Going Through Hell (Week)

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To start off, I bet you're wondering what Hell Week is. Unless you're a theatre person. Then you KNOW. And if you know what hell week is, for the love all that is good and holy, please send me coffee. Anyways.


Hell Week is the week before a production opens when the technical crew, which includes the sound designer, stage managers, set movement crew, and light operators add their respective parts to a production and learn the show so the sound effects go when needed, the lights change and spotlights are in the right place at the right time, and all the set pieces (such as a house unit we have) get on and off stage safely and at the correct time. There are A LOT of people involved in this. 

First there is the light designer, she (obviously) designs the light plot for the show and sets the lights and cues (when lights change between scenes/important moments). Light designer has their own crew (usually) who know how to focus lights, and operate follow spots. Both jobs are actually pretty easy once you're taught. Focusing lights is just tedious. Most theatres have light units (called various things, usually lights - duh - but also lamps) that have to be moved manually and pointed in the location that the designer wishes. Unless you're in one of those fancy theatres with electric lights that you can control and focus from the booth. We don't have that at the PAC, though. 

Then you have the set designer, who actually starts their job way before the show even starts rehearsing (fun fact: our set designer and light designer are the same person) and works with the director to ultimately decide how the show is going to look. Set designer then goes and designs pieces for the show that are necessary and usually mentioned in the script. I don't want to give too much away, but like I said earlier, we have a house that rolls on and off stage, and that's not even the COOLEST set piece we have! She then appoints a small (or large) crew to get that set built before set put in day three months later. This small but mighty task force for our show puts in hours of work that often go unacknowledged, but hey, set crew, I see you, you're great. Thanks for the house. One really neat thing about our set and getting it built was the fact that a couple of area high schools pitched in to build some very key pieces that we couldn't have done the show without. 

Set crew is also responsible for the movement of set pieces during scene transitions in the show. These crew members (also called techies) wear all black and rush about in choreographed chaos working to get everything set before lights up. They are cued by the Stage Manager or Back Stage Manager and have three days to learn how to move everything in and out. Honestly, it is a miracle that no one gets hurt. 

There's a person solely in charge of flying drops (backdrops that are suspended from the ceiling) off and on the stage. If he drops a line or doesn't work carefully a lot of injuries can occur. This is also a very dangerous job and it is one to three people in charge of a thing that can come down on top of 20 people, plus those drops are HEAVY!

Then there is the sound designer person. She is in charge of finding sound effects for the show (such a skywriting sound effect) that are necessary for some of the lines and some of the moments to be relevant. She also is in charge of mic-ing and setting levels on microphones for the actors.

Then of course there is the stage manager and back stage manager. Stage manager is God. She says jump you say how high. Her directions come from the director and the director is more God than SM God. She calls the show from the both, meaning, she tells everyone when to start, when to change the lights, when to change the scenes, when to start the sound effects, and communicates directly the BSM (Back Stage Manager) who is on the stage with the set crew making sure everything is going as planned. 

All of these people, have to work and work around us and practice getting all of their things on time and only have three days to do it. The last two days are dress rehearsals, by which time everything should be perfect. The week starts out with Q2Q which is where we start with the first tech cue and run all the way through the last cue. Ours lasted 8 hours. I emerged from the theatre wondering what year it was. Cue to Cue is also when lights are focused around the actors. There is a lot of stop and go. 

Monday is another tech rehearsal to practice set movement and is similar to Q2Q but with less stopping and more doing things over so that kinks can be worked out. 

Today is Tuesday, the first day with microphones and will be working out any issues that may arise with those, going through all the mic changes, adding in two microphone changers (girls who stand side stage, take someones microphone, hand it to someone else and give it to the next person who needs it), and then working with the orchestra in the theatre for the first time. 

Hell Week promises a lot of late nights with little to no sleep. But every minute is worth it, and it is all completely necessary to make sure these shows run smoothly. I've been drinking coffee since seven in the morning and I don't plan on stopping any time soon today. 

Now off to study lines and drink tea! 

About the author


Literature, Theatre, Coffee, Blogging, Family, and Feminism. These are the things on which my life is centered around.

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