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Why is tech week a thing?

Recently, towards the beginning of tech week over at the Charlestown Working Theater where Actors’ Shakespeare Project is producing Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II, I overheard my director speaking with our lighting designer about how he wishes that the traditional theatre rehearsal process was not one that separated the actors’ rehearsal from the designers’ construction of the world—”tech week”. At first, my knowing that David R. Gammons is both a director and designer allowed me to understand his point of view without much thought. That said, the more I think about that conversation, the more I find myself asking: why?

Each semester in our Dramatic Literature courses, something that we are required to read is an article titled “EF’s Visit to a Small Planet,” where the author discusses how plays are planets of their own with their own set of rules. If I consider that ideology to be truthful, then one could argue that my responsibility as an actor in rehearsal is to figure out what the planet that my character exists in is like and what are the rules that set me free and/or keep me bound. Now, if theatre is inherently a collaborative art form, why not have a process where designers make discoveries about the world of the play in real time with the actors? Where does the construct of “tech week” even come from? Other than financial or logistical reasons (space availability, equipment availability, etc), is there an artistic purpose to separating designers and performers from one another for anything from two weeks to two months, only to then rush the marrying of the two aspects of a show a week before the opening of a production? Who made this decision? They need to be fired.

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