For those not actively involved in community theater, tech week is the term used for the week leading up to opening night of a show when the theater group moves into the actual performing space. This is TECH WEEK for The Carol Burnett Show: Your Favorite Sketches with the Saline Area Players. Excitement and nervousness are in the air. Up until now, we’ve all been working on pieces of our production and this is the week when all those pieces come together as planned and that overall vision of what the show will look like happens…. hopefully. It is the week when tempers are at the ready and everyone is working overtime trying to put finishing touches on things and scrambling to find alternatives when plans don’t work quite as predicted.
In this show, most of us have a collection of costumes that we’ve been collecting to wear in the show. I have 5 different outfits, at least 4 pairs of shoes, one wig, 8 pieces of jewelry, and one interesting headpiece. Others have more. We’ll be sharing the basement of Stone Arch Arts and Events for our dressing room and finding private nooks and crannies where we can change and keep our costumes, make-up, wigs, and accessories all together.
We’ve also been collecting props… a few of the interesting ones include: two office intercoms, a hypodermic needle, a variety of cigars, jewel-studded fly swatter, a stethoscope that points out, a videocamera, a tacky velvet painting, a birthday party hat, a “how to be a dentist” book, fresh linens, and barbells. Sooner or later, all these props will all be in the same place and make their appearance in the show. Some of them appear in more than one scene so will have to migrate from one set to another and hopefully find their way back to where they started. Some of the props are referred to as “personal props,” ones the actors bring with them on stage. Stage managers remind cast again and again during tech week to check their personal props before going on stage. Others are pre-set on the stage before the action, like the coffee pot with the matching cups and saucers. Some will be kept in little tubs denoting which scene they are for.
Then, there is the furniture for the show. How do you find furniture for 11 scenes and 5 commercials and keep it all straight? And how can you find ways to use something more than once so that you don’t have so much extra stuff hanging around. For example, in a 1860-era scene the audience will see the back of the period-appropriate couch. In another scene, it will be turned forward and covered with a tacky afghan to depict a home in the 1970s. Same couch, but totally different uses… and looks! See my blogpost “transforming sets” for pix of other set pieces that will perform dual functions.
Then there is the set itself. Performing 11 scenes consecutively is quite a challenge. In this show, the audience is in essence the “studio audience” of a television show. As on a TV set, there will be more than one stage, so the audience will be directed to the current stage where the action is going on, while the others remain dark. Each set will have walls behind them that are a neutral color. To change the scene, the set decoration will change. For example, there is a photograph of a grandpa-looking man with a long beard, rather scary really. One set will have pictures from the 1970s. Another will be an office and have the appropriate pictures on the wall. A desk may be switched out for an easy chair and a bookcase. The stage crew will re-dress each stage to give the right look.
Did I forget to mention the lights and the sound? The lights will be mounted onto two lights poles with some additional lights added as needed. The sound system will include all the multiple sound effects used in the show… let’s see there is a fly buzzing, a horn honking, so many doorbells I can’t keep track, a carriage coming down the road, and lots of funky music to match the action or the mood of the scene.
This is an exciting week for the cast and crew of The Carol Burnett Show: Your Favorite Sketches performed by Saline Area Players as we prepare for opening night on Thursday, March 8. The only element that we can’t prepare for is the audience that is also a part of the action. No performance is the same because the audience is always different. You can be part of the action too… tickets are available at www.salineareaplayers.org