Actor Katie deBuys continues her production diary blog posts on our upcoming production of Shakespeare’s Henry V – scheduled to begin performances here at the Folger Theatre on January 22. Here is Katie’s second entry, as she shares some of her thoughts between short breaks while in the midst of tech week…
This dispatch comes to you from my dressing room in the basement of the theatre. I’m listening to Cameron Pow and Zach Appelman go through an early scene of the play, as Jessi Witchger accompanies them on her violin. I’ve heard this scene many times at this point in the process, but it feels different today, because we’ve started tech. So no longer do these fantastic performers go through their actions in street clothes under work lights with Robert [Richmond, director] (adorably) making drum noises in place of sound cues. No, today is theatre magic day; the stage is covered in haze, and it’s looking and sounding quite awesome.
Tech is the week in the playmaking process that involves the most number of people. (Truth be told, of course more people are involved once we have audiences, because audiences are so necessary to make a play a play, but you know what I mean. Tech is when the most people working on the play itself are around.) I didn’t do a formal head count this morning, but in addition to the 18 usual suspects (cast, director, essential crew) who’ve been around throughout the rehearsal process, our numbers have more than doubled with designers, crew, and theatre staff as we create the full world of the play and add all of the elements of costumes, sound, lights, props, and, of course, haze (this being a Robert Richmond-directed show, after all). That is a total of somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 people all in this theatre together, paying painstaking attention to the details of each moment of the play, and it is simply breathtaking.
That being said, sometimes tech can be, well, slightly tedious. It takes a lot of time to get everyone coordinated the way they need to be to get all of the elements in properly in play for any given moment onstage, let alone a complex scene change or a battle sequence. And goodness knows we’ve got loads of those in this show. That is, loads of complex scene changes, loads of battle sequence, and loads of moving pieces. The extraordinary set design is by Tony Cisek, who’s outfitted our stage with eighteen pikes that we performers can raise and lower using a system of ropes and pulleys to create the different locations we visit in the play. I’ve included a picture of the pikes lowered to 45 degree angles, but know that each pike moves on its own, so the stage can be as ordered or as disorienting as needed for any given moment. It’s a genius design, complicated and fascinating and perfect for this story.
Last week, Louis [Butelli] wrote beautifully about the sense of ensemble that’s so necessary for successful theatre. I believe we have a very strong sense of ensemble in this cast and crew, only strengthened by the arrival of all of the talented and dedicated artists who join us in this final push of tech before we begin to share the show with audiences. So we will see you beginning on January 22nd!
Until next time!
~~ Katie deBuys
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