The lines are learned, the dances are done, the songs are ready, and the costumes are stitched and you might be thinking what more could there be to get ready?
Growing up as a child in theatre, everything seemed so magical from the magic of the show finally coming together after weeks of rehearsal, the way the show came together with costumes, props, and set piecies. I had often heard people thank "the magic of theatre" for the show coming together. Now, that I am a director, I know the reality behind such "magic". The magic happens from many people working together to create a vision. There are many people that are needed to make are show run smoothly, and if done correctly, it should look effortless.
Tech rehearsal- “It’s for us, not just for You!” In other words, technical rehearsals are for the actors, it is for the technical crew. The technical rehearsal is our chance to put all the technical elements of the show together. We have to “write” the lighting cues and “write” the sound cues for each show and each actor. How does all this happen? First Act Too Players hires the pros! These folks at the Franklin Theatre work with the “big dogs” on the road and really know their stuff. This is truly the only reason we can have one tech rehearsal. In most situations, technical rehearsals last around four days.
Writing lights for a show is nothing less than art. Stephen Moss has been on board with the Act Too Performers since 2014 and is a true artist. He paints with light. Stephen was even awarded a USITT 2016 Rising Star Award for his lighting design. As the director, I give him the general idea of where the performers will be and the mood of the scene, and he creates the rest. While he writes the cues as we tech, he also spends countless hours tweeking the light cues to create the perfect mood. Ironically, when done correctly, the lighting effects is something the general audience never notices…but they would if the precision wasn’t there.
Sound design is also difficult for our shows. Each performer has a different level that is set for their voice, additionally because there are only 20 possible body mics, each performer has to be strategically mic-ed to pick of the voices of the performers who are not body mic-ed.
Calling a show is a whole other beast! In a community or professional theatre production a Stage Manager will run and call a show once it is mounted, but because we at Act Too wear so many different hats, and do so many shows at one time, it would be near impossible for Jayme Smith to call and know all the shows. Also, in our situation no one knows the show as much as the director. So the director is the one in the back with the Lighting and Sound Designers “calling” all the cues to them along with the cues for projections, spotlights, and the curtains. I had a student ask recently, who was the one in control, with a chuckle I replied, “Hopefully darling, it is me!” Those on headset are in constant communication with those people, and there is rarely “dead space” on the Coms. Not only does the Caller alert everyone to what is next, she calls all transitions, and each person must respond that they have received the message… talk about timing!
When the show gets really exciting is when things are not happening either technically or on stage the way they are directed. It is live theater after all...it's not always going to perfect. This is when the TECH team must work with precision and accuracy. Again, if done correctly, the audience never knows.
I have often said, it is a completely different show in the Tech booth. So when you go to the theatre next time and see the Tech people quietly sitting in the back, know that without them, the show could not go on. Tech folks are truly the unsung heroes of a beautiful show and give us so much of the magic of theatre that we've come to love.