The week has finally come that you have been rehearsing, planning, even dreading, for about six to eight weeks. Say it with me friends...tech week. You may also know it by its alias, hell week. But it doesn’t have to be hell. You can get ahead of that tech week stress whether you’re an actor, techie, director, or any other role putting together a production.
If it's your first time experiencing a tech week, the rumors are true. The hours are long, the tension can be cut with a knife, but you'll always come out the other side of the week feeling like you accomplished something unique and fulfilling. The trick is to make it to the other end. As someone who has been in all sorts of jobs during a tech week, I have learned a few things that I find help me make it through one of the most frustrating weeks while keeping it a rewarding experience. Here are a few tips from me to you, on how to survive your tech week.
Scar said it, even sang an entire song about it...be prepared. It’s honestly the best advice I can give going into a tech week. It means knowing what time rehearsals are and adjusting your life to fit around it for one week to make your production a priority. Mrs. Johnson usually has to bring Billy Bob to soccer...not this week. Susan is due for a hair cut...she can wait. Dennis has so much homework...bring it. A production runs like a machine if one person is missing or one part is starting later than the rest it messes with how the machine runs. You have 6-8 weeks to work your rehearsal schedule around your life if you need to, this is the one week this needs to be your priority. Not only is scheduling important to be prepared for, but actors need to know their lines and their blocking. Tech week is not meant for you to learn an entire scene. It’s for all the technical elements to come together to make what you have already been working on magical.
So actors, get it together, your director will have so many other things on their plate that week the last thing they need is for you to still have to call lines on dress rehearsal. Director, hope for things to go right, but be prepared if something goes wrong by preparing plans A, B, C, D and then just in case those don’t work plans E-J.
Be flexible. I’m not talking about your stretchy limbs from yoga class; I’m talking be ready to change things if you need to. The interesting thing about tech week is you do all this preparation like I just mentioned, but you need to be able to roll with the punches. Sometimes that set-piece just does not work, or maybe that entrance has to change, or maybe you are cut from a dance number because you have to do a costume change quicker than anticipated. Sure, all these things can be really frustrating when you have prepared so much, but you have to be flexible in order to make this production shine.
Patience is a virtue my friends, and no one knows that more than the chef who has one line in Act 2. Let’s face it, the rehearsals are long, and often you may not even get to the scene you are in until the second night of tech week depending on how everything is going. Maybe you have to stand around for twenty minutes in one spot while the lighting designer sets a cue. Or the stagehands have to run a transition for half an hour, and you haven’t even gotten to scene three yet. It happens, it’s tech week. Yes, a lot of it is performing and putting the puzzle pieces together, but a lot of it is waiting around. Being prepared ahead of time by knowing you may not be doing something every minute of rehearsal will help you to feel like you aren’t bored or wasting time. Practice your lines, go over your blocking, do homework, read a book, find something to keep you occupied if you are someone who gets impatient easily.
“To eat or to sleep, that is the question”? One of the most important things to survive tech week is to take care of yourself. This means not choosing sleep or food, but finding a way to manage both. Once again, this really comes down to preparation. Knowing that your energy is going to be primarily spent dancing and singing or pouring your heart out on stage, you need to keep your body energized and alert. Ideally getting in those 8 hours of sleep would be the first step in taking care of yourself while the other is fueling yourself properly. Don’t skip breakfast during tech week and try to have a balanced and filling lunch and a snack for dinner. I know that sounds odd but hear me out. Bring along simple, no mess, protein snacks that can be eaten on the go and put away quickly if you are needed on stage and still give you a punch. Eating full heavy meals can make you feel lethargic, and junk food can make you crash or feel well, bleh, during rehearsal. Instead bring snacks like fruit, veggies, almonds, trail mix, protein bars, cheese sticks, whatever tickles your fancy.
Above all, though my theatre comrades, be positive. We all know that this week will be long and stressful, but keeping in mind, these tips can make it a little easier. Everyone wants a finished product they can be happy with, but no one wants to be miserable to get there.