In just two days we begin our technical rehearsals for the upcoming Theatre Westminster production of Diana Son’s Stop Kiss.  The cast has been rehearsing since late February, the crew has been building since the same time, and now we finally get to put it all together.  For those unaware of what it takes to tie all the pieces together, let me give you a little rundown.

A technical rehearsal early in my career. Sitting in the trap room at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.

A technical rehearsal early in my career. Sitting in the trap room at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.

We begin our “Tech Weekend” early, on Friday afternoon at 3:00 pm.  The Stage Manager, Maggie Hess, Lighting Designer, Terry Dana Jachimiak II, and the Sound Designer, Kyle A. Bruinooge, will sit down and make sure all of our lighting and sound cues are situated in the script.  This helps to smooth the process as we bring in technicians, board ops, actors, etc.  On shows that require major set changes, we would add in the Scene Designer, but luckily, Stop Kiss is a box set.  Hopefully this process will only take a couple of hours, but when there are complications, it can take longer.  Once done, we can head home, knowing that tech weekend will go perfectly smoothly.  Or so we hope.

Hanging around after technical rehearsal at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.

Hanging around after technical rehearsal at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.

Saturday morning the crew arrives at 10:00 am.  We begin our work by making sure the crew understands their duties, and what I expect of them.  And then it begins.  We choreograph, and yes, I use the dance term, our scene changes, lighting and sound cues and anything else that will affect the show.  I danced in college, and view what we do as similar.  Now, I’m not as svelte as I once was, but it takes a large amount of coordination and timing to make sure things go well.  In the afternoon, after lunch, the cast that will be assisting in prop changes will be added in.  At best, things will look like organized chaos.  At worst, well, we won’t talk about the worst.  See, I run with a positive attitude, and so all things are possible.  <Terry proceeds to knock on wood, cross all fingers, toes and limbs, and bounce on one foot.>  Finally, at the end of the day, we finish, exhausted, and make our way home for rest.  Why?  Well, because then….

Tech rehearsal for Beauty Queen of Leenane, with me working on lighting in the down left corner.

Tech rehearsal for Beauty Queen of Leenane, with me working on lighting in the down left corner.

Sunday morning, bright and early at 9:30 am, the crew rolls in, setting up and ready to move into a cue to cue, or a run.  For the laymen, a cue to cue is a chance to just run through the cues, to work on timing, with the performers in place and reciting their lines.  Again, more choreography.  For shows less tech heavy, we may just go with a run, meaning a full performance rehearsal with lights, sound, set, props.  Just no costumes yet.  The cast shows up at 10:00 am, and we begin.  By the end of this day, everyone will have memorized every line of every part, due to the constant repetition.  On musicals, well, let’s just say those songs never leave us.

We take a lunch break midday and then do it all again in the afternoon.  Oh, what is that you are asking?  Why so much work on a perfectly lovely weekend?  Well my friend, you must understand, theatre doesn’t just “happen.”  It may seem that way when you come and attend and see a perfectly flawless performance.  But it takes hard work to put it all together.  Actors and technicians put in a large amount of work behind the scenes, rehearsing, building, communicating, and sweating to bring it all together.

Quick lighting adjustments during a break of Book of Days technical rehearsal.

Quick lighting adjustments during a break of Book of Days technical rehearsal.

Finally the end of the day comes around.  The director has started to see what the final product will be.  The cast has learned where to stand so the light hits them just right.  And the crew can move quick as a flash of light to create transitions that seem natural.

And why do we do this?  Why for the audience of course.  I have been working in theatre for almost 20 years now.  And for many of those years as a technician, but also an actor, director, and dancer.  And in the end, the passion comes from wanting to see the audience enjoy what it is we create.  So, the next time you go and see a production, and you begin clapping as the final scene finishes, remember, theatre doesn’t just happen.  It takes hard work, a lot of dedication, and an immense amount of effort.  And then smile, knowing that we did it for you.