A to Z Challenge – V is for Vamp

I  wasn’t sure what I would find for the letter V that would connect to my theatre theme, unless I went with video. But, of course, video is not part of live theatre, unless you have someone come and tape your performance and put it on DVDs. Which we do sometimes, so that could have worked. However, I did find some interesting words when I did a search for theatrical terms beginning with the letter “v”.

First is  VAMP
In theatre a vamp is a repeating musical section played until the performer is ready, and it was most commonly used during the age of Vaudeville. Anybody remember that? We had several Vaudeville type shows at our community theatre in the past, and they were always quite a bit of fun. In the 1930s and 1940s, sheet music often had a notation, “Vamp till ready”, which meant the accompanist should repeat the musical phrase until the vocalist was ready. 

Sheet music may not have that notation anymore, but if you listen carefully during a live concert you can often catch a vamp as a performer prepares to start a song.

I was more familiar with the word “vamp” as it referred to a woman who would tease and flirt with men, but in looking in the regular dictionary, I found another meaning that was a surprise. A vamp is a part of a shoe or boot, an upper part that covers “….the forepart of the foot and sometimes also extending forward over the toe or backward to the back seam of the upper.” 

  I probably did not know that, as it was more commonly used in the 14th century. 

The Toes Know

Also known as Distancing Effect or Alienation Effect, this is a concept coined by Bertholt Brecht “which prevents the audience from losing itself passively and completely in the character created by the actor, and which consequently leads the audience to be a consciously critical observer.”

Huh? I copied the definition from the online source Theatrecrafts – Entertainment Technology Resources because I have no idea what the definition even means. Any ideas? Anyone want to guess on a pronunciation?

I am so glad it does not mean what I first thought when I read the word. We have had occasions when a player got such a bad case of opening-night- nerves that he had to make a quick trip to the  restroom. Before I read the definition, I wondered if professional theatres have some kind of container backstage for just such an occurrence. 

Nope. A vomitory is an exit or entrance into or out of an auditorium through banked seating from below. The word dates back to Roman times, and was an architectural feature of coliseums.

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