Technical Theatre of the High School Variety Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Technical Theatre of the High School Variety

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Ahh... welcome to the world of the High School Theatre Techie1.

The first thing you do when you wake up to go to rehearsal is put on your black clothes. Yes, black. Black everything. Black shirt, black trousers, black socks, black shoes - even black underwear if you're superstitious. Then you grab your tool kit, which usually includes the following:

  • A mini flashlight with blue cellophane taped to the lighted end.

  • A pocketknife with a mind-boggling amount of little tools2.

  • Notes from rehearsals.

  • A list of scene changes, cues or a prompt book depending on your job.

  • A vast array of safety pins, buttons, gum and breath mints.

  • Pocket money in small denominations for food runs.

You arrive at the theatre building and enter through the stage entrance, which is usually in the most inconvenient part of the theatre. You wait for a moment, panting from the steep climb or from having run from the vicious rottweilers that lurk around the stage entrance, until your eyes adjust to the dim work lights. You use lots of power tools to build set pieces, hang lighting equipment, do sound checks, and basically work your butt off until 'tech week'.

Tech week arrives, two weeks before opening night. The Stage Manager (he or she controls pretty much everything and once a performance starts, he or she is God, and is often referred to as such)immediately changes from easygoing-and-fun to psychotic-and-anal. If you have the misfortune of being the Assistant Stage Manager, you will be subjected to his or her constant complaining, screaming, and throwing of random objects. If you are running crew (they move set pieces, and fix problems backstage and they are called the running crew for good reason) you may be subjected to the dreaded 'Dinner-Break Cue to Cues'. Avoid these at all costs. You will be forced to run your scene changes over and over and over again at lightning speed during the time in which you are supposed to be eating dinner. Be advised that if said tortures do not succeed in making scene changes faster, they will be repeated. All this seems tame compared to Hell Week...

Hell Week is the last week before opening night. It is traditionally the week in which the Stage Manager assaults at least one cast or crew member, one major piece of scenery is broken and repaired, the fuse for a major piece of electric equipment blows, and several props are misplaced, lost, or broken beyond repair. All of these contribute to the Stage Manager's eventual mental breakdown. Or ulcer, if they are lucky. Considering the diet of the average Stage Manager, he/she is lucky if an ulcer is all they get. Rehearsals usually run all day, with a one-hour meal break. During said meal break, the stage crew usually avoid all members of the production crew like the plague, and finds a fast and cheap place to eat. The production crew consists of; Producer; Director; Technical Director; and Stage Manager. These are traditionally the most stressed-out people you will ever meet. Add in the fact that all of these except the Stage Manager are traditionally teachers... and, well, you get the drift.

All of this suffering pays off on opening night. If you're lucky, or if you've been subjected to one too many Dinner-Break Cue to Cues, the show should run perfectly. If the Stage Manager is particularly sentimental, he or she may cry. He or she also may or may not put off the After-Show Clean-up until the next day. If the show ran well, chances are that you will be able to clean up before the next show. If the show went badly, however, brace yourself. You may be forced to mop the stage with your tongue.

The cast usually have a party to celebrate their opening night success. The crew may or may not be invited. They also may or may not attend whether they were invited or not. Often the crew will have their own party. Such parties are usually held in 24-hour restaurants due to the fact that shows usually end late at night. At said parties, you will be stared at by the restaurant employees, seated in the darkest, farthest corner of the restaurant, and avoided. This is because the employees usually assume a group of 20 people clad in solid black to be a cult. Your food will often arrive cold, and sometimes not at all. Muttering threateningly under your breath while glaring at the employees usually helps to expedite the service.

You continue to run the show until closing night. After the closing show, sometimes you will have to stay to 'strike the stage' (theatre talk for clearing the stage). If your Stage Manager is nice, he or she may let you do it the next day. However, if the show went badly, prepare for a long night.

Once you finally are allowed to leave, no one will know what you did for the show. When you mention having worked on it, people will ask, 'Really? Were you in it?' And then immediately cease to listen to your response once you say, 'No, but...'

1A 'techie', for the purpose of this entry, is someone who works in technical theatre; a member of the stage crew (ie, stage management, lighting, sound, follow spot, running crew et al) .2Remember that these are illegal on most High School campuses. Some people refrain from using them, others simply figure out ingenious ways of hiding them.

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