One of my favorite moments of the entire two seasons of the “All About Broadway” Series SMASH was the moment when the long-time boyfriend of the woman playing Marilyn Monroe in a brand new Broadway show asked her to marry him. Her response?
In a “how-dare-you-bother-me-with-these-meaningless-little-things-at-such-a-time” tone, she looked at him incredulously and said, “I’m in tech!”
I cannot tell you how hard I laughed at this, because, sadly, it is so realistic. The Technical Rehearsal period (fondly known as “tech”) is an all-consuming time period where you eat, drink and sleep (or not so much) the “putting on of the show.” It is the period between basic rehearsals ending and the show actually opening. We have to make sure every light and sound cue is discussed, every light is in the right position, and the finishing touches are made to the set…and that we get it all done on time and under budget.
Each tech, just as each show, is unique. Normally, I detest “seams” (the ability to see where two flats have been joined together) and I ask that they be filled in and painted over thoroughly. In this case, David Arsenault, the Scenic Designer, likes them because they’re exactly the type of thing we’d see in this type of room authentically. Normally, we seek the latest and most efficient lighting instruments. In this case, the room sports some old “clunkers” because that’s what would be found in this type of room. And then sometimes we “fudge.” I hear myself saying, “I know that this type of deadbolt is probably not normally found in this type of room, but I really want to hear the ‘clunk’ as she locks the door.”
Saturday morning, “designer time” began at 8am when the David Upton, the Lighting Designer took advantage of the dark theatre to experiment with different lighting “looks.” 10am, add the Stage Manager, Jamie Kranz, the Director (me) and Sound Designer Gabriel Luxton to start what’s called “Dry Tech” which means we look at and listen to light and sound cues without actors present so we have to look and discuss and change and tweak without having actors standing around doing nothing.
And finally at 1pm, TECH. That means the actors arrive, get into costume and wigs and we try it all together for the first time and see if it works! This play is INTENSE. Beautifully crafted and layered and funny and complex. It was Tony-Nominated last year and I see why. Furthermore, I am ecstatic to have had two incredibly talented actors with whom to work. One couldn’t accomplish this play well without talent like that and I’m extremely grateful. We do that until 10pm, followed by a production meeting. We schedule “paint and set fixes” for 8am the next morning, followed by Full Tech from 10am to 10pm on Sunday as well. See what I mean about “all consuming?”
But you know what? There’s nothing like it. I’m beginning a meditation practice and what I’m learning is that there’s something similar about directing a show and meditation. With meditation, the goal is to be present, to truly feel or experience the things going on in and around you. With directing theatre, you MUST be present. If you blink, get distracted, or think about your to-do list, you miss the moment. That’s it. Did the actor turn downstage the way you’d asked him to? Did the light cue culminate at the same time as the sound cue? Did the sound of the deadbolt locking sound sufficiently sinister enough? Drift away and you have missed it. Just like the things of life that go by in an instant with our even being present enough to realize.
So let’s all take a moment to breathe…to realize we’re alive…to dance in the rain (that’s about all we’ve got these days)…and then go back to tech! See you at the show!