Let’s return for a moment to that fateful Stage Management class from Sophomore year. At the end of that term I received a stage management manual with various tips and tidbits essential to every stage manager’s bag of tricks. In the section labeled “Tech Rehearsals” it said “Life’s a bitch, then you do a cue-to-cue, then you die.” For a stage manager, tech rehearsal can be one of the most thrilling and terrifying times in the rehearsal process. It’s the moment when the stage manager takes the reigns and brings all of the technical aspects of the show together into one coherent production…or that’s the theory anyway. Frequently Murphy’s Law comes into effect and anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Spectacularly wrong. Set pieces break, light cues change, complete sound designs can change at the drop of a hat. It is an utterly exhausting process that breathes new life and beauty into a show.
In order to fully understand the pressure a stage manager experiences during tech rehearsal, I want you to participate in a little thought experiment. Imagine for a moment that you are an actor. Even if you have not performed since your third grade production of Peter Pan, it shouldn’t be too hard to picture. You have done all of your homework memorizing your lines, noting your blocking, and diligently keeping up with your character journal. You know the show like the back of your hand. Now imagine that several days before opening night the playwright gives you a rewrite of the script complete with new lines and blocking that you have never seen before. You have less than one day to look it over before you are asked to perform it on stage. Sound daunting? That is roughly what the stage manager experiences during tech rehearsal. Suddenly there are lights, props, sets, and costumes where previously there were none. Your script becomes cluttered with lighting and sound cues that change throughout the day as all things technical are added to the show. You have light board and sound board operators waiting for their cues, stage hands looking to you for instructions, and actors itching to perform as you continuously yell “hold” from a booth high above the audience.
Tech rehearsal is often chaos. But like the chaos theory tells us, it is a controlled type of chaos that stems from and is dictated by its originating point. If one enters tech rehearsal with a positive attitude and a willingness to embrace all the new and unexpected dimensions of the show, then all the chaos that ensues will generally be productive and positive. The show will have new and exciting elements added which bring everyone involved one step closer to achieving that final goal. All the production meetings, rehearsals, and hard work will begin to pay dividends. If one enters tech rehearsal with a negative attitude and a hatred of all things unpredictable, well I shudder to think of the consequences. Thankfully, I have never had to experience that type of chaos.