Wedeline Casimir is the Emerging Arts Leader Fellow at American Stage for the 2019-2020 season. As a part of her development, she will be observing our current mainstage production, SKELETON CREW, and sharing the experience of getting it from the rehearsal hall to the stage through this blog series.
It’s the third week of rehearsal for SKELETON CREW, which means it’s time for tech weekend! This is where all the elements of the show come together, including lights, projections, sound and the set. For SKELETON CREW, the design crew consists of production stage manager and sound designer Rachel Harrison, director of production and projection designer Jerid Fox, lighting designer Joseph P. Oshry and scenic designer Steve K. Mitchell.
The stage manager always plays an important role, and during tech week their role becomes even more pivotal. Stage managers typically provide practical and organizational support to the director, actors, designers, stage crew and technicians throughout the production process. During the rehearsals Director L. Peter Callender and Stage Manager Rachel Harrison work side by side. At this point, Rachel has recorded many of the director’s decisions about blocking and notes for the actors. All of these notes are then implemented to begin the tech process.
The first phase of tech weekend is called “dry tech.” This is where the designers and stage manager work through the show to set any lights, sound, and projection cues that they can without the actors present. It is also a chance for the tech crew, who will operate the equipment, to become familiar with the flow of the performance. The next phase of tech weekend is called “wet tech.” In these rehearsals, the actors are added into the technical rehearsal to adjust the way that all the design elements operate around the actors’ performances. I observed both rehearsals and watched how each designer and department ran their portion of the production. All music, lighting, and projection is done through a cueing process. When the show is running, cues are run from the booth upstairs, but during the tech process it’s important for the designers to be in close proximity to the stage manager and director so the equipment is set up in the audience. Every cue is packaged to start and stop at a specific time, syncing music with lights, transitions and movements. It was very inspiring to see how passionate the designers were about their work.
These design elements of the show are important and play an integral role in the storytelling of the play. I experienced how lights, music, and projection cues can evoke different moods, create a setting and support dialogue. During rehearsal, I asked Peter why he thought it was important for the designers, actors and production crew to be in sync. Peter said “I believe as the audience sits and watches the show, that their hearts and souls are synchronized with the actors on stage. They’re synchronized as a group, as an entity. And we have to keep that throughout the show. If we let it drop for a minute we lose them.” He continues, “If it [lights, sounds, and projections] lingers or if things are unbalanced, we lose. There is a tug, that I want to be able to have the entire time. It’s a grip of the heart. All these people should be in the same place and they’re there with us until the final moment. That breathe needs to happen at the same time. That inhale needs to be at the same time. That’s why I love when Stephanie Gularte says ‘lean forward and engage.’ People always say lean back, relax and enjoy the show. I love that. We want to keep them engaged.”
Being exposed to the other side of storytelling through the tech rehearsal process was an exhilarating and fascinating experience! I am excited to see all the pieces of the production come together to share with an audience. Opening night for SKELETON CREW is just around the corner, I hope to see you there!
Stay tuned for the next blog in the series, where Wedeline will share the opening night process.