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Respect the Tech! A Technical Performance Challenge

So much emphasis in theatre and drama classrooms is placed on acting, that we often forget the unsung heroes of the theatre – the crew (also known as the “techs” or “techies”).

This includes technical designers  for sound, lighting, costumes, props and set; operators for all the technical aspects (sound, lighting, follow spot, wireless microphones, video projections, and so on); stage management team members (generally one stage manager and however many assistant stage managers (or ASMs) are needed); hair and makeup team members, scenic painters and set builders , production team members (producers, marketing, publicity); and front of house (including ushers, house managers, box office, and concession stand). It truly takes an army to produce a show!

Being a crew member is often a thankless job. If their job is done well, then it’s smooth sailing. If something goes wrong, then inevitably the finger is pointed at the crew for taking audiences “out of the moment.” But…without the crew, actors are just standing on a bare stage in the dark in their street clothes! The following exercise will demonstrate just how powerful a tech is and how this team member can capture an audience’s imagination.

Respect the Tech – Exercise

Divide students into small groups. Each group will prepare a one-minute long theatrical performance using aspects of technical theatre ONLY – sound and/or music (offstage vocals or spoken words are acceptable), lighting, props, costumes, video projections, special effects. NO acting is allowed!

Focus on creating a simple story, mood, atmosphere, or feeling – like when the audience first walks into a theatre and they are instantly captivated by everything that surrounds them (i.e. sound, lighting, set). Each performance must include at least three different tech aspects (i.e. sound, lights, and props, or video projections, music, and special effects – whatever combination works for the story).

Each performance must also have a title, which will be presented before the piece is performed. Students will have to adapt the technical aspects to whatever equipment or capabilities their classroom, auditorium, or theatre has. But don’t be limited to only the high-tech stuff – effective theatrical performances can be achieved with simple household items like flashlights, tinfoil, and cardboard cutouts!

Here are some sample story ideas to get you started:

  • “A Holiday Surprise”
  • “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…”
  • “My Favourite Childhood Memory”
  • “The Worst Day Ever”
  • “A Mixed-Up Fairy Tale”
  • “…And Then It Went Horribly Wrong”

How will your group tell your story without the actors?

Click here to download a reflection handout and evaluation rubric for this exercise!
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