Ever wonder when you go and see a play or a musical how the lights change, props magically appear or disappear, the costume on an actor or actress is different, the set moves or where a sound like a phone ringing comes from?
Well, all of this starts with technical designers. Every show begins with production meetings ran by a stage manager and a director with the designers for lights, props, costumes, sound, hair and makeup, set and dramaturgy. These are the meetings where ideas are presented, and then the director give his or her opinion.
Once all of the work is put in and the designs are complete –which takes a multitude of hours in the theatre, I might add – then tech rehearsals begin. A cue to cue is when the stage manager works with the light and sound board ops and the designers to call all of the light and sound cues in the show. Stage hands are also brought in at this point to move props on and off stage.
The light changes you see and the sound you hear is called by the stage manager. Now, this information is a lot more than fun facts. The issue with all of this is the underappreciation of technical designers in the world of theatre. While this is not the case in all theatres, as the directors, actors and producers appreciate them for making the show happen, most audience members have no clue about the work that goes in.
Now, I am not saying that, at the next show you go to, you have to think about the designers and say, “Wow, those lights are awesome” or “I love that costume,” but I am saying that, if you do think that, then you should not be afraid to voice it. The show would not happen without the designers or the actors, but the actors are usually the only ones that get acknowledgment.
This is not just true in the world of theatre. When you go and see a movie, the lighting, sound, props, costume and set are all done by designers. The actors would be in the dark, there would be no sound, the actors would have nothing to hold, use or even wear, and they would have no world to play in without the hard work of these designers.
This underappreciation does not just come from the average audience member.
A lot of play or movie reviews neglect to talk about the design, and, even if they do, they do not always mention the name of the designer, yet somehow, the actor or actress name is always there. Just because you cannot visually see the person does not mean that their work is not crucial to the show.
If any of these design aspects are of interest to you, do not be afraid to decide that you do not want to be an actor. Being a technical designer is a lot of work, and, without them, the show would not happen. If someone asks why you want to be a designer, do not be afraid to tell them about your passion. You do not have to be an actor or actress to be a part of the theatre.
So next time you go and see a play or a movie and you like any of the design aspects, look through your program or watch the end credits so that you can appreciate the person that created that magical moment.