Tech week

April 8, 2013

One of my biggest challenges as a "crossover" artist has been making the adjustment to the theatre tech week schedule. An opera tech week has always seemed relaxed and methodical: sitzprobe, wandelprobe, dress run with piano, dress run with orchestra, day off, opening. We also never have to work for more than six hours a day. That's not to say that there aren't stressors, glitches or out-of-character attitudes, but, in general, things go pretty smoothly.

Theatre tech weeks, on the other hand, begin with what are called "10-out-of-12's". The first time I heard that term in rehearsal I thought, "That can't possibly mean what I think it means." Alas, it does. Union rules allow actors to be called for 10 hours out of a 12-hour period for several days in a row. Also, there are four hours of rehearsal the day of the preview and another four hours of rehearsal the day of opening. No days off, no rest, and no excuses. This can be incredibly exhausting, frustrating, demanding; any adjective you can think of, really. Fortunately, though, doing Master Class--a play about a great artist by a great artist--allowed me to sit back last week and watch, learn, and gain perspective on the big picture.

"Attention must be paid to every detail. The lights. Your wig. The amount of stage dust. A career in the theatre demands total concentration. 100% detail. You think it's easy? A great career? Hah! That's all I have to say to you. Hah!"

Sometimes, as actors, we're so busy offstage fussing with our personal elements of tech: costumes, wigs, makeup, that we diminish the complexity of the onstage elements over which we have no control: the set, sound, lights and overall coordination of all of these things. As I am only in Act II of this show, I sat out and watched the teching of Act I and was amazed as I watched the slightest light shift or sound leveling change the entire vision on the stage. Observing a technical rehearsal is like watching a video on fast-forward of a spider spinning a web; it begins as an idea and results in a beautiful, unique work of art.

"'Ho dato tutto a te. I gave everything for you. Everything.' That's what we artists do for people."

It might look glamorous from the outside, but it's blood, sweat and tears from the inside. Pouring our guts out emotionally, mentally and physically for 10 hours a day of tech, followed by 7 or 8 shows a week, is a tremendous feat. Most artists I know are compulsive about always wanting to deliver at the highest level. We not only want the audience to leave feeling invigorated by the theatre, but by our specific performances. Achieving anything less than perfection seems a failure. It might be overwhelming at times, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

"The world can and will go on without us but I have to think that we have made this world a better place. That we have left it richer, wiser than had we not chosen the way of art."

I am incredibly passionate about helping others and sometimes feel that having a career in the performing arts is neglecting my duty to pursue humanitarian efforts. But in revisiting this play I am reminded that what I do does make a positive change in the world around me. This company has brought theatre to Naples, Florida, imparting information that our audiences have found new and exciting. People have asked us questions about how they can learn more about opera, what other plays I would recommend for them to read and how they can get involved in supporting the arts. Knowing that I have the ability to help enrich even one person's life every day, I feel, at least momentarily, like I have made a difference.

Ah, tech week. Ah, five show opening weekend. Ah, the magical day off. We made it!

© Leah Edwards 2018