I’m writing this letter from the battlefield. It’s Wednesday—well, early Thursday now—of Tech week, and the show I’m working on opens Friday. I’ve slept 8 hours in the past 3 days. The paint in my hair is at least a couple of days old and I haven’t changed my clothes in a week. I can’t remember the last time I saw the costume designer without some sort of sewing in her hands. At least I’ve seen her—I asked the props designer to go find gaff tape a couple of days ago and I haven’t seen her since.
These are a few reasons why the survivors have dubbed you ‘hell week.’ The week before a production opens is stressful for everyone involved and generally brings out the worst in actors and techies alike. People who are generally amiable to work with morph into angry, sleep-deprived beasts who can smell fear and coffee. A nervous air surrounds the production and whispers, “When is that going to get done?” every time the director decides to change something. And to top it all off, the show looks horrible during most of the rehearsals: actors flub their lines, the stage manager misses cues, and those lucky enough to leave do so with a nasty feeling in their gut that they’re wasting their time.
And for this, I thank you. Because nothing is quite as exciting as a truly horrible tech week. Sure, I don’t remember when the last time I slept in my own bed was, but the adrenaline (and coffee—lots and lots of coffee) pumping through my veins doesn’t allow me to dwell on that. I am forced to focus on the task at hand, to attempt to do the impossible in half as much time as required. And while I will complain about this time crunch and the fact that I have no idea how to face risers in the first place, it reminds me that I love theatre.
I love theatre enough to spend 6 hours squished underneath risers. I love theatre enough to not sleep for 27 straight hours. I love theatre enough to paint the entire set a slightly different shade of gray than I painted it originally. I love theatre enough to have war stories.
This passion isn’t unique to me. Nothing makes a cast and crew bond quite like hell week. We might grow sick of one another, but nothing can keep us from being together on opening night—taking shots for every hold called at the last rehearsal. It’s a week where the people around you, who are tired and smelly and covered in sawdust, seem beautiful because the only thing left of them is their passion for this art form. And if those are the type of people surrounding you, you must’ve done something right with your life.
At least, that’s what I’m telling myself right now before I finish my break and complete the last 24 hours of this especially hellish Hell Week.