MUSE: ‘Hell week’ is heaven for thespians

By Katrice Kemble, Staff Writer

CFA's play version of Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" had its opening night  this past weekend/ PHOTO VIA swampofboredom.com

CFA’s play version of Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” had its opening night this past weekend/ PHOTO VIA swampofboredom.com

On Feb. 27, Great Expectations, a theatrical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel, opened in Boston University College of Fine Arts “Jewels 2” Miller Studio Theater. The audience greatly enjoyed the performance, laughing and chiming in with choruses of “ooh” and “ah.” When the actors came out for their curtain call, they were met with a standing ovation from the group of spectators.

But before they could prompt such a reaction from the audience, the actors, directors, and designers had to walk through “hell.”

“Hell week,” more professionally referred to as “technical week” (“tech week” for short), is the rehearsal week before the opening of a production during which the costumes, the lighting, and the set are introduced. Actors commonly associate it with stress, sleep deprivation, long hours of work, and complete absorption into the show at hand. Three productions in CFA just went through this week: Blood Knot, The Penelopiad, and Great Expectations.

24 hours before it opened, Great Expectations went into its final tech rehearsal. Director Clay Hopper sat attentively in the five-person audience, jotting down notes from time to time, while a photographer moved around the scenes to take pictures of the cast in action. He knelt at center stage for close-ups, bumped into chairs to change his angle, and ensured that not a minute went by without the incessant clicking of rapid-fire snapshots. In spite of this, the actors were completely invested in their characters and performed passionately.

Julia Schonberg, CFA senior who played Estella, said that actors gain a certain sort of freedom during this week.

“It’s really when the play gets a rest from all the intense work that it can really start to breathe,” she said.

She had never even heard it called “hell week” before, let alone thought of it that way.

“I love tech week,” she said emphatically.

Once the run-through had come to an end an hour and forty minutes later, the cast cheered for joy. They then went about changing out of costume, instructed to be back in ten minutes to start working again. Their short break was predominantly spent smiling and joking about the mistakes they had made, hoping to fix them.

“I’ve often heard it said that tech is the most fun time for actors,” said Celia Pain, CFA senior who played Mrs. Joe Gargery.

“People who think tech is hell aren’t doing it right,” said Clay Hopper, director of Great Expectations.

While he admits that it can be very long and tedious, tech is “when the magic happens [and] all the elements come together…it’s beautiful and fun.”

Regarding his personal life during tech week, Hopper laughed and said, “Yeah, I don’t have one. I live here.”

Jackson Miller, the lighting designer for Great Expectations, looks at tech week from the side of the technician.

“The first few days are just stepping through the entire show slowly, just going cue to cue, ironing it out,” said Miller.

Although much of the focus was on this aspect of the production, he said he did not find the process stressful.

For those who are passionate about theatre arts as well as very involved, as the cast and crew of Great Expectations were, tech week is not a negative experience. In fact, it seems that this “hell week” is a true thespian’s heaven.

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