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Phrases from the theatre/ theater

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February 20, 2013, 07:53
arnie
Phrases from the theatre/ theater
I can't promise to post one example a day in the same way as wordcrafter used to, but here's a start. If I get sufficiently inspired I might find other subjects to post on in future weeks.

The first phrase is early doors.

It is a British phrase, probably almost unknown across the pond. It's sometimes used nowadays to refer to the early stages of a football match, "Manchester scored a goal in six minutes but it was early doors; Chelsea went on to win 3-1." It is (or was) also used to to refer to people who arrive at a pub just before or after opening time at 5.30pm. Before the law was changed pubs in Great Britain had to close in the afternoon and early-doors drinkers would arrive around 5.30 for a "quick one" on their way home from work.

The theatrical origins come from the practice that grew up in the 1870s of allowing theatregoers to choose their own seat (no tickets with allocated seat numbers then) if they arrived early and paid a small fee. The doors were opened early to allow these patrons access. Since some seats would have obstructions in the way of a good view of the stage, many people felt it was worth the extra money. The theatres would benefit by not having to cope with a last-minute crush of people arriving, and by the alleviation of traffic jams and crowds outside. Michael Quinion has more on World Wide Words.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
February 20, 2013, 15:43
Geoff
Thanks for getting this going, arnie. Fine idea.


It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. -J. Krishnamurti
February 20, 2013, 16:09
Proofreader
quote:
and early-doors drinkers would arrive around 5.30 for a "quick one" on their way home from work.

Much like my father, who (in our neighborhood) was considered a magician since every day he could walk down a street and turn into a barroom.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
February 20, 2013, 22:28
arnie
Wordcrafter has already covered this phrase, but since it was in December 2002 even members with good memories are likely to have forgotten it.

A deus ex machina literally means "a god from a machine". It comes from ancient Greek plays and referred to scenes in which a crane (the machine) was used to lower actors or statues playing a god or gods (deus) onto the stage to set things right, often near the end of the play. Theatre was in its infancy then, and the intricacies of plots sometimes caused a playwright to write himself into a corner, and he would bring in an unlikely event to escape.

This sort of thing happens from time to time in other media as well, so the phrase has spread outside the theatre to literature, films, TV, and so on. A more modern example might be that if the hero is dangling at the edge of a cliff with a villain stepping on his fingers, a flying robot (hitherto unmentioned in the work) suddenly appears to save him.

Note that there are a number of requirements for a sudden plot development to be a deus ex Machina:


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
February 22, 2013, 01:35
arnie
Our next phrase is dramatis personæ, which comes from Latin, meaning "the persons of the drama". In essence, it is a simple list of the characters in the play; sometimes there is a short description of their role; for example "Shylock ... A merchant of Venice"; sometimes the actor playing the role is named. On occasion all three appear: "Shylock ... A merchant of Venice ... played by Adolf Hitler".

Outside the theatre, some novels also have a dramatis personæ at the beginning or end and it is quite often written in a slightly "olde-worlde" style, evoking the Shakespearean style of writing. This is most common in "doorstop" books with very large casts of characters. It occasionally crops up in other forms of media, too.

Every now and then it will appear as a metaphor in non-fiction - in the reporting of a complicated court case, for example, as a comment on the large numbers of witnesses called and lawyers employed.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: arnie,


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
February 23, 2013, 00:55
arnie
The proscenium arch is at the front of the stage. It creates a "window" onto the stage through which the audience sees the play. The curtains cover the arch and are drawn back at the start of the play and each act. In ancient Rome, the stage area in front of the scaenae frons* was known as the "proscenium", meaning "in front of the scenery", and served as the stage. In the Roman theater, no proscenium arch existed, in the modern sense.

* Bonus phrase: the scaenae frons was the background of a Roman theatre stage. This area usually had several entrances to the stage including a grand central entrance. The scaenae frons was two or sometime three stories in height and was central to the theatre's visual impact for this was what is seen by a Roman audience at all times.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
May 07, 2013, 20:46
Proofreader
Not exactly theater-related but a new play is in the works based on the two Popes living together in St. Peter's. It is to be titled The God Couple.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
May 08, 2013, 20:38
Kalleh
Funny! Also not related, but a new book out about beer is entitled, "The Audacity of Hops."