Monday, November 29, 2010

Tech week with kids

The first time one of my kids was in a production, which was eons ago, the schedule called for something named Tech Week. Naive as I was, I didn't realize that meant "move in to the theater for the duration".

This is Dancer's Tech Week for Nutcracker. Her last performance coincides with the first Tech Week rehearsal for Jack in the Beanstalk, in which both Snuggler and Little Guy are featured. Here is what I have learned over the years about Tech Week:

  • Figure out the special stuff ahead of time. If you'll need hair supplies or specific shoes, don't wait: the store you're sure has what you need is bound to be sold out. Hair is another issue: the first year Dancer was in the party scene for Nut we had to try several methods of getting those sausage curls in her hair before we hit on one that worked.   
  • Good food and snacks are essential. For whatever reason, rehearsals always overlap at least one meal time. Be prepared to feed'em before they go, and again when they get home. Make-ahead meals simplify life -- and tech week is all about making things manageable. Portable snacks include hummus and carrots, apples and cheddar, slices of quesadillas, and lots of fruit. Nothing gooey like chocolate, which will get on costumes. No sticky juice; send water.
  • Remind kids that grown-ups get stressed, too. Have a talk about how the director is likely to be extra-irritable this week, but only because he/she wants the show to be great. Tell them their job is to listen for the corrections and let the rest slide off. Unless they're not paying attention, or not following directions, the yelling is probably not their fault.
  • Send/bring backstage entertainment. There's a lot of down time during rehearsals and performances. Forget electronic toys; the 'something to do' should be things several kids can participate in, like stained glass coloring books (bring colored pencils), simple art projects (no markers -- they stain), Klutz books, chinese jump rope,  and Mad Libs. Homework's a possibility, too.
  • If you're working backstage, your main job is to stay calm. Whatever else you're supposed to do, your real role is to keep the kids focused on doing a great job. Other adults will be annoying and will fail to do what they're supposed to, and you just have to calmly and graciously pick up the pieces and make it work. Don't explode, don't gripe, don't snark. Save that for a time when kids aren't around (or better yet, let it go entirely).
  • Expect meltdowns the first couple of days after the show is over. The kids will be tired, and the let-down after all that excitement is, well, big. 
It goes without saying that the main goal during Tech Week is to survive, preferably intact. Getting a modicum of sleep is essential, even if it means starting school late. Don't expect the week to be normal life plus; daily rehearsals and multiple performances make for a decidedly non-normal week.

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