What a theatre means when it has ‘gone dark’ or ‘gone up’

August is always a quieter time for a majority of theatres nationwide, it allows time for repair, maintenance, holidays, preparation for the season ahead such as the new brochure…watch this space!

The time when a theatre is quieter in theatre terms is called ‘going dark’ and I was interested to know what the historic background for this term was.

The term apparently dates back to Elizabethan times and is used throughout the world to signify that the venue is closed to the public, has turned off the lights, gone dark, no lights equal no show.

You may have heard of the theatre ‘going dark’, but what about ‘going up’? I will frequently ask my colleagues if we have gone up?

This is a term that is key to the starting of the show and relates to an era when the curtain would have traditionally been used at the beginning of every show.

The house tabs (or curtains) were flown up and the show had ‘gone up’. More frequently now a show will not use the house tabs but the term still remains and is another key communication term in theatres across the country; ‘we’ve gone up!’

We give and receive ‘clearance’ at the start a show, won’t whistle back stage (as it was the traditional way the flying bars were flown in and out) and of course we are very keen that actors ‘break a leg’ on their first nights! If the Scottish play (Macbeth) is mentioned in any theatre people will turn round three times and spit over their shoulder to avoid bad luck being brought upon them!

There are many terms, sayings and traditions that make a theatre a unique and special place, passing them on and ensuring they remain ‘terms’ for future generations is vital.

Now I must go and check the ‘ghost light’ is on after all we will be back after ‘going dark’ for a few days!

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