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For folks who have never been involved in putting on a live theatrical production, those words don’t mean anything. For those who have, they mean a myriad of things.
“Tech week” is the final week of preparation before the show opens. It is the time when all of the different parts come together to create the whole picture the audience will experience. Props, costumes, set construction, line memorization, music rehearsals — all of it — ends and the curtain goes up for the patrons to enjoy the production.
It is a week of excitement, frustration, hard work, and exhaustion, all rolled into one big blur of long days and lists — many, many, lists. For the Greeneville Theatre Guild, it is even more challenging, because we change locations and move from our rehearsal space where we worked on the production for weeks, to the Capitol Theatre, where the audience will see the show.
We typically move the set in on Sunday and spend a long day putting it in place and making adjustments because things rarely work exactly as planned. The lights then have to be moved, adjusted, added, focused, and gelled to make sure they light up the right places and people and are the correct color for the set, actors, and costumes.
Then we have four days (actually evenings, because everyone is a volunteer and we have jobs) to rehearse, learn where to move on and off-stage, set up changing stations for any quick costume changes that are required, and put finishing touches on the set construction. Depending on the show, there are set changes that have to be figured out and choreographed. House music and sound cues are added, and light cues are programmed.
Tempers get short at times, and there are always clashes when so many pieces converge at one time in a small, confined space. It is common to hear the production crew folks say on Sunday, “I’m sorry for what I say during tech week.” They are the most stressful, tiring, and yet, exhilarating days in community theatre. And that’s just the backstage stuff.
The deadline for this column falls right in the middle of the madness of tech week for our current production, “Clue: On Stage” so that’s what is most on my mind. (It also falls in the middle of having auditors at work, but I thought tech week would be more interesting to read about.)
People ask why we do it. Why do we put ourselves through the stress and push through the sleep deprivation? There are so many reasons, but the simple one is the magic of theatre. It is seeing all the hard work and preparation of the months before finally come together as a cohesive whole.
The final paint stroke is painted, the last button is sewn on, and the director gives the last note and the opening night pep talk, and then — it’s time! The curtain opens and the audience sees the spectacle that we have worked so hard to create.
It’s not about a single person or a single part. It’s a team, a group of people who have become a family in a period of weeks, doing things that would seem strange as a stand-alone activity, but together create an entire experience.
Then they share that experience with folks who come to see it. We are all in one large room — the audience along with the cast and crew — leaving the world outside the theater doors for a couple of hours and letting our imaginations play. We laugh (and sometimes cry) together. We entertain and enjoy the break from the everyday routine for a while.
I am sure there are psychological terms for the pretending to be other people as well as the pretending to believe what we see on the stage or screen. I don’t want to know what they are. For me, even during tech week, I prefer to believe in the magic.
Greeneville native Paige Mengel is a Tusculum College alumna, CPA, arts admirer and Business Coordinator of Greeneville Theatre Guild. A Look Around is published every other Wednesday in Accent. Contact Paige at [email protected].