It's tech time here at When I Come To Die, and for those of you who don't know, that means that we are finished in the rehearsal room and have moved into the theater space, with the actual set, costumes, props, lights, and sound. And as anyone who's been through a tech period knows, it can be a tricky time.
In the relatively small amount of time that is tech, all the designers must work out the kinks of what they designed now that it's in the actual space, and we must figure out whether what worked in the rehearsal room still works in the space (a moment is very different mimed on a taped-out floor in fluorescent lights versus on a fully realized set with all the elements). The days are long, the stress levels can be high, and the consumption of junk food products increases dramatically as the week progresses (you become very familiar with what kind of food lives on each department's table). I also have my own personal unfortunate tech history, which is that a combination of a dark theater and a complete lack of coordination means I will have a perma-bruise on both legs, exactly at the level of the armrests in the auditorium (I once joked I should get a tattoo for each bruise with the level and theater name, as a sort of career diary).
The other tricky part of is that focusing on so many elements at once means the play, necessarily, becomes abstracted - instead of watching a scene for dramatic flow, you watch it once for a sound cue, again for a light change. So instead of seeing a story told, it becomes a series of checkpoints and moments seen over and over, so you start to worry that the jokes might just not be funny, and the poignant moments not touching. This, of course, is almost never true - the good play you had in the rehearsal room will be even better when tech is finished and the theater magic happens - but it takes that first audience to remind you.
We're lucky on this play that tech has been relatively painless as techs go, and we aren't feeling the time crunch that sometimes looms as you approach a first performance date and still have cues to write. But we're all looking forward to getting an audience in here to watch the play that we all know and love with fresh eyes.
Anika Chapin is the Assistant Director for WHEN I COME TO DIE, and the author of bloggledygook.wordpress.com.