Category Archives: Techniques

Overcoming The Stress of Tech Week 

The phrase “Tech Week” can cause even the most solid thespian to shudder in fear. The long hours, the fear of failure, and the stress can be enough to send you over the edge. What can you do to make this inevitable week less stressful? Read on to hear from others who have been there before and their suggestions to overcome the stress of the dreaded tech week! 

Determine Your Point People

There is nothing worse when things go south on stage during tech week than having too many people add their thoughts and suggestions. Be sure to have one or two people who are level headed, patient, and knowledgeable to handle the hundreds of questions that can come up during the week. Save your sanity and let your actors know who the appropriate person is to handle each type of question. 

TheaterFolk online suggests, for example, who is the most likely person to know where a missing pair of pants might be? Who should be contacted if one of the stage lights burns out? Whom should students check with if they need help reviewing their entrances and exits? (If you answered the costume head, the lighting designer/operator, and the stage manager, then you would be right!) These are your point people and they are worth their weight in gold.

Plan Breaks 

Tech week can be one really long week. It is tempting to try to power through it and get as much done each day as possible but you will see burnout happens. We suggest planned breaks at intervals that are decided upon before you start this crazy week. Encourage your group to get up, stretch, go outside, have a quick bite to eat, and clear their heads. Being inside all week working on lighting, tech, and props can make you feel detached from the rest of the world. Taking even a few minutes of self-care during this busy week can put you in a better place than the one where you are tired, hungry, and losing patience. 

Schedule it Out 

Tech week for professionals means lots of hours doing what you love and getting paid for it. For students, tech week means balancing school work and theater prep. Be sure to schedule out time to get your studying done as well as complete that homework. You may also want to plan your meals and sleep time as well. It may seem ridiculous to plan it out but tech week brings new meaning to marathon lighting sessions and rehearsals. The more you can block out time for other important things in your life, the better. 

Are you crazy during your tech week? How do you handle the stress and balance your life during this time? Give us some suggestions in the comments section and let us know your tips of the trade. 

 

The Magic of Sound Effects on Stage

Sound and sound effects are an integral part of any storytelling art including television, movies and any live stage performance. We probably can all hear the sound of a shark approaching if we saw the movie Jaws. For viewers who like thrillers, the shower scene in Psycho is probably a soundtrack that you will never forget. And for our Star Wars lovers, the sound of a lightsaber is the hallmark of sound effects for that entire series.

The magic of sound effects carries over into live theater as well. Prop masters and sound effect gurus spend hundreds of hours trying to get just the right sound for wind, thunder, rain, footsteps, and monsters. The list could go on and on, as the number of sound effects is so varied and wide.

There are three main purposes of sound effects that we should examine in order to understand the meaning behind the magic. Here are the top three motivations for using sound effects in live theater.

Creating a Mood

Audiences are counting on a production to take them to other places such as colonial times in Hamilton, a beachside home in Mama Mia, or the streets of France in Les Miserables. First and foremost, sound effects are meant to create a mood that can take the audience to another place – metaphysically speaking. Sound effects can create fear, anticipation, joy, laughter, or even overwhelming sadness. The mood that sounds can help create is quite amazing.

 

Simulating Reality

What would a sword fight be on stage without the sound effects and musical accompaniment? Or think about a scene where an actor is required to smash a dish, slam a door, or shoot a gun. Imagine how disconnected things would seem if the dish made no noise, the door was silent, or the gun went off without a shocking blast? Those sound effects can make or break a production especially in how they can simulate what is happening on stage and make it come alive.

Creating an Illusion

One area that sound effects become magical is how offstage sounds or soundtracks can create the illusion of something happening. For instance, in the musical The Lion King, the sounds of the jungle or other lions roaring can create the illusion that the theater is actually in a far away jungle. Or perhaps the play is trying to show a couple in an outdoor cafe. The sound effects could include a car horn, clinking dishes and glasses, or even the wind through the trees. All of this is done so the audience can buy into the illusion of the performance.

What are your favorite sound effects? We’d love to hear from you. Tell us in the comments below.

Creative Expression Through Theater

No matter what role you play in the theater, you have some opportunity for creative expression. Whether you’re a theatergoer, a member of the crew, or an actor as part of the cast, every person contributing to the production and viewing the production is important to the theater community for many reasons. When people come together by creatively expressing themselves and enjoying themselves, the support rings true throughout the entire auditorium.

The Cast 

entire cast on stage

Each member of the cast is given a role that’s perfectly fit for them. When an actor proves themselves fit to play a character, they make that character their own. They have the full creative direction to take on the role in their own way. This is what makes each actor’s version of a character so interesting. Actors improve by challenging themselves to play different types of characters, learn new skills, new character traits, gestures, body language, and master different personalities.

The Chorus/Supporting Roles

Even minor roles and supporting characters have the ability to contribute their creativity. When a chorus maps out their music, they have many decisions as to how to present their music.

The chorus decides how to best position themselves on stage, how to deliver, enunciate, and articulate their lines. The role of the chorus supports the main roles by singing and speaking. Choral pieces act as interludes to new scenes, and bridge subsequent elements of the show together to highlight the importance for the audience. The way they present themselves and interject songs with scenes greatly contributes to the production.

The Crew

The crew of a production has the ability to express themselves through the set design. Building a set takes time, planning, and proper materials. The crew expresses themselves with visuals, building and curating a set that matches the theme of the production. As the show runs through, the crew makes everything possible from moving props and changing scenes. The positioning of every element of the set on stage is crucial to the production’s success and believability.

Each member of the production works together as a team. Throughout this process, creative expression is at an all-time high. Everyone makes decisions and devotes time to something greater than themselves individually. When things come together and everyone works together, the feelings of gratitude and joy after a successful opening night are truly unmatched.

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Stagefright? We’ve Got You Covered.

actors in character on stage

We’ve all heard of picturing the audience in their underwear when a performer is nervous or suffering from stage fright. But this is usually for advice when giving presentations or announcements. The truth is… it is not common to think that actors get stage fright because they are always on stage, and they’re constantly acting in front of crowds. Let’s dive deeper into what it means to have stage fright, and how actors can prepare to reduce obstacles on stage.

An Actor with Stagefright?
The common association with actors is generally that they have extroverted personality types, are talkative, friendly, and personable when in communicating. In reality, every actor is different- and personality type does not dictate acting style. Sometimes, different scenarios, roles, audiences, and stage locations cause stage fright. If your significant other is in the crowd, you may be nervous or act/perform differently than you normally do. If your entire family is present, or if you know you’re being observed, it’s natural for these to cause stagefright. A particular stage design may be uncomfortable or foreign to you. There are a number of reasons to be nervous, but plenty of ways to feel assured as well.

Staying Calm Through Preparation
Anxiety has a lot to do with stage fright. You can go through a calm routine before performances to help reduce stage fright. Confronting anxieties before a performance is always recommended. Is everything in place in the dressing room? Is the crew prepared? These types of issues can be handled beforehand to prevent small worries. Don’t think about questions like “Is the front of the house full? Are we sold out?” These types of questions will only stress you out and add to the stagefright. Only think of preparations that make the show run, that need to be in place for you to play your role.

Perfecting Skills in Practice
Rehearsal is the time to ask your director questions about your techniques. If you’re unsure or feel insecure about something, ask enough questions in rehearsal so you know what your character looks like, and you know to make necessary adjustments to your performance. You can’t ask enough questions when learning a role. The more questions you ask about your lines and your appearance, the more confident you will be to perform your truest character possible.

spotlight on stage

Peer Support & Perspective
Asking your cast and crew for their assessment and opinions during rehearsal can allow you an outside perspective on your character. Try asking your peers if your character appeals to emotion, logic, and reason to see if you are credible and believable as your role. If anything sticks out as improper, inappropriate, or misplaced in your character’s performance, have them point out these flaws. The more precisely you receive feedback on your performance, the more confidence you will feel in your role and the less likely you will get nervous on stage.

Most actors’ insecurities on stage come from overthinking small details or a lack of preparation. If you cover your rudimentary bases through peer support, rehearsal, and preparation, then you will most likely perform to the best of your abilities.

Teas, Honeys, and Other Natural Remedies for Sore Throats

honey in pot

When you’re preparing for opening night, your body is stressed. Running around from errands to rehearsal, while also trying to solidify lines and memorization takes a toll on your body. If your show is coming up, but you feel yourself slightly coming down with a sore throat, there are ways to feel better fast so that you can perform your best. Read through this blog if you’re looking for ways to soothe a sore throat or cold in time for opening night.

Actors often find themselves coming down with something as the big night approaches. When we’re stressed, our immune systems are lowered and we’re susceptible to catching colds. But, as always, “the show must go on!”

tea and saucer on table

Double Water and Vitamin Intake
The first step to action when realizing you’re coming down with something is to double your water intake. To be able to power through, your body will need to be extremely hydrated. Extra vitamins like Vitamin D, C, and E as well as zinc and iron pills can help you feel rejuvenated and energized when your body is struggling. The best way to get natural vitamins is by eating fruits.

Local Honey
Warm, local honey is a go-to throat soother. Using local honey helps your body become accustomed to the allergens in the air, and helps your immune system find balance when you digest the honey. Honey helps to coat your throat for protection and ease.


Stretch
Your vocal chords are muscles and can be stretched and worked out. Be VERY cautious when stretching your muscles and voice when you’re sick or have a sore throat, and if you’re not comfortable, do not push it to perform. Any vocal coach will tell you that taking chances and pushing it is very dangerous for your voice, and you would not want to risk your ability to perform.

Herbal Teas
Chamomile and lavender teas have great healing effects and can help immensely with treating sore throats. Teas with sage, thyme, lemon balm, and even hops can be soothing on the throat and can help with protection. With a little lemon and honey melted in the tea, you will definitely feel better and find yourself recovering from your cold more quickly.

Gargle Salt Water
Lastly, gargle salt water before bedtime. This helps your throat overnight when you sleep, as warm, salty water helps reduce swelling, flushes bacteria, and helps with protection.

As the saying goes,”The show must go on.” We understand that it can be stressful preparing for a role, and catching a cold is inevitable. Take these steps toward getting over a sore throat or simple cold before you have to perform, but remember, don’t push yourself. And if you are truly sick beyond a head cold, seek medical attention from your primary care doctor.

Breaking the 4th Wall

 

red stage curtains

The theater world is full of intricate terms and techniques. These ultimately help actors to perform their roles to the best of their abilities. One term used commonly among thespians is “breaking the 4th wall.” Let’s take a look at what this means, and how these terms help to keep actors focused and in tune with their character.

First, let’s get a visual of the fourth wall in our heads: picture yourself on stage, with the back curtain behind you and the two wings on each side of you. Think of these as your ‘walls.’ The fourth wall would be the invisible wall that connects you to the audience.

acting on stage

We use the term ‘breaking’ the fourth wall when we’re talking about interacting with the audience. Actors almost never want to break the fourth wall unless it’s a clearly defined moment in the script. If you break the fourth wall, this would mean you slipped up, and accidentally came out of character. Don’t worry, there are techniques you can practice to avoid this!

kid actors

Actors avoid breaking the fourth wall by always keeping a center of attention. Some actors will fixate their attention either on the back wall of the theatre auditorium, or on another specific location. Focusing their attention, and acting like they are delivering their role directly to that specific spot helps tremendously.

lights can be distracting

Many things can be distracting as an actor: lights, camera flashes (even though photography is usually prohibited, there are always those few guests) motion, people standing, and loud noises. Not breaking the fourth wall can be a challenge when acting in front of a large crowd, but that’s why actors work so hard on passion, delivery, and attention.

standing ovation

Many of the audience members are really enveloped in the show, and want to be involved with the characters as much as possible throughout their viewing experience. Some guests will try to get the attention of the actors while on stage, wave their hands, or even call out characters’ names (as very unadvised in previous blog, A Guide to Theatre Etiquette). Actors try their best to stay on script, and keep things running as smoothly as possible despite these distractions.

If you’re an actor, there are many things you can do to help practice avoiding breaking the fourth wall. Avoid audience eye contact, and focus on your next move. When rehearsing, and during dress rehearsal even more so, pick your focus point in the auditorium and have it already decided before the show.

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What Should I Bring to Rehearsal?

What do you bring to rehearsal?  Well, be prepared.  You don’t want to forget something you know you need or even something that might be nice to have…

So, before you head out, make sure your bag is packed with all of the essentials that you will definitely need.  If you bring the “definites”, then you should be ready.

  1. Script

Obvious, right?  Guess what?  Sometimes you forget the most obvious things.  It happens to everyone.  Not a bad idea to check for the script before you leave the house.

  1. Notebook

Don’t forget a pencil and/or highlighter too.  It’s a good idea to write down notes from the director, any schedule changes, steps for choreography, and even your own lines (they say you remember what you write more than what you read).  Blocking will inevitably change.  Your lines might change.  A highlighter will help with this too.

  1. Flashlight

You’re sitting there.  Waiting.  Wishing you could rehearse your lines or check out your notes because you remembered your script and a notebook.  But it’s so dark and you forgot your bleeping flashlight!

  1. Sweater

Theaters and rehearsal studios are known to be chilly.  Just sayin’.

  1. Recorder

Now I mentioned earlier that people usually remember more what they write than what they read.  Hearing is the same thing.  During some down time, record your cue lines so that you can respond to the correct characters.  Recording your own lines as you would perform them can also help with dialect, accents, intonation, etc

  1. Water bottle

Duh!  Very important to hydrate especially if you’re involved in very intense dance routines, fight scenes, etc.  Plus, water fountains are gross, and no one wants to share with you!

  1. Snack

Who knows how long you’ll be?  Rehearsal could go through lunch or dinner.  Bring something with protein and healthy fats to help keep you energized.  Because like water, no one wants to share with you.  You don’t want anything sugary either where you’ll crash in the middle of rehearsal.  Nuts, food bars, and fruit salads are good choice for snacks.

  1. Towel

No one wants to perform or rehearse through a puddle of sweat on stage.  No one wants to give you a sweaty hug or high five.  Your cast mates will appreciate that you brought a towel.

  1. Shoes

The shoes make the man…or woman…or character.  Don’t start rehearsing in say high heel shoes or work boots even if your character calls for them.  Start out in flats or tennis shoes or any other stage shoe so that you get comfortable with the routines and staging.  Once you get into the rehearsals and the costume department provides you with your character shoes or recommends what you should wear for your character should you start rehearsing in them.  Once you have this info, then you can bring them to rehearsal and start “becoming” you character.

  1. Rehearsal Outfit “Blacks”

There’s no need to stand out at rehearsal.  Save it for your character and performance.  Bring rehearsal blacks or darker colors that are easy to move in.  Jeans and dresses are not recommended unless the director has specifically instructed you to do so.

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

Ethos Pathos Logos Chart

Aristotle coined the terms ethos, logos, and pathos as the three main modes of persuasion. These are used in theatre, in literature, and tons of other practices. When actors are learning acting styles and methods, they learn about the three modes of persuasion to better their skills and create a more authentic production.

When an actor is on stage, they have the responsibility of being believable or credible. Their goal is to convince the audience of their credibility, and these three forms of persuasion are important tools actors use to do so.

To successfully persuade, you look to the three appeals. These are Ethos, Logos, and Pathos. Read on to learn more about the three modes of persuasion.

Ethos Appeal: Appealing to Ethics

Ethos is the ethical appeal, and it means to convince an audience of the author’s credibility or character. An actor would use ethos to prove to his audience that he’s credible and worth listening to. An actor appealing to ethos would use the same language as their character, and try to dress exactly like them.

Actor in Wig with Glasses and bandana

Logos Appeal: Appealing to Logic

Logos is the appeal to logic, meaning to convince the audience by using logic or reason. An actor may cite facts or statistics. An actor may appeal to logos by presenting logical or well rounded points, may cite important information, or may refer to historical analogies for explanations and proof.

Pathos Appeal: Appealing to Emotion

Pathos is the emotional appeal, meaning to convince an audience through appealing on emotional levels. Actors may evoke sympathy to try make the audience feel how the author intended for them to feel. They aim to get a certain emotion out of their actions when appealing to pathos. Pathos can be expressed by actors through language, emotional tones, or emotional events or implications.

These forms of persuasion immensely help actors sell their character. Persuasion helps the audience to believe and understand the plot and action of the production. Strong productions rely on the effective use of these persuasion techniques. By studying each mode, actors can learn how to better their styles and increase their overall credibility while on stage.

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