Thursday, September 29, 2016

Tech Week

It's Tech Week in Vermont! I thought I'd take the opportunity to talk about technical theater stuff, the little gears behind the scenes that make things onstage look like magic. If you're looking for backstage drama, try again next week! 

Tech week, which for us is actually about ten days, is the time to set everything with a lot of specificity. The couch can't just go on the right side of the stage near the back, it has to go in the exact same spot every time so that the light can shine the exact same way every time and so the actors can run onstage with the exact same path every time (when things aren't where you expect them you risk getting hurt). If you walk across a stage after a show you'll probably see colorful tape ("spikes") all over the floor; those let people know where to put things or where to stand. One of the crew members keeps a map with measurements of all those spikes so by the time we're ready to do a show at a new theater, the floor is already marked.

Actors have a mostly easy but tedious job during tech week. Our duties are: stand around onstage or sit around in the house (audience), pay attention, and be quiet. We enter for our scene, say a few lines, they tell us to "hold please," then we just hang out there until they figure out lighting, sound cues, and any other things that need to happen. Usually you go back and do it again a couple more times until everyone is clear what happens when. I'm in the first scene of the show; it's one of the longest and has a lot of "extra" elements (video, sound cues, different lights, massive set pieces moving onstage, fog). We spent hours yesterday teching that one scene alone, but most of my scenes will be pretty easy from here because they basically turn a light on me, I do my thing, then they turn the light off when I'm done. 

[The house during tech; the people farther back are tech people doing actual work, the people at the front are actors who are patiently passing time on their phones.]

COSTUMES. Costume fittings and measurements started back in New York, but this is the week where they get finalized. My main costume is just clothing you could buy at the store, but the costume team made it perfect for me- they took in my shirt at the waist, hemmed my pants (I'm all torso), and they even stretched the sides of my boots so there's room for my toes. 

Several characters have original costumes made from scratch, and those often need a lot of adjustments (it fits to walk around but NOT to do a cartwheel). The costume team also makes quick changes easier- if they know you have to go from an elaborate costume to jeans and a button-down shirt they'll find a way to make the costumes easy to take off and put on (many button-down shirts onstage are actually held closed with velcro and have buttons sewn on the front).  

MICROPHONES. This is my first time using a headset mic! It's very exciting! (I'm a nerd for sound stuff so I mean this very enthusiastically) It's a tiny mic taped to your face very close to your hairline, the cord is pinned in your hair and painted so it blends in (mine happened to be the perfect color already), then it goes into your shirt where you have a battery/transmitter pack (Fun Fact! I'm wearing one camisole under my mic pack so it doesn't rub on my skin and ANOTHER camisole over my mic pack so you can't see it through my white shirt). The pack sends a signal offstage where it eventually gets routed to the speakers. There might be another post about this later- I'll be helping with sound setup while we're on the road.

[See the headset mic peeking out? Shoutout to Snapchat for making my skin look awesome!]

Anyway, that's tech so far from the point of view of the actor (the person not doing most of the work). Luckily my character carries a phone all the time so when I'm onstage I can play a quick game of solitaire and when I'm offstage I can work on my blog. 

More posts soon about the hotels, non-acting job responsibilities, van life, and how I got involved in the show, but if there's anything specific you want me to write about, let me know!