Tech week comes for us all and let’s be honest, it is not a great time. It’s hot, you’re in full costume, sweating bullets repeating the same patch of script over and over or sitting in the wings in silence absolutely freezing. It sucks. But it’s arguably the most important week of the production process where the show goes from being a rehearsal through to coming into its real life, as a full blown show. After years of waiting in the wings, bored and annoyed I have come up with a list of tactics you can use to get through tech week.
What is ‘tech week’?
Tech week or tech days are the days assigned in the rehearsal process for the technical crew to work with the cast and director to add in the technical elements of theatre and add them into the production as it stands. Costume, set, lighting, set changes, special effects, props and prop management all come to the fray and drastically elevate the production from actors charging around in a rehearsal room through to being an out and out show. It is also the period where the director hands a large part of the responsibility of the production over to the stage manager. This is the time for the technical team to start running the production. This also means that from here on out it is no longer all about you.
It’s not all about you
I know, I know this came as a shock to me too, but it is really important to remember that tech days are not about actors. For the purposes of tech we are glorified mannequins with voice boxes. Tech week teaches actors humility better than almost any other process, all of the work you have put in to the rehearsal process to this point is not important – hitting your marks, remembering where you have to take your props and staying positive are all your big tasks for this time. Remember that once the show goes up you will be able to take your rightful place as the centre of the universe, but tech is all about the technical crew, especially stage management so my first piece of advice is, do what you are told, stay chipper and it will all be over soon.
Watch out for fraying tempers
Tech is extremely stressful for everyone. The stage management team has a lot to do, so do the other techies, the director and AD are realising they are going to have to let go of their baby and of course, whatever can go wrong will absolutely go wrong. I’ve been in a tech where a team member has forgotten to isolate the theatre and set off a smoke machine inside the building.
Next thing you know the fire alarms are triggered, we all had to evacuate and a full team of firefighters were on site inside 5 minutes looking less than impressed. Having lost half a day and had to pay a fee the director was significantly annoyed. Stage management were furious and we still had well over 2 acts to plot and then run through. In classic theatre fashion it did all come together in the end, but it was a sensationally difficult day. As much as possible, try and keep out of any fraying tempers, do what is required of you and get the heck off stage.
Bring a book
Always bring a book to tech week, try and avoid putting in your headphones and rocking out as you could miss your cue easily, which feeds into my point above. Books on the other hand are absolutely perfect, you stay quiet and listen out for a cue without getting so monumentally bored you want to take a long walk off a short pier.
Hang up your costume and return your props
Depending on the budget of your production there might be multiple people working backstage in the props and costume departments. Or more likely, there will be one extremely stressed assistant stage manager trying to deal with all of the above. Your ASM arrives early, spends an hour while you are rolling in with a coffee to do a voice warm up, double checking all the props, ironing shirts and dresses and generally working their backsides off. Don’t be the sort of actor that dumps all their costumes in a pile, throws their props away, gets Taco Bell all down the front of their hired period costume and generally makes this long suffering ASM’s life absolute hell.
There are a couple of tiny things you can do to really help them out, hang up your costume, return your props to the designated area, ask them if they’d like a tea. It’ll seem like really small stuff but you can make a huge difference is how tough their day is and let me also say, no matter where you are in the world, theatre is a small scene. Everyone knows everyone, and word gets around quickly. Make sure if people are talking about you, it is for all the right reasons.
Bring clothing for all seasons
You have to accept at the start of tech that the theatre is pretty much going to become like a Crowded House song, it’s going to be four seasons in one day in there. Firstly when you are on stage under the lights or helping the tech crew out you are going to be sweating bullets, sleepy and exhausted. Then once the run starts and you are sitting in the audience or backstage you are going to freeze. Bring jackets, jumpers, shorts, skirts, warm socks, flip flops and slippers. Especially if you get cold easily the theatre can be a tough place to be. Additionally, depending on how much you are on stage, you’re going to go through a lot of water so make sure you stay hydrated too!
Warm up anyway
Even during the days when you know you are not going to be doing much acting, if any at all, still make sure you get in a good physical and vocal warm up each day. This just helps to keep you focussed and makes sure your voice is in tip top shape for previews which will be coming up so fast behind tech week you will hardly have time to breathe! It is also a great time to regularly steam your voice, you can buy a eucalyptus hot water steamer on the internet and they are a great tool for looking after your voice.
Eat well and sleep well
Finally, make sure you are well-rested and well-fed. Tech as I have mentioned is a really draining time for everyone. It is really challenging and requires focus and patience that cannot be achieved for exhausted, under fed cast and crew. Do whatever you need to get a good night’s sleep and make sure you are eating regularly and positively for you. Lots of fruit, veggies and protein put together in a way that makes you happy.
Well there you have it, that’s my go to list of tactics to survive tech week. Tech can be a really challenging time, full of unexpected issues and complications. It is really important to look after yourself, stay cool, keep your head down and push through it to get to the good stuff. Performances! Hopefully this list has been useful for you and if you feel like you know someone who could use a piece or two of this advice, why not share this article with them!