I'm looking for the best term (or phrase) to describe the act of bowing to the crowd while onstage at the end of a play or performance.
I came by the terms "encore" and "curtain call", but I'm not sure if those truly fit in this context and if there's not a better way to describe this act.

  • 2
    I think either "bows" (play or musical performance) or "curtain call" (play only) is appropriate. An "encore" is an added performance (eg, performing another song) in response to an audience's (presumably standing) ovation.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 20, 2014 at 18:24
  • 5
    In many plays, the whole cast is not on stage at the end of the play, so others must come on stage and bow with them. This can be staged in a number of ways. It's called a curtain call. Often the curtains close before the cast bows, and the bows are often arranged in stages, with multiple bows, and important actors coming in last, so as to keep the applause replenished. Dec 20, 2014 at 18:25

2 Answers 2


An encore is the wrong word: that’s like having an extra musical number after the show is officially done.

Performers sometimes take their bows during the accolades accorded them at the end of their performance. Especially when this involves bringing them out in front of drawn curtain, then it is a curtain call. The applause is known as an ovation, and if the audience rises in unison to further signal their enthusiasm, then it is a standing ovation.

Note however that there can be many arrangements, particularly in large ensembles with a few star performers. There may be front-of-curtain bows for the leads, but a raised curtain for a chorus.

Occasionally flowers are given out to star performers during their bows; this is not a gender-specific tradition, for both male and female performers can receive them. These are only given after a performance, never before it.

These can be simple blooms or splendid bouquets. However, they are usually given out only to a few, such as to the conductor and sometimes to the principal soloists. Different types of performance have different traditions in this regard, as explained in this New York Times article on the rules and hazards of presenting flowers.

Extremely rarely, other gifts are given out, but it is almost always flowers if any gifts are made.

  • Thanks for the expansive answer! Also, how would you most likely use "curtain call" in a sentence? Did the performer take a curtain call, perform a curtain call, make a curtain call? Dec 20, 2014 at 19:52
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    "Take a curtain call" would be the normal phrase.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 20, 2014 at 21:21

You are looking for "curtain call", as has been mentioned in the comments. Also known as the "final bow", or "walkdown" it occurs at the end of a performance when all actors (or most actors) come to the stage to be applauded for their acting.

"He gave a final bow just as the curtains came down." Longman

  • Thank you :) Your answer is short, straight to the point and great, but I marked tchrist's answer because his explanation covered several related points that were rather vague to me. Dec 20, 2014 at 19:52

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