Tech Week (n): An all-consuming period where artists forsake their friends, family and responsibilities to pull together a work of art by the skin of their teeth. Also known as “Hell Week.”
For anyone who is not a theatre nerd, tech week is the week leading up to opening night. This is the week when lighting, music, costumes, props, and hair & makeup are all combined with the actual acting/singing/dancing of the show for probably the first time. It is a crazy-making time, with very little sleep and a lot of stress.
I’m currently in the middle of tech week for Spamalot (if you’re local to the Denver area, please go to www.evergreenplayers.org for details). Tonight is our last rehearsal – tomorrow is preview night for a select audience and then we open on Friday. Let me just say, I am f*ing exhausted.
So here are my tips for surviving tech week without losing your mind (too much):
Sleep is a rare thing for a working adult during tech week. I have a full-time job during the day, and I go to the theatre in the evenings. Right now I’m averaging about 4 hours of sleep a night. If you can take naps during the week, do it. If you can take a full or partial day off towards the end of the week, do it! Sleep will not just improve your performance, but it will also keep you from twisting an ankle during that big dance number.
Bring at least twice as much water as you think you need. No seriously. You’re going to be running around & sweating a lot, there’s going to be a lot of dust being kicked up, hot lights are shining on you, the A/C or heating will be running – you ‘re going to dry out! Drinking lots of water keeps you healthy and energized and also helps your vocal chords work their best.
I rarely have time for a real dinner during tech week, and fast food drive thrus are just not conducive to being healthy & working at my best. So I always have protein bars/energy bars, almonds, or maybe an apple. You don’t want anything sticky or messy here – nothing you need to wash your hands after eating – and nothing that’s going to trigger allergies of anyone else in the dressing room/cast. Most performers will also stay away from dairy products, as these can have a clogging effect on vocal chords.
By tech you should have an idea what costumes you’re going to be wearing. Do you need tights? Socks? What bra can you wear? Should it be white/nude/black? Do you need different underclothes for different costumes? For tights or items that could run or tear easily, it’s a good idea to bring spares. Also plan ahead if you need to wash anything prior to opening night (after a sweaty tech week, I usually have a fair load of laundry to do the night before opening).
Makeup & hair supplies
Stage makeup is a must – even if you’re a guy. Stage lighting can make you look pale and unhealthy. Ben Nye is the standard. You’ll also need hair combs, ties, gel and/or hairspray, bobby pins and tools like curlers, straighteners, etc. Talk to the costumer or director to find out what look you’re going for. Different dance numbers may have different needs, so be prepared. YouTube is a great place to find tutorials on how to achieve different looks.
A quick side note regarding makeup: no matter how tired you are, or how late you get home from the theatre, you must wash off ALL of your makeup before going to bed, and not just for the sake of your pillows. Stage makeup is oil-based and will clog up your skin something terrible.
The Oh-Sh*t Bag
Accidents happen. Stuff goes wrong. Frankly, you just gotta roll with it. What goes in this bag are the items you need for when things go bad: first aid supplies like band-aids and anti-bacterial cream. Tide pens for if something spills on a costume. Clear nail polish to stop a run in your hose. Other items you’ll need: Cough drops, ibuprofen, anti-allergy meds, deodorant, scissors, hand sanitizer (you never know when the bathroom will run out of soap!), tissues, makeup wipes, hand lotion, nail clippers.
**If anyone has anything to add to this list, please let me know!
Above all, have fun and enjoy the ride. Tech week is often one of the most magical periods of rehearsal, when everything comes together and suddenly you have a wonderful, working show. Remember that everyone else is at least as tired and stressed as you are, so be kind, be forgiving, and be supportive. Express appreciation early & often to those people helping you & busting their butts to make you look good on stage.