Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tech Tuesday's: Top 4 Tech and Design Mistakes!

In my undergrad I worked in the scene shop for the theater department all five years and built sets for both of the student organizations. If you name it I've probably done it. Here are four of the most common mistakes that I've seen done by most small theaters (or have unknowingly committed myself).


  1. Too Big Too Early: Whether it's sinking too much of the budget into high tech gadgets or insisting that there needs to be a hugely realistic set or wanting a million sound cues many a show has gone down the tubes when they insisted on wanting to put more onstage than they could afford. This can drown the story or give the audience high hopes for a the next show that you can't deliver. Solution: Go slow! Start with the bare essentials up front and build up as your company grows each year.
  2. Pretty Picture-- Sloppy Set: This happens usually when a show recruits a designer that can draw a pretty picture of what the set would look like but has no idea how a set like that would be built or doesn't recruit a capable carpenter to build it. Any design for the theatre is not a pretty picture, it is a promise that what's on that page is what the theatre company can put on the stage in the time, budget, and skilled labor at hand.  Solution: Get a carpenter or tech director that knows the company's capabilities and ask the designer to collaborate with him early on.
  3. Professional Acting-- Community Theater Set: This comes about when a company gives way more importance to paying professional actors and producing good performance than giving the tech department the skilled labor and the resources to build a good set to back them up. This can give you a level of shoddiness that no amount of good acting can replace. Solution: If you're shelling out money and space for professional actors and directors you need to be giving just as much for a good designer and carpenter. 
  4. Poor Planning/Tech Policies: A lot of problems of the tech department come about by having poor habits when it comes to the shop space and administrative policies. This can range from shop safety to poor budget management to never telling the designers and directors "NO" when they ask too much. Solution: Good habits start in the office and work their way out. By making a game plan and solid rules and sticking to them problems should never happen in the first place.
No theatre company intentionally sets out to intentionally make these mistakes. They come about when there's a lack of respect for the advantages of the technical side of theatre and the hard work and skill it takes to make it all happen.

Have you seen far worse mistakes? Have a tech tip or question for me? Be sure to leave a comment below!

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