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      TEA. FOR TWO. AND CUE. TO CUE. – by Gabe Hakvaag

      cueA few blogs ago I wrote about the wonderful alchemy unique to community theater – the magic of who shows up. I was talking about actors and who comes to auditions, but the same alchemy applies to that crucial, yet invisible, element – the tech crew. Every play has technical aspects: a set, costumes, props, lighting and often sound design. But not every show, at least with HG, has a set, costume, light and sound designer. Or the team to operate and maintain all these elements during the performance run. Often, that means the director has to wrangle all these details, deliver the end product and tie it all together WHILE running rehearsals, coordinating marketing, etc. I’ve done this for HG shows and can tell you, it is a LOT. But even putting aside the workload, one person designing and delivering every physical element of a show subverts the collaborative nature of theater production. Ideally, there should be multiple voices in the room, multiple eyes on the end product. The director’s role should not be dictatorial. The director should be focused on the end product, on the experience the audience is going to have with this show. My job, ultimately, is to describe what I believe is essential, have designers bring me options, and make choices. But that only happens if enough people put their hand up and say, “I’d like to do that.”

      So I have to say I was incredibly lucky that the first hand up when I announced I was auditioning actors and also looking for individuals interested in running tech was Sean Bartlett. Sean is a list maker, which is the highest compliment I can give to someone joining a production team. I’ve directed Sean before and noticed his lists, and immediately put him in charge of organizing parts of the production, just so I could turn my attention elsewhere. Sean has directed for the radio play festival, but last year I put him in charge of sound effects design and delivery, a task he was well suited for. When he offered to “help out” with DMCP I immediately tagged him for Production Stage Manager, which means he made a lot of lists, chased down the items or actions needed, and made sure everything got done in time.

      Second hand up was Taylor Nickerson, who agreed to choreograph some dance/movement elements I thought the play needed and I would not be able to deliver on my own. Then Katie Bartlett, who has been a stagehand many times, asked if she could learn something new. Boom. Light board operator. Gary Fizzano offered to operate sound (good choice, seeing as we are using his sound board) Herb Johnson and Tim Krall (HG’s summer intern) joined as stagehands. And in an interesting way, each new volunteer changed the way I thought about the show, how it could look and feel, because now I had hands to do all these things.

      Last night we held our Cue-To-Cue rehearsal, where we slowly walk through every light change, sound effect, set move and costume change. It’s also a “stand and deliver” moment, because now we can no longer say “well, we’ll figure it out later.” Every element must be on stage. It has to be well organized and delivered as cleanly as the actors deliver their lines. I owe Sean a hearty thank you for organizing the props and set changes! The cast gamely stood around, walked through the blocking and repeated the same lines of dialogue over and over, so the tech crew could practice each change and make them seamless. As director, I talked the team through each cue, how it should be delivered, answered questions and, in some cases, solved unforeseen problems. It took us four and a half hours, but boy was it worth it. We could see how all the elements, under development separately for the past month, came together for the first time, and we could see how they pull together the scenes and support the actors.

      I went home, exhausted from navigating techie needs and actor moral while in a state of heightened focus on the details. But I knew I’d sleep well, free from the usual “you forgot something” dreams that wake me up during a production. We stood and delivered, and it looks and sounds fantastic.

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