I am exhausted today, because I spent 11+ hours yesterday in rehearsal, first day of tech week. For those who are not familiar with "tech week", it is a phrase that evokes empathy, understanding and compassion in every theater person. Friends know that no matter how much you're "there" for them, it doesn't include tech week. Family knows not to ask anything of you, including dinner on the table or clean laundry. Even your mother knows not to expect a phone call. I just saw a post from a friend that said she had just tossed her phone into the recycling bin - "must get more sleep." I get it. There's tired, and then there's tech-tired; it's a whole other place to be.
Tech week is the week before an opening of a show. It's when all the technical aspects of the show get put into the production - lighting, sound, costumes, makeup, set (scenery). The design crew has been building the set, figuring out the lighting and sound. The costumer has been making the costumes. The actors have been memorizing lines and where they move around the stage. The music has been learned (because, I am of course, talking about a musical), but the orchestra hasn't been brought in. Now, days before you open, you put it all together. You may have taped out where that platform is, but now it's really there, and the black-and-blue mark on your leg proves that the actual set piece is less forgiving than a taped-out square on the floor. The starting note you're used to hearing from the piano is now buried somewhere in the oboe or clarinet part, and who can hear them outside anyway?
It's a little stressful.
This week, we have the added component of being an outdoor theater production, at the Wallace Bowl in Gillson Park. Theater under the stars. Theater under the bugs that show up in the lights and yes, in your mouth. Theater under the humidity and the heat. Or theater under the fog and cold. It could be both…in the same performance even, because we are by the lake, you know. And since this is non-equity theater, almost everyone in the cast has an actual job they have to show up at each morning.
But slowly, slowly, the patterns and moves and set changes and costume changes and rhythm settle into your (older) legs and a show emerges. You've made a whole new slew of friends, whether you're lead or ensemble, whether you have three lines or are in almost every scene. You've exercised your brain, your body, and your heart and soul.
I don't know what it's like to be part of a team sport but I can speak to the team effort of a theater production. Maybe it's similar; I think so. Athletes talk about the physical and mental effort it takes. Theater, too. Athletes get encouragement from the crowd. Actors talk about "reading the audience" - we can actually tell you if it's a good audience or not, because our performance and their experience are so intimately entwined.
All in all, it comes down to passion. This is my passion. It's worth the long hours, bruised and tired legs, even the bug bites, just to put on a show. Just to get up on the stage and give people an experience they will enjoy. People may be up on the stage kicking and twirling, but there is a more nuanced, delicate and almost imperceptible dance we do with the audience. It's opening night every night, because for every audience, it's their first time.
Now excuse me while I go ice that new bruise, buy new eyelashes for the run, and head back for another tech rehearsal. Shehechiyanu, v'kiyimanu, v'higiyanu laz'man hazeh. The four sweetest words: We open this week!