fuck it, he fought it”---said of a boorish roadman.
“He heard his wife had died, but he hasn’t been home to check yet”--said of
elderly CBS head who worked nonstop.
“Where’s Vito? He went behind the scenery with a piece of wood.”--what to tell management if they are looking for a particular stagehand.
“Many hands make light work.”--Bill Barry, ABC TV-17
“We don’t need no heroes.”--Bill Barry on stagehands doing dangerous things
“You need a day off? Take the week.”--Charlie Rasmussen
“I applied to be a Broadway doorman. They told me I wasn’t weird enough
We have the best Teamsters on Broadway. They are tough, good men. These jokes are funny, though. They must apply to another local.
How do teamster faerie tales start? Once upon a time-and-a-half
What did Jesus Christ say to the teamsters? Don’t do anything ‘til I
How do you know when a teamster is dead? The jelly doughnut falls out
of his hand.
What did the irate teamster say to his kids? Go outside and watch the
other kids play.
Alternative: How can you tell the Teamster children in the playground? They are the ones sitting in lawnchairs and eating doughnuts.
Teamster snail joke
Light Bulb Jokes:
How many designers does it take to change a light bulb? What do you
How many directors does it take to change a light bulb? Does it have to
be a light bulb?
How many stage managers does it take to change a light bulb? (Holds hand right in your face) Can’t talk now!
Legendary Broadway men/nicknames:
Bandsaw Dan--Picked up and tried to shove another man through a bandsaw
at the CBS shop
“Hey, Pull Over” (had Bell’s Palsy, so his mouth drooped, like a
motorcycle cop whizzing down the highway)
Big Swede--short Italian guy
Bam Bam--looks like grown up Bam Bam
John the Goat
Bobby Bobby Bobby (or Five Guys Named Bob)
Double A--ran book out of a Chinese restaurant
Angry Bob--old roadman at “Cats”
Ratfink--has "Ratfink" tattoo and knows how to use it.
“The show’s been running so long, the stagehands have started talking
to each other again--said of “Phantom,” said of “Cats”
Ephraim Dunsky Memorial Microphone--Card 700