Posts Tagged ‘ technical rehearsals ’

A week in the Tower – Day 1

Day 1 of the week in the Tower began at 11.30am, arriving in the dressing room and hanging up the small collection of shirts and trousers which makes up my set of costumes for the show.  In all, I get through one t-shirt, three shirts, four pairs of trousers, two jackets, a waistcoat, a tie, a bow tie, a hat, a pair of boots and two pairs of shoes.  This requires quite a bit of organisation!  It transpired that the technical team had been there until 6am, somehow surviving on a break of about five hours.  Naturally very tired, they still continued to work hard throughout the day, which was mightily impressive.

As there were still some stage-related issues to be sorted, the cast had an extended lunch break, with our hard work beginning in the afternoon with several hours of spacing.  This meant going over and over the big dance routines, checking each and every new formation to ensure that we were all in exactly the right place in relation to the set and to each other.  For the first number, I was not required, so helped the stage crew put up some safety rails on a raised portion of the stage, but I was soon kept busy on spacing for several hours.

After a shorter meal break, we had our mics fitted and checked, and all sound issues were explained to us – exactly when each mic would come on and when it would be switched off, so that we would know when we can talk backstage and when we can’t.  Then began a stagger through of the show, stopping to deal with issues of traffic, set changes and so forth.  We didn’t make it all the way through, which is fairly normal.  The stage crew have a lot to deal with and will need a lot of help from the cast, which is fine with me.  A detailed list of which actors need to help with each set change will appear this morning.  It also became apparent that the sound guy really has his work cut out for him balancing our vocals with the amazing band.  I’m sure this is more than possible.

Today we’ll be in from 10 to 10 to work through the remaining set changes and traffic issues as well as to polish up the staging issues which we’ve not had a chance to look at.  The show is starting to gel together as a complete entity, and by the end of the day all aspects – sound, lights, set, costumes and people – should form a coherent whole.

The joy of techs revisited

For me, the last week in October was largely spent dressed in black, navigating with the aid of blue lights.  In other words, it was spent backstage, specifically as a stage manager for Herne Bay Operatic Society’s compilation show Thoroughly Modern Musicals, the first time I’ve performed that particular function for a show (though I have played the character of a stage manager before).  I thought this was a rather crazy move on the part of the Society’s committee, and was fearing I would manage to do something truly disastrous.  As it turned out, I  didn’t cause a calamity, but the day of the tech and the days afterwards were still remarkably scary and exhilarating.  After all, the stage manager is in charge once the show is up and running – the thought that it was all my responsibility was positively terrifying.

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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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