Everybody’s heard of a "dress rehearsal", but it’s the "tech rehearsal" that turns so many Tech Weeks into Hell Weeks!
Image courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress
The first rehearsal in the performance venue is usually a technical rehearsal. All of the rehearsals leading up to this point have been primarily for the benefit of the actors, but the technical rehearsal is for the technical crew. The actors, though, will be in costume and will have mics on, but may or may not have their hair and make up performance ready.
Lighting cues, sound cues, fly cues, set changes, set piece movement, prop placement and movement, and curtain timing all need to be worked out, and often enough the first technical rehearsal will be the first exposure most of the technical crew will have had to the show. Of course, the lighting designer, sound designer and technical director will probably have been working with the show’s director to get an idea about when all of these cues need to be executed, but until the set is on the stage and there are actors in motion, it’s all pretty theoretical.
Consequently, the hallmark of a technical rehearsal is that there is a lot of starting and stopping and standing in place on the stage and a non-stop flurry of chatter and activity everywhere else in the theater.
- Place the set pieces for Act 1 Scene 1 on the stage.
- Actors wait to take your places.
- Make sure the set pieces are all where they belong.
- Adjust them.
- Put tape down on the stage to mark the locations of all of the pieces so the stage hands will get them in the right places next time.
- Actors take their places for the opening scene.
- Cue the main curtain.
- Bring up the lights.
- Actors wait a minute.
- Adjust the lighting.
- Write down which lights to bring up now that we have the right effect.
- Actors, start Act 1.
- Two lines in, stop. There’s a set piece that’s four feet away from where we had it in the rehearsal space. Now that cute bit of blocking we worked out doesn’t work anymore.
- Actors, wait a minute.
- The Director and the Technical Director discuss whether to move the set piece or change the blocking.
- Try moving the set piece.
- Actors who are affected by the set piece, do the next three lines. Stop.
- Move the piece back. Change the blocking.
- Actors who are affected by the blocking change, do the next three lines, again. Stop.
- Decide to move the set piece.
- Pull up the tape, move the piece, put down new tape.
- Adjust the lighting because the set piece is in a different place now.
- Actors, start Act 1.
- Who’s mic isn’t on? Stop!
And so the night progresses. The name of the game during a tech rehearsal is patience, whatever your role is. Depending on the technical demands of the show, the first technical rehearsal may go quite late into the night, so be prepared for that. A snack to keep in your dressing room (though you’ll NEVER eat in your costume) and a water bottle will go a long way toward improving your night! And remember that everyone in the building has the same goal; put on a great show.
Once the initial technical rehearsal or rehearsals are done, the show will move on to Dress Rehearsals.
Back to Tech Week.