5 Days, 31 Hours

Backstage Badger is one of my favorite internet memes. You'll find Tech Week inspiration like this all over the theater.

By Mairead Poulin ’13

This coming week – more so than your average couple of days – you’ll probably be greeted with a familiar sight in the library more than once: a pile of two or three students, their foreheads pressed against the table or their feet strewn lazily across the couch, coffees in hand, homework forgotten.

If you happen to stop and ask one of them why, exactly, they look like they haven’t slept in days, you might hear them mumble the words “tech week” before returning to their semi-coma.

Because it’s true: The Laramie Project premieres Thursday. Tech week is upon us.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, “tech week” (short for technical week, but also referred to as “tech,” “torture week,” and “hell week”) begins just before one of the Williston plays or dance concerts is about to arrive. It’s during tech week that all of the elements of a show come together for the first time: costumes meet performers meet lights meet set. The stage manager tries to time his cues to match the performance below. The techie learns which prop she needs to hand off when. The actor puts on the coat he has been miming for weeks for the first time.

Tech Week Slumber
The exhaustion sets in

In essence, all of the pieces that have been perfected by themselves over the past few months are pushed together. It’s like putting together a puzzle…a thousand-piece puzzle, using only one hand, during your slowest-functioning hours of the day. While blindfolded.

It’s one of the most exhausting and frustrating experiences of my entire Williston career. No matter your role in the production, from the hours of 6 to 11 pm (and all day, all weekend), you are locked away in the theater, doing your job again and again and again while you and everyone around you tries to get it all right. Sometimes this means standing onstage for a half an hour while a light is positioned directly over you. Sometimes this means changing your costume backstage three times in a row before you get your time down to the one minute the play allows you to have. No matter what, this means forgetting about your classes, and your homework, and your sports, and focusing all your energy into the production.

family brunch
Sunday afternoon lunch break

But it’s also the most rewarding and community-based experiences of my entire Williston career. This will be my tenth and last official tech week, and the nine that preceded this have been filled with the laughter, camaraderie, and love that trying weeks like these require. The entire cast crowds around one table to eat pizza before a show, or a line of us head out for coffee, paying for those who don’t have cash on them and taking orders from those too tired to move. And when we spot each other in the halls, we take a pause to check in: “how you doing? did you get enough sleep? do you need me to bring you a sub to rehearsal if your game runs late?”

It’s the rally of upwards of about 40 people – most of them students – to accomplish a common goal that really gets me. We are all trying to put together an amazing show, working together to create something magical. And at the same time, we’re working together to just get through those last few days of nonstop work before we get to reap the benefits of our struggle, and see our show go up. We’re miserable, but we’re miserable together. And it’s all worth it in the end.

It’s tech week. Get ready for Laramie. And someone, please, bring me a coffee to English.