Those two words inspire knowing nods and a feeling of solidarity that can only come from the shared experience of “theater folk” who know what tech week can be. Tech week is the week before a show opens. It is a week of bedlam as all the components of a performance are integrated — or not. Bugs are revealed, problems arise, surprises occur. Lighting, sound, set and scenery are all installed, tested. Lines are forgotten, words are flubbed, entrances are missed. If a problem arises, everything grinds to a halt and the problem is fixed, however long it takes. Without the disasters, the phoenix of performance cannot arise, triumphant, from the ashes of learning where the traps are.
Our show opens Friday evening. Costumes, wigs, hats, shoes, makeup, microphones, and simple logistics of getting on and off stage must all be rehearsed and streamlined. At some point, you have to try to run the show start to finish and just let things fall apart. Each time you put it back together, it is better.
People expect tech week to be a lot of hard work — perhaps even grueling. It is the last week of late nights to get everything built, written, arranged, printed, cleaned. Nobody expects perfection the first time through. The cast and crew would freak out if tech rehearsals went completely smoothly. They expect to discover problems and solve them, and improve each time. Some actors even hope for some problems at the dress rehearsal, and worry if things go “too well” too early. Make all the mistakes you can in rehearsal, so that the performance is as close to flawless as humans can achieve.
The low expectations and dread that often accompany tech week makes the miracle of live performance that much more — well, miraculous. It is an amazing feat to surmount problems in a group, and create something that is better than you could have imagined. You show up, do your job, do it the best you can, and trust the people you’re playing with. And you have as much fun as you can. Somehow, everything comes together. I have no idea how, but it works every time.