Periaktoi – those spinny set pieces

Word of the day: periaktoi



Periaktoi (“perry-act-toy”) are theatrical prism shaped set pieces that turn to define separate scenes. The face of a periaktos (singular) is painted to represent a scene. The periaktos will traditionally have have 3 faces, but can have more. It is thought that have 3 faces gives the quickest scene changes. When periaktoi are used on stage, there are typically more than one matching periaktos that are moved in synchrony and highly coordinated.

The word itself is Greek, as it comes from Greek theatre. The initial base is <per> which denotes round, or revolving. It is seen in words such as <perimeter> the measure around something. <Periodontal> means to go around the tooth. The second base is <aktos> which denotes “carry”.  The word sum for <periaktos> is peri+i+aktos. It is something that is rotated and carried. Before set pieces were on wheels, they would have to be picked up and carried to be moved or rotated.

Now you can enjoy your theatre a little more when you see periaktoi moving around the stage.


6 different scenes using a 3 sided periaktoi video

3 different cityscapes video

Photo credit to Lexi Marton –

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