Monday, June 11th, 2012
Blogs | Artistic Liberties
Tech Rehearsals ~ Max Maven | Thinking In Person
We’re in tech rehearsals for Max Maven | Thinking In Person. What is tech rehearsal you ask? If you’re not asking, skip to the last paragraph before the pictures. Without googling or wikipedia-ing it myself or turning to the official definition in my various stage manager books, tech rehearsal is one of the defining moments in a production’s life. In order to understand tech, you must understand “Load In.” Load In is akin to moving into a new home. Its quite a production in and off itself. All the set pieces are brought in on that particular day. They are set in place, finishing touches are done and the world of the play begins to come alive. (This is especially true if you are rehearsing in a separate place than the actual production of the show.)
In addition to the set pieces, all the lights are brought into the theater as well. This isn’t comparable to the lamps you might bring into your home on move in day. This is comparable to the electricians coming in and creating sockets and fusing wires and setting up the lighting fixtures so that they work. Its tiresome, gruesome and the crew are going up and down ladders for hours, hauling heavy fixtures and “monkeying” across the cats to position the lights perfectly. Once the lights are set, part of tech is focusing the lights. You can hang a light from the ceiling or cross beams but they need to be focused to hit a particular area of the stage. Each light needs to be focused. In some shows there are dozens and dozens of lights. And each light needs to be focused. All the props also have to be loaded in. Sometimes the costumes. Everything. Its a heavy day.
THEN once the lights are hung and focused, a HUGE portion of tech is slowly going through the show with the actors on stage and yelling out “HOLD!” so that the actors freeze where they are and then the lighting designer programs the cue. Because yes, you have lights hooked up in the air and yes they are focused to hit a spot. But a cue needs to be programmed so that the stage manager can hit a button during the run of the show and make the light slowly fade up as the actor says a particular line or crosses one area of the stage onto another. Hmmm, this is like when you program your air conditioner to turn on before you arrive home so that the house is the perfect temperature. But you probably only hit about four buttons to do that. To program one cue, it can take 1 minute to 10 minutes or even longer. Because maybe the light was focused incorrectly and you need to pull out the ladder again. And the actor is standing there this whole time just waiting because we said “HOLD.”
Then the stage manager has to write that cue down, figure out the right time to call it and/or execute it and well you’re just on Light Cue 1 and there are 100 more to go. But before you proceed, the lighting designer wants to make sure that cue is perfect because that’s what TECH is for, so the actor has to do that whole line again. Sometimes he does it three times in a row or five times. And again, we’re just on LIGHT CUE 1. And this is just lights. Depending on the show at the same time you have Sound Cues being programmed too. Or cues regarding the live mics. Or cues regarding the projection screen. Or the fireworks. Or the flap that makes the glitter fall from the sky. And every cue has to slowly be set up, programmed, timed and executed until each designer feels its perfect. Then you move on to Light Cue Two. This is why tech is a LONG day.
We’re in tech rehearsals for Max Maven | Thinking In Person. Right now we’re on our dinner break. We’ve already had a lunch break, three coffee runs, my phone has died twice, I’ve taken about 100 backstage pictures, while writing cues down, tweeting about the show and reaching out to the press about attending our previews, all the while opening the box office for our box office manager, spiking an entrance for the actors and informally interviewing the director about his life in magic so that I can write about him. I’m out of words right now. If you haven’t been following me on facebook, twitter, tumblr or instagram, here are some of the behind the scenes shoots. Soon, you’ll see my more professional pictures AND video once I load the images from my Nikon.