The table is being set for this Thursday’s first preview of The Oldest Boy. Or should I say tables: straddled across the seats of the Mitzi E. Newhouse theater right now are work tables for the creative team of the production. These professionals are in the middle of technical rehearsals, or “tech.” The days are long – 10 hours is typical. I shuttled between these mini-offices this past weekend, asking people to look up from their laptops or smartphones for a minute and answer the question: What’s tech like for you?
“It’s where I discover everything,” answered Japhy Weideman, the production’s lighting designer, and, last season, the whiz behind the dramatic illumination of the Macbeth, upstairs in the Beaumont. “Tech is a time of nervous excitement,” he said. “A mixture of the fear of the unknown and the joy of discovery.” He added: “In tech, accidents can happen – a switch being flicked that wasn’t planned – that can help us come up with something wonderful.” Most of all, Weideman said, tech is about collaboration – “about everyone being in the room together.”
“I love tech,” said Darron L West, the show’s sound designer. “I have really done my job until I can walk around every corner of a theater, and check to see exactly how a production is coming across. It’s all about adapting to the theater you’re in. This is the first time I’ve worked in the Newhouse, and I’m excited about it.”
The Newhouse is a thrust, and, sometimes, a nearly in-the-round playing area. “A proscenium,” said Beth Lake, the assistant sound designer, “gives you a flat surface, and we don’t have that here. We have to come up with other solutions.” She added: “I like seeing how things change in tech. You can create something completely different from your original idea.”
Charles (“Chuck”) M. Turner III, the production stage manager, said he likes tech because “I know our hard work is going to pay off then. The gardening analogy is a good one. You plant the seeds in the rehearsal room. In tech you get to water them. And once an audience is in the theater, we get to see the fruits of our labor.”
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com