This week Fiona Lindsay discusses the vital work of theatre technicians and the characteristics that unite them all...
Theatre technicians, or 'techies' as they call themselves, are united globally by their commitment and passion for what they do as well as their questionable sense of humour: You know you’re a techie when you wake up worried that you’ve missed a cue.
One hundred years ago, when I was at Drama school, we were divided into two groups in our second year to continue our training. I was part of the terribly serious, hyper-sensitive, 'watch your back' actors' group and despite feeling extremely happy and lucky to be so, I always found myself gravitating to hang out during breaks with my peers in the technical group.
Perhaps it was my propensity for wearing black in my late teens that drew me to them – You know you’re a techie when you find yourself at the bus stop in the heat of summer wearing black trousers, a black t-shirt, black boots, carrying a black bag, and wearing black sunglasses. I think it was mainly their down-to-earth attitude and straight talk that was compelling amidst the improvisation and character-building games of my course that were especially constructed to take us apart in the first instance.
I loved their dimly lit under-stage world where even the kettle seemed to whistle quietly –You know you’re a techie when you can rearrange your room in the dark – and the lack of fuss that was applied to any task. Way back then I had deep anxiety of rehearsing in front of most of my acting team (not helpful) but felt very at ease with any number of techies in the room. Perhaps it was their seeming lack of judgment and silent support of the making of the show in question – You know you’re a techie when you close all doors softly.
Working in the technical side of theatre production can be a bit like painting the River Forth Railway Bridge; just as you get one show up and running you’re bringing another to a close and vice versa - You know you’re a techie when you build, furnish and tear down at least three houses every 36 weeks.
Being integrated into the making of a production at each stage of its development also means that many techies know more about the totality of a play than some of the cast - You know you’re an techie when you know the lines of a play better than the actors. In fact, sitting in the wings or at a lighting or sound desk is a brilliant extended training in performance and I’ve encountered some brilliant actors who started out as technicians.
Today's Digital Theatre Plus transcripts focus on (excuse the pun) being a lighting technician - You know you’re a lighting technician when you set your kitchen light so it’s just right - and a production manager - You know you’re a production manager when rest is not a word in your vocabulary. We hope you find all three illuminating and useful.