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1. A short play or skit that precedes the main performance. I have always wanted to be a stage actor, but I've only been cast in a few tiny curtain raisers so far, playing to mostly empty theaters.
2. By extension, any event or performance that precedes the main attraction. Some local singer performed a few songs as a curtain raiser, but no one really paid him much attention until he finally announced the band was about to come on stage. The curtain-raiser match between the two university teams proved far more exciting than the professional football match that everyone had paid to see.
Preliminary event, as in This limited attack on the chairman is just a curtain raiser for the concerted effort to oust him . This term literally refers to a short play or skit presented before the main theatrical production. It began to be transferred to other preliminaries about 1940.