“Today we watched the first day of tech rehearsal. It was fascinating to watch the cast take the stage for the first time. First they had a backstage tour (how to get from their dressing room to the stage and back) and then they changed into their costumes and came up on the stage. I am searching for the right words to describe what we witnessed (so please, dear cast members, don’t take offense) but it was like a bunch of puppies that had been let loose in a new room, exploring all these new objects. They did not speak to each other. They cautiously approached different features of the set and checked it out, seeing how it matched up with what they had been trying to visualize for the past few weeks. You could see each one going through some particular scene they had only imagined in three dimensions while in rehearsal, stepping up and down a stair step or opening a trap door until it felt comfortable. Some made sounds to hear the theatre’s acoustics; some silently practiced their lines while moving from a spot to a spot that previously was represented by tape on the rehearsal floor and now had a four foot drop they could fall off of. It was, indeed, fascinating.
Director Sean Daniels, too, was seeing the staging in three dimensions for the first time. He was moving all about the theatre and would occasionally stop the action to have the actors reposition themselves slightly so that the audience would see what he wanted them to. It was also his first chance to hear the action with the theatre’s acoustics and see it under the stage lights. Emphasis he had coached someone through in the rehearsal room might now be either too harsh or too soft – more adjustments and again I am amazed that the actors can keep it all straight.
The tech rehearsal, itself, is a three day process of the actors, in their costumes for the first time (there was a lot of tugging and adjusting, and settling into them) performing the play on the set in the theatre – a tiny bit at a time for 12 hours a day!!! The primary purpose of tech, as it is called, is to get the lighting and sound timed to the position and action of the actors and work out problems with the staging caused by the action now taking place in three dimensions for the first time. This means that they start a scene and then after 30 seconds “hold it there” is heard. While an adjustment to the lighting or the sound is made the actors essentially stand around chatting and joking with each other. We had never seen them so relaxed and so comfortable with each other in previous rehearsals. At first we thought that they were finally getting close enough to become a cohesive group. But I think what we were actually seeing was that this was the first rehearsal where the cast was not under pressure to work out the details and get the action right; the pressure was off of them and on the lighting and sound designers, director, stage manager, and production assistant. The cast had become close long ago and we had only seen them when they were super busy.
As for the lighting and sound it sure seemed like a lot of the design and implementation was happening right there on the spot. I did not want to interrupt anyone to ask but it seemed like they were busy adjusting (and maybe creating) everything on the fly. This not only takes some marvelous talent but some powerful toolboxes (that they had built) of prerecorded sound and lighting technology and some sophisticated computerization to enable them to adjust it so quickly. One example was that there is a scene where the chorus, one at a time, calls out an amino acid pair from a genetic sequence. They went through it once. We heard “Hold it please” followed by some whispering around the control table and the next thing we saw is them working to emphasize the actors shout outs by flashing a different light box each time one of the sequences was called out. Maybe someone had this in mind before they started today but they worked it out and programmed the lights and got them in sync with the actors’ timing quickly and efficiently. It sure looked like they invented it on the spot. It was apparent that this was new to the cast. Now they had to be much more precise about their rhythm – the lights flashing are behind them and out of their view– but they nailed it right away.
Bravo everyone. Thank you so much for letting us watch you create this performance.” – David and Anna