How to survive the tech week
Tech week is for all of us, and, let’s face it, it’s not a great experience. It’s hot. You’re wearing a full costume. It’s a pain. It’s the most crucial week in the production process. This is where the show moves from being a rehearsal to becoming a fully-fledged show. After years of being bored, frustrated and waiting in the wings, I have compiled a list of strategies that can be used to get through tech week.
What is “tech week”?
Tech week, or tech days, is when the technical crew is assigned to the cast and director in rehearsal to help them add technical elements to the production. The production is transformed from a chaotic rehearsal space to a fully functioning show by adding costumes, set, lighting and set changes, and props and management. This is when the director gives a lot of responsibility to the stage manager. This is when the technical team can start to run the production. This means it’s no longer about you.
It’s not about you.
Yes, this shocks me. But it’s important to remember that tech days don’t revolve around actors. Tech is about glorifying mannequins and voice boxes. Tech week is a great way to teach actors humility. All of the hard work that you put into rehearsals up to this point does not matter. Your biggest tasks are to hit your marks, remember where your props are, and stay positive. You will be able to take your place in the centre of the universe once the show is up. But tech is all about the technical crew and stage management. My first piece of advice is: Do what you’re told, keep chipper, and it will all end soon.
Be aware of fraying tempers.
Everyone finds tech extremely stressful. Everyone on the stage management team has a lot of work to do. The director and AD have to let go. Of course, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. I have witnessed a tech forgetting to set off the smoke machine and isolate the theatre.
The fire alarms triggered the next thing you know, and we were all forced to evacuate. A full team of firefighters arrived on site in 5 minutes. They looked less impressed than before. The director was extremely annoyed after we had lost half of the day and had to pay a fee. The stage management was furious, and there were still over two acts to plan and run through. It all came together in theatre style, but it was an extremely difficult day. Try to keep your temper at bay, be calm and do the job.
Bring a book
Bring a book with you to tech week. Avoid rocking out and putting on your headphones as you might miss your cue. The books, on the other side, are perfect. You can be quiet and wait for a cue without becoming so bored that you want to go on a long walk along a pier.
Don’t forget to take off your costume!
Depending on your production’s budget, there might be several people backstage working in the costumes and props departments. You might also have a stressed assistant stage manager who has to manage all the above. Your ASM will arrive early and spend an hour with you while you’re rolling in with a cup of coffee. They’ll do voice warm-ups, double-check all props, iron shirts and dresses, and generally work their backsides off. Do not be that actor who throws away all of their costumes, throws them out, orders Taco Bell from the front of the hired period costume, and makes the ASM’s job miserable.
You can help them by doing a few small things. Hang up your costume and return the props to their designated area. Ask them if they would like tea. Although it may seem small, you can make a difference in someone’s day, regardless of where they are. Everyone knows everyone, and word spreads quickly. You should ensure that people talk about you only for the right reasons.