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Encyclopedia > Cue (theatrical)

A theatrical cue is the trigger for an action to be carried out at a specific time. It is generally associated with theatre and the film industry. They can be necessary for a lighting change or effect, a sound effect, or some sort of stage or set movement/change. Serge Sudeikins poster for the Bat Theatre (1922). ... Film is a term that encompasses individual motion pictures, the field of film as an art form, and the motion picture industry. ... Sound effects or audio effects are artificially created or enhanced sounds, or sound processes used to emphasize artistic or other content of movies, video games, music, or other media. ... Interior of the 1928 B. F. Keith Memorial Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts. ...


Types of Cues

Cues are generally given by the stage manager as a verbal signal over the headset system or backstage intercom, or by a signal with a 'cue light'. There are 3 types of cues given. Warning, Standby, and Go. Stage management is a sub-discipline of stagecraft. ...

  • Warning: Given about a minute prior to the cue and gives time for crew members to get ready and make sure everything is set (this is esspetially important with cues for set or rail changes).
  • Standby: Given a few seconds before the cue and tells the crew members everything should be set and they should be standing by to go.
  • Go: Given at the moment the cue should be executed. This sets the crew members in action.

Calling and Execution of Cues

There are several common methods for the stage manager to call warning, standby and go and each stage manager has their own method. The important thing is that they can be heard and understood. Here is an example of a way a stage manager might call for Light Cue #24

  • "Warning Lights 24"
  • "Standby Lights 24"
  • "Lights 24 GO"

It should be noted that the words 'warning' and 'standby' both come before the department and cue number, but the word 'go' comes after. This is because as soon as the word 'go' is heard the crew will execute the cue.

If there are multitple cues right in a row, rather than calling warnings, standbys and go's, a stage manager might say: "Warning Lights 26 through 30, Stanby Lights 26 through 30, Lights 26 Go, Lights 27 Go, Lights 28 Go, Lights 29 Go, Lights 30 Go."

The technician(s) or board operators who are to take the cue are expected to respond so that the stage manger knows they have heard and understood them. A typical response might be, "Thank you, Sound," "Standby Rail," or simply "Lights." It has been suggested that Stagehand be merged into this article or section. ...


Many types of cues are not apparent to the stage manager, or are subtle. In this case the technician who executed the cue usually responds with a taken note; eg. "Rail cue 11 taken."

Often times followspot operators do not take their cues from stage managers. This is generally because the timing of actors entrances and exits and other movements may vary from night to night, and because calling every followspot cue could become too complicated and interfere with the calling and execution of other cues. More commonly, a stage manager may only call very specific followspot cues, like a blackout--frequently on a blackout cue there is a light cue and sound cue a followspot cue and sometimes even a set cue, so it is very important that everything happens all at the same time. Aside from this, followspot operaters take their own cues and follow their own cue sheet.

(If a stage manager were to call every cue for a follow spot operator it might sound something like this: "Spot 1, pick up <actor name>, spot 2 iris down, spot 1 switch to color frame #4, spot 3 douse out, spot 4 pick up <actor name>, spot 2 switch to color frame #2.")

Cue lights are sometimes used for back stage cues when a headset for communications is impractical, such as when an actor needs to make an entrance, or if there is a cue needed on stage when the crew needs to be silent. The cue light is controlled by the stage manager using a switch the same way that (s)he would call audio cues over the headset. A solid red light indicates a 'warning' cue. An optional yellow light or a flashing red light indicates "standby". A green light signals "go." Some cue lights have a talkback feature which allows actors or crew to acknowledge back to the stage manager that the cue has been received. Headset may refer to: headset (earphone, headphone) headset (bicycle part) This is a disambiguation page &#8212; a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... Communication allows people to exchange thoughts by one of several methods. ... Actors in period costume sharing a joke while waiting between takes during location filming An actor or actress is a person who acts, or plays a role, in a dramatic production. ...

Cue Sheet

A cue sheet is a form usually generated by the stage manager of design department head that indicates information about the cue including execution, timing, sequence, intensity (for lights), volume (for sound). The board operators, running and deck crews may have copies of the cue sheet with just the information dealing with their department. The stage manager keeps a master list of all the cues in the show and keeps track of them in the Prompt book. The prompt book is a copy of the script for a play being produced that contains the information necessary to create the production from the ground up. ...

See Also

Cue Light
Stage Managment
Light board operator
Running crew
Part of the stage managers panel at Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts Stage management is a sub-discipline of stagecraft. ... In the performing arts, the Light board Operator is the techie in change of operating all lighting equipment for a performance, with the possible exception of the spotlights, which are usually handled by one or more designated spotlight operators. ... Running crew is the collective term for the entire group of persons required to operate a theatrical performance. ...



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