The Technical Director: an often undervalued member of the production team. Stage unravel this essential and unique role as we chat to Dragos about his job description, his plans for the year and how to get involved.
Q: First, why are you a tech director and what is there to enjoy about the role?
A: It is a great way to get involved in all the parts of theatre. There is a satisfaction to be had when things work well if you are techy but there is also the creative side with plays like Agency. Being in control of sounds that the actors reply to is a form of performing. You are a part of the environment that allows for the actors to reply on stage and you have the creative vision for the lighting designs and soundscapes. For me, it is the best amalgamation of what makes theatre what it is.
Q: Why has there been a shortage of tech directors in the last few years?
A: There are two very big reasons why, three if you count Covid-19. The obvious: there has not been an opportunity to get in and gain the confidence that comes with training. But outside of this, the job is very stressful, and so far it has been done with few people. It is a very big-time commitment in production weeks. Lots of shows and few TDs means that there is a lot of burnouts. However, I hope [the number of techies] will be on the rise with workshops set up this year, and soon there should be more people comfortable doing it. It is looking encouraging again with the friendly attitude we have and lots of new gear this year.
Q: How do you think that those of us in theatre could do better to avoid any last-minute labour with less prod week stress?
A: James Robinson, my fellow technician, is introducing something where as soon as the prod team is selected by the theatre company, then we should include a tech director from day one and all sit down and coordinate the vision. This is key for the directors to come and start a conversation early rather than just leave it to prod week. Last year of course this was super tough with Covid-19 as we couldn’t get in earlier. But as techies, we can read the script, and approach the directors and also play with ideas. This is something I would encourage both sides to be open too, as choices should be made from all sides. So, embrace it, as who would know better about the lights than the guy or girl who turns the lights on and off all day.
Q: What would be some advice to tech keen freshers and overall, why should people get involved?
A: Why should they get involved? Because it is the best part of theatre, quote me on that (grins and chuckles). I want to avoid throwing anyone in at the deep end as just because you come to training, it does not mean that anyone is going to snatch you up and make you a TD two weeks later. This is however what happened a lot when there were so few of us. But with lots of chances to shadow, and to assist, to just come in if you are interested to find out what we do, then this would be a great thing. I see a lot of people who start as a producer or AD and then don’t want to branch out, when it would be wonderful if they did, as we would have many more well-rounded creators. Even if you are not interested in theatre in the long term which is totally fair. It would be perhaps cool to finish university, and say, ‘Hey, I’m now an engineer, but remember that one time we did that play’… that would be cool. There are so many aspects of theatre, and tech is just one of them, and I really encourage people to want to take these head-on. If you are scared about this in any way just come along to the tech box, grab a coffee, and hang out, and we would be glad to have you.
Image credit: Penny Whetton via Flickr