BWW Blog: Tech Week of DEATH OF A SALESMANTech week. That point in rehearsal where all the "technical" elements are added on to the work the actors have been doing for weeks.

Tech week. That point in rehearsal where the director's focus inevitably shifts from what is going on with the actors to what is going on around and above and behind them.

Tech week. Two words that can strike terror into the hearts of actors and directors everywhere. Well, maybe "terror" is too strong a word. Perhaps "anxiety" would be a better choice.

Please understand: I'm not implying that the "techies", as they are fondly known, are in any way intentionally causing anxiety amongst the cast. It's just the natural course of events for actors to be "thrown" by every, single, little thing that gets added to the show.

Up until this point, the cast has been wearing their own, familiar clothing. They've either been "miming" props or using substitutes that are probably nothing like the actual prop they will have to deal with. They've been rehearsing in very general lighting that has stayed unchanged, no matter what the scene called for. They've heard sound cues simply read in by the stage manager. They've gotten used to running the show with a very quiet, probably silent, house.

Now, this all changes. Costumes can change the way they walk, stand and sit. New props have to be handled in different ways. Lighting and sound that was only guessed at before is suddenly there, and they have to respond to it. From the house comes the sound of designers and tech directors and crew talking about ways to make the technical elements work better.

Sometimes, all this new activity can make the actors feel like there is a deliberate conspiracy to distract them. How dare these people come into our rehearsal and disrupt things! Don't they know we've been working weeks to get this play in top shape? I can't deal with this!

This feeling quickly passes as the actors get comfortable with all the new elements. They learn to appreciate how much the tech adds to the production. The tech helps to emphasize and highlight the ideas of the play. It helps unify the overall look and feeling of the show. It adds context to the story that is being presented. This is especially true at an organization like Theatre Memphis, where the technical staff is so professional, accomplished, talented, dedicated and cooperative.

The staff at Theatre Memphis is always ready to listen to ideas from the director and translate those ideas into reality. Or in some cases, gently explain to the director why perhaps a slightly different approach might produce the effect he wants in a more aesthetically pleasing way. In both cases, they are always ready to do whatever it takes to make the production a reality.

Everyone working on the production is ultimately part of a single, unified company, because we all have the same goal. The director, the cast, the stage manager, the lighting and sound designer, the set designer, the tech director, the backstage crew all want one thing: to make the production the best it can possibly be.

The tech elements are like the icing on the cake. And while you can certainly eat a cake without icing, I know I would miss it if it weren't there.

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Guest Blogger: Tony Isbell Tony Isbell is a long time actor and director in the Memphis area. His work has appeared in almost every venue in and around the city. Most recently, he portrayed the artist Mark Rothko in Circuit Playhouse’s production of Red. He has a long history with Circuit Playhouse. His very first appearance on a Memphis stage was the role of Bobby in American Buffalo at the old Circuit Playhouse on Poplar Avenue, many years ago. His most recent roles at Circuit, and two of his all time favorites, include Mr.Lockhart in the Seafarer and Laurence Olivier in Orson’s Shadow.

Other recent performances include Greg in Sylvia; Lloyd Dallas in Noises Off; Salieri in Amadeus; Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure and Dan in Buffalo Gal, all at Theatre Memphis.

As a director, some of Tony’s past productions include Boston Marriage, Fuddy Meers and Raised in Captivity, all at Theatre Memphis, as well as Prelude to a Kiss and The Birthday Party at Circuit Playhouse and Waiting for Godot at TheatreWorks. His two most recent directorial efforts were Glengarry Glen Ross and Six Degrees of Separation, both at Theatre Memphis. He is currently in the midst of rehearsing Death of a Salesman which opens at Theatre Memphis on January 24, 2014.

In film and television, Tony has had roles in the films The Delta and Forty Shades of Blue as well as a starring role in the cult classic I Was a Zombie for the FBI. On television he played a vicious killer in an episode of America’s Most Wanted set in Memphis. Most recently on TV, he has played the recurring role of Dale, the Zombie Hunter on Professor Ghoul’s Horror School on Memphis PBS station WKNO.

Tony’s work has received multiple nominations and wins in the annual Ostrander Theatre Awards in the categories of Lead Actor, Supporting Actor, Ensemble, Best Director and Best Dramatic Production.

He received his theatre training from William Snyder at the University of Tennessee Martin. He and his wife Marie have been married for 36 years and are the proud parents of three adult children: Jessie, Katie and Michael.

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