Exhaustion. That’s what I felt as I spend home after 5 straight days of tech. Total and utter exhaustion. “TECH”, for the uninitiated, is that period immediately leading up to opening night of a play or musical, where all the elements of the production come together. You bring in the lights, the sound, special effects if you have them (a projectionist in this case!), the final props, the final touches on the set, the costumes, the hair and makeup – everything comes together and we spend HOURS figuring out how to merge it so it’s seamless when we finally get an audience.
Though I’ve been a theatre artist for decades, I’m quite new to the world of professional theatre. Prior to this year, I was used to working a full day and THEN going to rehearsal in the evenings and on weekends, 2 hours here, 4 hours there. Usually, we’d have a week, often the call time was something like “7pm until we’re finished”, which often is close to midnight.
This time, it’s been two weeks of tech, 8 hours per day, with a 2-hour meal break in the middle, and it’s a great deal of slog where the actors are concerned, the equivalent of multiple takes, I imagine, for a film actor. It’s where we go over a particular tiny bit of the script over and over again to make sure the lighting, sound, FX, blocking, lines and everything else are as we want them to be. It’s a slog. A necessary one, but a slog.
A magical thing had also happened earlier on that Sunday of tech slog: The West Seattle Bridge had opened, after a couple years of south-end traffic gridlock, and I didn’t merely drive home, I hurtled along at what felt like light-speed comparatively, meaning I was actually able to go the speed limit instead of deal with an hour of bumper-to-bumper. I made it from the Seattle Center to my house, on the 6700 block of Rainier, in 12 minutes flat.
And as my car sped south, my exhaustion turned into exhilaration. This “slog” I’d just gone through? It was because we’re telling an amazing and important story. Everyone in the room wanted to make sure it was JUST RIGHT. It’s a story about real people who lived, and who did difficult things so others would benefit, and everyone on the creative team wants to make sure we honor those people and give their story justice. All our hard work, learning lines, putting in pin-curls to wear uncomfortable wigs, inching line by line through text so the lighting and sound are in synch...we’re doing it for them. And for US. They wanted a better world. WE want a better world. People like to talk about the arts as frivolous and unnecessary, “it’s not WORK, you’re just having fun.” There’s a truth to that. But telling stories like this also feels important.
And as the exhaustion started to turn into sparkly exhilaration, I also remembered yeah, I “get” to do this. I “get” to tell this story. I “get” to be an actor. I have fought for decades to be exactly where I am right now. This enviable position of being invited to audition in the professional arena and then getting to do the work itself. So, through the slog of tech, through the driving back and forth on a traffic-clogged I-5 to rehearsals, all of it exhausting, all of it exhilarating and it all comes down to this, in our silly world of toxic capitalism: I actually get to put “actor” under “occupation” when I fill out my taxes next year, and after such a long road, that feels extremely fucking satisfying.
Day to day thoughts, rants and mental detritus.