Turning Hell Week Into Tech Week
Getting ready for tech week can be an overwhelming part of stage management, but it doesn’t have to be! All you need to do is prepare. Here are five easy things you can do to reassure yourself and your team that you are going to turn “hell week” into a tech week.
1. Run Sheet
A run sheet is a spreadsheet or document that has props, costumes, and scene changes laid out so that everyone on your crew can follow along. The run sheet also serves as a way for you to double check that everything is in the right place. A run sheet will be the most beneficial for tech week because you will be juggling so many different things.; a document that says exactly where everything needs to be so you can quickly reference it will reduce a large amount of stress. This will also help filter out some questions your crew has for you. Color code it, print it out, and post it backstage!
2. Load-in / Load-out
During Load- in (moving everything into the theater) and Load-out(moving everything out of the theater it is important to stay focused on the big picture and not just worry about the small things that are bound to go off course. Before the big day take the time to write down tasks for everyone to be doing, and let them know what you would like them to do before they arrive. This gives people the opportunity to ask questions before the day, and also gives you the ability to make sure nothing is missing. You never want to leave people standing around with nothing to do! When in doubt, write it down and make sure everything is covered. You should be free to ask questions, be ready when something goes astray, and handle large tasks like an intricate set or drop.
3. Pre- Show Responsibilities
Before the show you should be free. You want to be able to answer questions, run safety checks, and again be ready to handle anything that might go awry. Assigning tasks to all your stage hands, and having your assistant stage manager over see them will make your life easier. One thing that is super important to your pre-show responsibilities are any safety checks. Safely checks could mean anything from a fight sequences, to dance lifts, and even highly involved set changes. These are not only important to you but to the actors; they must be safe! Ultimately pre-show responsibilities should be routine and organized.
4. Paper Tech
A paper tech is when the stage managers, director, sound and lighting teams sit down and talk through the script discussing things like where certain cues will be. Push for a paper tech! In a small theater or in collegiate level productions, people will try to brush past this but it is a must if you are calling the show. A paper tech is the base of creating your calling script. Paper techs will give you an understanding of what the artistic team intends on executing their vision. You should already be aware of this vision, but now you will be able to see it written down and where exactly the team want the shifts. Be prepared for your paper tech, come with questions, a blank script, your blocking script, and lots of pencils! Make sure you know your script since you will be guiding this tech. The more prepared you feel going in to paper tech, the even more prepared you will feel coming out.
5. Actor Care
Support your people. Tech week is stressful for everyone, but the actors are not only under the mental stress, but the physical stress. Check in on everyone before the show. If you have a minute just ask them how they are feeling today. That small gesture will make a difference in your cast morale. When running safety checks it is more important for your actors to feel safe and secure than for you to open doors on time. Make sure to take that extra time for actors to feel supported. Remember to be patient but stern. Your actors at this point should be ready to perform but there will always be last minute changes. Give your actors time to adjust, but do not let these changes be relaxed. Remember it is your job to maintain the artistic integrity of these shows.
Tech week does not have to be hell week. Take the extra time to prepare, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed, keep a level head and be ready to adapt. These five steps will help move you into more of a prepared and steady tech week. Break a leg!