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Tech Week

Tech Week for Rough Crossing. Some call it Hell Week, but Hell doesn’t rhyme with Tech, does it? Anyway, while Tech Week is always exhausting, it isn’t always Hell. Usually, though.

See, here’s the thing: Tech Week is, pretty much by definition, when rehearsal time takes a detour from focusing on what the actors do to what the technical people do. So whenever anything doesn’t work, we all stand around and wait while it gets fixed. Now, early in the process, when it’s all about the actors, when a scene doesn’t work, the actors who aren’t in that scene do have to stand around and wait while the scene gets fixed—by which I mean rehearsed more, usually, or re-blocked—and that, too, is frustrating and exhausting, but a halfway experienced director can either prepare for that in advance or recognize what’s going on and do something about it, either letting some people go home early or skipping the bad bit and rescheduling the call for the next day or two, or something of that sort. Furthermore, many actors are interested in the craft of acting, and at least somewhat in the related crafts of directing and blocking scenes, so standing around and waiting whilst scenework is taking place is not such a hardship. Also, early in the process the standing around can be done seated in plush comfortable chairs in the house, or sometimes in the diner or bar next door.

During Tech Week, it’s a different story. First of all, the replaying of sound cues over and over in order to get the mix right is not interesting to anybody, even the sound guys. They have to do it, sometimes, and we understand that, but—not interesting. Same goes for lights. We know you want to get them right, we want you to get them right, it’s just not very interesting to watch.

A bigger contributor to the irritation, though, is that by Tech Week, we actor types have been rehearsing for ages (well, most of us, at least in community theater) and are this close to being ready for an audience. The sound and light techs may have been preparing a bit (or a lot, depending) but they haven’t been rehearsing. It’s awfully easy for us, who have been through each scene perhaps fifty times, to expect that the sound and light people will get it right after their first time through. They won’t. Or the second. The amazing thing is how much they get right on the third time through.

And then—do you remember how close we felt we were to being ready for an audience? By this point, the odds are that we’ve had a couple of full run-throughs that went moderately well, where the flubs and lulls were salvageable and were saved. All we need is some people to laugh at the laugh lines and Bob’s our proverbial. Right?

The first technical is where we learn that we weren’t actually that ready at all. Not just because the lights and sound aren’t ready, but because that’s where you learn that you have to close the door behind you, so the line delivery doesn’t work. That’s where you learn that you can’t cross between the table and the chair, and will have to either walk all the way upstage and back down again or deliver the line from down center. That your mightily effective bit on the very edge of the stage will be taking place in complete darkness, and so won’t be effective at all. And, disconcertingly, that the tray of sandwiches that I fling about in my rantiest moments unexpectedly has sandwiches on it. Why did no-one tell me? The entire bit has to be reworked now, and we only have three days.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,