BLOG: Don’t forget to thank your techies!

Technical roles are often overlooked. It is said that when they are done correctly, the audience should not even notice they were there at all. Essentially, these roles are there to make the actors look good. Without them, however, the entire production would fall apart. For the November 2012 production of These Seven Sicknesses, I was one of two members of the run crew. Some of my duties during the show seemed like throwaway tasks – opening doors for other actors, for example. If I was not there to open the door for actor Samuel Zeiburg as he carried Anna Martel over his shoulder, for example, it was very possible that the heavy door swinging shut could have injured her. Every little piece and every little cue puts together the flawless show that the audience sees.

I started my role at the beginning of tech week. Unfamiliar with the show or even a majority of the stories told within it, I wasn’t sure what to expect. From my friends, I had heard about some of the scenes in passing. “Brian’s foot gets cut off!” “Jocasta gets hanged!” “My character has her tooth pulled out!” It sounded like a lot of work on the technical side. I arrived at rehearsal expecting to have to prepare blood bags, prepare props, or pull ropes for special effects. Once I became more acquainted with the production, I quickly learned of the amazingly talented crew already prepared to do these tasks. Part of me was relieved, as these tasks quickly proved to be much more difficult than I would have been prepared for. I was confused, however, about what I might be doing in the production.

For the majority of the first couple of days of tech, I sat around and waited to be assigned tasks. While the show fluctuated with its own kinks, my jobs quickly changed. On the first day, I was told to open the door for Bethany Kolenda in her wheelchair. Quickly afterwards, they decided that her entrance would make more sense from a different location and I was no longer needed for that particular scene. For the majority of the technical rehearsals, I waited patiently to learn how I could help the cast enhance specific aspects of the show. Once I learned my duties, I quickly adapted to where I needed to be during the show and how much time I had. During one of the first run-throughs, I learned that I did not have enough time to bring the lighting equipment downstairs and make it backstage in time to help make the vomiting sound effect. This was the sort of thing tech rehearsals are made for though; that particular task was given to another person since it was important that I cleared the lobby of all of the technical equipment for the safety of the audience.

Primarily, I have always been an actress. Viewing a show from the other side of the curtain, I immediately become more thankful for what the technical characters do for me. During the show, I ran props from one location to another, brought lights upstairs on the elevator and back down, opened doors for actors, called cues to those backstage out of hearing distance to the stage, cleaned the bloodied props, opened curtains for actors, sprayed down an actress with a squirt bottle, cleaned the stage after the show, and reset props for the next performance. At one point during opening night, as I scrubbed down the cooler that becomes covered in blood during the first act, an actress passed by me and said in bewilderment “oh, so that’s who does that!”. She was thankful for what I was doing, but also in complete awe that I had been there meticulously cleaning her prop for her next performance. The next couple of nights, I received the same reaction from other members of the cast; thankful while still surprised to see that it was my job. In my mind, if I had not been there to do so, and the audience saw even a spec of blood on the prop during the next performance, it would have called attention to the cooler and the fact that a special effect was about to happen. The performance is far more effective when such effects come as a complete shock to the audience.

Overall, my experience with the cast of These Seven Sicknesses was an absolute pleasure. The cast was very grateful of all of the work I put into the show, and during the production I felt that I also was an important role. I have learned, however, that I definitely prefer the stage. While portions of teching the show are still fun, it is far more rewarding to feel the direct gratitude of the audience from being onstage. After this, I will never forget to thank my techies!