The joy of techs…


The technical rehearsal is one of the milestones of production week, a sign that if you don’t know your lines/steps/harmonies by now, it’s too darned late. It’s a run-through of the show in the show’s location (as most likely, rehearsals prior to the tech will have been held somewhere other than the theatre), which is essentially for the benefit of all the crew, the army of people dressed in black who make the show happen – lights, sound, set changes, props, wardrobe etc. A tech run is a slow old process, as it is the only chance you have to make that complicated set transformation work, or sort out the levels on the microphones or ensure that the soloist is slap bang in the middle of their spotlight. It is when the cast learn how to negotiate stairs and doors which have previously been imaginary, and when you find out just far you have to run in order to complete a quick change in your dressing room. It is when everyone gets very, very stressed, as they are either very busy or sitting around doing nothing, both of which can be equally irritating. It’s a time for getting a bit of an electric buzz as you step onto the stage, and a time for tearing your hair out because a dance number has to be re-blocked to accommodate the set.

I have enjoyed and endured many techs over the years, both on stage and backstage. Hopefully one day I’ll experience one from the other side of the footlights as a director, as well. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a perfect tech, and there’s never been one that keeps everyone happy. Sometimes, scenes have to be skipped because nothing happens in them from the tech point of view, and this can upset the actors. Sometimes, a particular technical issue can’t be fully resolved as it’s taking too much time and this puts the crew on edge. Sometimes, the atmosphere could be cut with a knife and you can sense everyone tiptoeing around each other. But for all their frustrations, techs are great – it’s the first time you get an inkling about the set, the sound and the lights, the first time you get the sense that the show is really happening very soon indeed and it’s an excellent chance to get to know the people in your dressing room or your fellow crew members a bit better. It’s the Fame tech tonight. Joy!

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  1. Tech nights are when you find out how good your stage manager is – the best one I ever had (ie it finished before midnight!) was an SM who very efficiently went from one change to the next – so if a singer was just singing a song with not special lighting or effects, then she didn’t bother running through the whole song. Her confidence and control gave the whole cast a good feeling. Meanwhile, my son heads off to Central in London this week to start his degree in Theatre Sound! So bless the techies 🙂

    • Oh, absolutely. Good stage managers are worth their weight in platinum and can really shine at techs. As long as the performers are mature enough (regardless of age!) to accept that cutting to the end of their scene or song is no reflection on them, but simply what needs to be done to keep the tech going, things can run so much more smoothly.

  1. December 17th, 2009

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