Guide to all the theatre terms in the 'Theater Camp' movie

Welcome to theatre camp, new recruits — here's a crash course on the industry jargon used in the Ben Platt-led comedy film, now in theatres nationwide.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

Summer is here, which means it's camp season! And it's the perfect time for the release of Theater Camp, now playing in theatres nationwide. Ben Platt, Molly Gordon, Noah Galvin, Ayo Edebiri, Amy Sedaris, and more lead the cast of this film set at a summer theatre camp in the Adirondacks. When its founder (Sedaris) falls ill and her tech-bro son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) takes over operations, longtime counselors Amos (Platt) and Rebecca-Diane (Gordon) fight to keep Troy's leadership from spelling curtains for the camp.

Anyone who's been to theatre camp themselves, or participated in theatre at all, will delight in the plentiful references to hit Broadway musicals and iconic stars. But this funny, heartwarming movie about the power of theatre camp to inspire joy and self-confidence will delight even non-insiders, so we've compiled a glossary of theatre terms in the film to help everyone feel more welcome at Theater Camp. That's the magic of it, after all.

Straight plays vs. musicals

People often use "play" as a blanket term for any theatre production, but it's actually more specific than that. A play, also called a straight play, is a show where music isn't central to the story (though plays occasionally include a few songs and/or underscoring, like a film). It's the opposite of a musical, which includes songs throughout that drive the plot forward.

In Theater Camp, timid technical director Glenn (Galvin) tries to explain the difference to theatre-clueless Troy. Misunderstanding what Glenn means by a "straight play," he counters, "What's a gay play?" Glenn's tongue-in-cheek response: "A musical."

Immersive theatre

Ben Platt's character, Amos, announces to his campers that one of the summer's shows is an immersive production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats. But what does that mean? At immersive shows, the audience is part of the action instead of just sitting and watching.

Often, the venue for an immersive show is totally transformed, and audiences get to walk around, interact with the characters, and even influence how the plot goes forward. The thought of an immersive Cats is intriguing — audiences might get to compete alongside the characters in their Jellicle Ball!

Actor's Equity

You might hear the Theater Camp actors casually throw around the term "Equity" — it's shorthand for Actor's Equity Association, the major union for theatre performers. Most aspiring stage stars strive for membership in the union (some prior professional acting experience is usually required), as most auditions for lead roles in Broadway shows are only open to Equity members.

Open call

An open call is a type of audition anyone can attend. Some shows, especially major Broadway shows, only allow members of the Actor's Equity to audition. Sometimes, a director may invite only specific actors (like celebrities) to audition.

But an open call is a new actor's chance — maybe even someone fresh out of theatre camp — to get their big break. A notable example is the Broadway musical MJ, which recently broke from tradition by hosting open-call auditions for the title role of Michael Jackson. Newcomer Myles Frost, who landed the part, won a Tony Award for his performance in 2022!

Callback

A callback is the second stage of the audition process, and every theatre camper (and professional actor) hopes to get there. After initial auditions, productions only ask certain actors back for callbacks. After auditioning with a song, monologue, or dance of the actor's choice at the first audition, an actor will perform material from the show at a callback so the director can see if they're a good fit for a lead role.

Theatre camp may only have one round of callbacks, but professional shows can have multiple as the creative team gradually narrows down its pool of potential actors to cast.

Tech week

This is where it all comes together. The theatre campers spend all summer rehearsing a show, and tech week is the week leading up to the show's first performance. During tech, the show is rehearsed in full — with sets, costumes, lights, sound design, and full-out staging and choreography — to be sure all of it meshes well and runs smoothly.

Cheating out

No, this term has nothing to do with infidelity or academic dishonesty. When Platt tells his campers to "cheat out," he's telling them to face the audience while on stage. If you watch two stage actors talking to each other, they might not face each other head-on but turn their bodies slightly forward. This is cheating out, which they do so the audience can see their faces and hear their voices more clearly.

House seats

When we meet Amos, he's telling Rebecca-Diane about something that happened while sitting in "house seats" at a show. If you're in house seats, you're a big deal — these seats aren't on sale to the general public. Each Broadway show reserves some prime seats for producers, agents, writers, and other industry bigwigs, along with the cast and creative team's friends and family members.

You usually have to know someone in a production to get house seats. In a way, that makes every seat in Theater Camp a house seat since most of the attendees are the campers' families.

Juilliard

The Juilliard School is a famous, prestigious performing arts college in the heart of New York City. The list of famous Juilliard alumni is endless — Jessica Chastain, Laura Linney, Viola Davis, Robin Williams, and Adam Driver are but a few — and every theatre camper dreams of joining their ranks someday.

Amos and Rebecca-Diane once applied to Juilliard but didn't get in, leading them to their current careers as camp counselors instead of performers. But one of them harbors a secret about that audition — you'll have to watch the movie to find out what it is.

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