Tech week…the phrase alone can send shivers down the spine of the most calm and unflappable theatre professionals. Tech week has the reputation of being long and taxing. But it doesn’t have to result in you becoming a stressed-out mess. Read on for four tips to help make your tech week a more positive experience!
Tech week is a test of patience. Long rehearsals, technical challenges, changes and adjustments…everything is bigger and the stakes are higher, because it is so close to opening night.
A good reminder for actors and directors is that, while they have had weeks to prepare and practice, the technicians and stage management team are cramming all their adjustments into a tight timeframe (often only one technical rehearsal and one dress rehearsal). They are working hard to learn everything as quickly and efficiently as possible. Remember the key to that: They are learning. And, even more challenging, they are learning on their feet. Thank them, and treat them like the superstars they are!
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of planning ahead. Be aware of crucial tasks that will need to be completed during tech week, such as:
I am not a technical pro in any way, so this advice comes from a true place of learning: The more you plan ahead, the more stress and heartache you will save your technical director, sound designer, lighting designer, and yourself.
For sound cues, have your list of music and sound effects assembled way before tech week, so your sound designer has time to source/create the necessary tracks. Be sure to be specific about sound effects. It’s not enough to ask for a telephone ring. Is it a landline phone or a cell phone? Rotary or touch-tone? How old is the phone? Does it make a ringing sound, a buzzing sound, or a digital ringtone? How many times does it ring before it gets answered – once, twice, ten times? Your sound designer is not a mind reader. Give them the details up front so they don’t have to do it over.
For lighting, come in with specific looks planned out, and knowing how long you want each lighting cue to take. Do you want a long fade or a quick snap? Do you want to go to full blackout or a less dark blue- or brown-out (which can make it easier for actors and stagehands to see where they’re going, but makes transitions more visible to the audience)? If you have lighting looks that you will use more than once, note that on your planning sheet. Depending on what kind of lighting board you have, you may be able to copy those cues forward, which will save time.
Tech week opens the floodgates to hundreds of questions, and the director ends up receiving the bulk of the questions. Save your sanity and let your students know who the appropriate person is to handle each type of question. For example, who is the most likely person to know where a missing pair of pants might be? Who should be contacted if one of the stage lights burns out? Who should students check with if they need help reviewing their entrances and exits? (If you answered the costume head, the lighting designer/operator, and the stage manager – you would be right!) These are your point people and they are worth their weight in gold.
Students should be able to approach you with questions. But get them in the habit of taking the time to think logically about who to ask instead of defaulting to you. If they ask you anyway, reply with, “Who might know the answer to that question better than me?” and let your students fill in the blanks.
Tip: Do not feel guilty about delegating and depending on your point people. The whole purpose of them being there is to contribute to the production and to learn, especially students in these roles! Trust them and allow them to succeed in their leadership positions. Step back and watch with pride as they demonstrate how capable they truly are.
It’s tempting to try to cram as much as possible into your tech time, but you need to plan breaks – and actually take the breaks. Stand up, stretch your muscles, and get out of the theatre for a few minutes. Even better: actually go outside and get some fresh air and natural light. And while you’re at it, be sure to eat some food and drink some water. “Hanger” and dehydration are real things, and they’re not pretty!
It may seem silly to have to mention seemingly obvious tasks such as eating, hydrating, and getting fresh air, but it is so easy to neglect those things when your to-do list is a mile long. Self-care is vital, and it’s important for your students to see you taking care of yourself. Lead by example. Taking a few minutes to reorient yourself will make you so much more productive in the long run.