So You Want To Be a Technical Director...

Mark Rousculp '94

Alex French '05

original 2002, edit 2005

This document is being written as a companion to the Producer's Guide. It covers some of the things a Technical Director should know to do, be aware of, and prepare for. It is, and will always be, an incomplete work in progress. Please add liberally as new wisdom accumulates. Remember that the list of things to do is not exhaustive and the directions may require adjustment for specific circumstances.

Time Requirements: How much time should you expect this job to take

You will have an initial flurry of activity immediately after the prod staff is finalized that will absorb a few hours during the week for about two or three weeks. After that, your Saturdays are pretty much a wash. Afternoons from 1pm to 5pm are given over to set builds. Expect to have to make several shopping trips to Home Depot, Backstage Hardware and the like as well. These can often be fit into the 11am to 1pm timeslot before builds. Dinner after build is a great time to cement relations with the cast and crew. If you're really cut out for this, you'll start losing sleep to worrying and redesigning things about a week after you've designed anything. The week before Move you may have a few nights' work in space to do preliminary rigging, and to organize the shop for Move. After Move day proper, your life belongs to the show. Take a week off work, and expect to spend 16 hours a day in space until opening.

Two months before opening

Six weeks before opening

Four weeks before opening

Two weeks before opening (one week before Move)

One week before opening (Prod Week)

Saturday - Move.

Saturday - Put-In

Sunday - Build

Monday - First orchestra (usually)

Tuesday - Tech Night

Wednesday - First Dress

Thursday - Final Dress

Friday - Opening

First week of the run

Unless you have taken on additional responsibilities, such as run crew or operating special effects, you have no responsibilities at all. It's a good idea to arrive a little early to check over the set though, and to ask your crew if they had any problems operating set pieces or effects, and to check whether anything broke. You'll have to fix it if it did. If you haven't already, line up a location for the crew party. Make sure the Producer knows this is your responsiblity, while the strike party is his or hers. Your location should be someplace you can bring alcohol, and arrange with the last TD to pick up the crew bar. Clear it with the landlord, the neighbors, the cops, and whoever else might care.

Second week of the run

Crew Party

This takes place the night before closing night, so if you close on Saturday, this will be Friday after the performance. Only the prod staff, production crew and stage crew are invited. No actors! There is some argument as to where actors who also hold prod staff positions fit in, and you have final say in resolving this question.

You are responsible for finding a location for the party, and for organizing the festivities. There should be warm food, beverages, and drinks. MTG keeps a Crew Bar which is stocked with the leavings of previous crew parties (some of the bottles in there have been around for decades) which is supposed to travel from crew party to crew party. We've also established a tradition of show-related alcohols. During the night you'll get to toast to several recent shows.

Ideally, you should have hot food ready within fifteen minutes of everyone arriving. You have a lot of work to get through.

Get a copy of the Award List. This should be available from a recent TD. Alex French currently maintains a master copy updated regularly. Tell stories. You're the TD, you get to decide what gets told and who gets to tell what. Spreading stories out over multiple tellers is generally a good plan. Skip lots of stories. Don't worry about awards being given in bad humor now. You can always change awards before the Strike Party tomorrow.

Suggestion from Stephen Peters, who's sat in on way too many deathly-long crew and cast parties: Better yet, just glance over the award list beforehand, and do the ones you can remember. Let people call out award names and suggestions, and tell the stories as they're brought up. Fewer awards will be given, but you'll get the major ones, and you're also more likely to only give out awards that actually make sense for the show (rather than having everyone rack their brains trying to find something that cries out for the ``Dim it, Dammit'' award).

Before the party breaks up, talk to heads of each department and have time estimates and plans for anything that requires coordination (use of ladders and scaffolding, removal of set pieces to access lights)

Get good and drunk, and make sure you need help getting home.

Closing Night - Pre-Strike

Closing Night - Strike

A little Strike theory. There are two schools of thought on how many truck loads should be sent to Walker. One school holds that everything should be packed into one load, and driven over together. The other claims that two loads are more efficient, and more complete because the little things that always get forgotten the first time can go over with the truck rather than being carried by tired actors. I am a firm proponent of the two loads theory, and this description assumes that you will probably be making two loads to the shop. Note that some shows will be two-loaders no matter what you do, based on pure size. Well, mostly. You're still responsible for making sure that anything borrowed gets returned, especially to Theater Arts. If anyone complains about something you did to the theatre, be honest and deal with it immediately. Go to the next set shop cleanout and help the shop get back in good shape. Take some time to think about how the show went, and learn from it. Update and add to this guide. Come back and do it all again, but a little bit better.

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