…and so it begins…
When I was little and still thinking I would ultimately have to have real babies (as opposed to the theater babies that my shows always are) I remember asking my mom what pregnancy was like and she answered “long”. I said, “but it’s only 9 months, right?” (Seriously, my 7 year old brain couldn’t really process 9 months, I mean to me – I thought years were long, months were short). And my mom said, “nope, first of all, technically pregnancy is 10 months, not 9, AND it feels like 9 months and a year! That last month goes on forever!” Of course then she said, “and yet, there’s still never enough time.” Again something my 7 year old brain couldn’t process (too long but also not enough time) so off I went to make my Barbie dolls re-enact scenes from Sesame Street. Ok, ok, I know, you’re all thinking why is she telling us this story? I thought this was a theater blog. I’m getting there, hang with me. Whenever I go into a tech week I always always think of my mom saying “9 months and a year…and…never enough time.” As an adult, of course, I totally understand how something can be both things-too long and too short-and every time I do a show, as the first performance approaches, I feel that pressure – too long/too short – building in my entire system. Now, at last, I get to the point. Tech week is about to begin – my own final month/year of pregnancy with this particular show-baby.
So, for everyone keeping track, here’s a quick recap of this past week. The week began with the last of the scene work. It’s always amazing to me how the closer you get to the end of the rehearsal process, the more you find in the work. All of the actors start to come off book and as scripts leave hands and actors are free to really connect and communicate on stage, the discoveries start to flow. The moments come together and the show really starts to take shape. We spent the first half of this week finishing scene work. On Thursday I also got the chance to work individually with the actors who have monologues during the show-a chance to really delve and play with those moments. On Friday we did a line-through with the actors (basically everyone sits in a rehearsal room, and runs the show for lines. The stage manager, in our case, the luminous Molly Ballerstein, is on book and at the ready when an actor calls “line” to feed them their text and we cruise through the show). In my experience a line-through right before tech can be extremely helpful for getting everyone ready for the runs that are about to begin…and then, and then, and gentlemen and then…(sorry, a little PIPPIN moment there. I promise, that review is coming soon. ANYWHO I digress (big surprise, I know)). And then! This past weekend we jumped in to run-throughs. Finally we got a chance to see if our running time is anywhere close to the run time we quoted on all of our promotional materials (turns out it is) and we got to see a glimmer of what the show will be.
It’s also during this last week before tech when the slow hand off of the play begins. Although, as a director, I am of course needed through opening night, this subtle shift in control and responsibility starts in that last week before tech where, with each passing rehearsal the show becomes less and less mine and more and more the actors’ and Stage Manager’s production. As producer and director I’m always still up to my ears in the production until the end – it is not a rare occurence that I’m at every single performance, but officially, I start handing my baby over to others to let it find its legs. It’s always an exciting time in the life of a show (and also a teensy bit sad).
So, now, we head into tech week and I get back to that pregnancy story-too long and yet too short. So, for those of you not particularly familiar with theater…how to describe tech week? Organized chaos? The definition of chaos theory? Chaotic? (Are you sensing a theme?) I can’t speak to what it is like on Broadway, or even Off-Broadway (though I suspect, that though there’s more money in those worlds, it’s not that different from the off-off-Broadway environment) in low-budget, independent theater it’s like this: You remember finals week from school? The lack of sleep, the intense studying, the feeling like at any moment some little thing will go wrong and you’ll ruin your entire future in one fell swoop? Remember the fear but also the exhilaration that a screw up, as bad as it would be, would launch your life in a totally new and unexpected direction? Remember the stress building up so much that sometimes you needed a primal scream or two to get you through the day? That’s amateur hour compared to tech week. Pfft. Child’s play. And the director/producer keeps all the plates spinning; makes sure all the decisions get made – God I love this job.
My tech week will (most likely) look like this:
It will begin with load-in. VERY early in the morning, I’ll make my way to the space and open up the theater and get my first good look since we booked it. I’ll realize exactly how big a playing area it is and start to envision what the final
product will actually look like. If possible, I’ll sit for a minute, on the stage, by myself, before anyone else arrives, and just soak in the empty-theater-ness of the place – that feeling of potential magic that an empty theater practically oozes. Then, I’ll meet up with the tech director and start unloading the set from the truck. Soon after that, or during that, some helpers will arrive, as will the order from the lighting rental house. We’ll hang lights, and put set together and throughout the day we’ll prep the dressing room, and clean the space. The costume designer will drop off costumes and the projections designer will start testing images in the space. We’ll have some sound tests of the speakers and slowly but surely, an empty open space will turn into the world of Bella’s Dream. And then we’ll do it all again (well not the unloading the set part, just the turning the empty space into Bella’s Dream part) the next day. Tuesday, Molly and I will test out every set piece and walk the pathways of the show for safety – as a director, I’ve always said, I won’t ask any actor to do something I wouldn’t feel 100% safe doing myself and as a stage manager, Molly would say the same so only after we test everything and know it’s safe will we hand set pieces off to actors. We’ll also glow tape the crap out of everything so that the backstage looks like the game grid from TRON. Then, Tuesday night, the actors will arrive and we’ll have our first walk through of the show in the actual space. Wednesday will be a long tech day, doing recordings and filmings for elements that are featured within the show, costume fittings, and general tech stuff before we start to really look at the lights and hear the sounds and see the projections, projected larger than life on the screen. Thursday is our cue to cue. For those not familiar with a cue to cue, it is exactly that, it is the whole show but just going from technical cue to technical cue. It is an absolute necessity but usually a hard and tiring day for all. Friday will be run throughs, Saturday will be run throughs and dress rehearsal and then Sunday – we’re off to the races with our preview!
…and in the end, though everything will somehow get done, none of it will happen exactly the way I’ve planned or expected – it’s the nature of the beast – and I’ll have to shift plans on the fly…but, either way, Sunday night, we will have a show…speaking of which, have you bought tickets yet? Preview tickets are only $12! All other tickets $18. Be sure to pick up your tickets ASAP – only 15 performances.
So, yeah, that’s tech week. I’ll do another blog post as soon as I can to let you all know how it went but the best way to know for certain is to come see the show. See you at the theater!