Tech: Here for It, #322

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?

Once again I am writing you from Tech for a new play.

This is not a popular opinion, I'm sure, but I love tech week. This is the time in a play's production when we move from the rehearsal room to the stage and each design department--set, lights, projection, sound, props, costumes--puts the pieces together. Run of the room shifts to the stage manager, who has to create every cue--basically any time the lights change, a sound is made, etc.--the stage manager has to call it. Tech week is a time when we put that together second by second. Actors are on stage often doing the same 20 seconds of text over and over again while adjustments are made to when the call is made, how long it is, what it looks like, what it sounds like, et cetera. Famously, it is also a time, if you're a character in the seminal TV show Smash when you'll receive and ill-timed proposal.

(Here's the thing, though! Tech days are called 8 out of 10s, meaning you work 8 out of 10 hours, usually doing a 2-hour break [thank you unions!] around like 4pm. Before the pandemic, they were 10 out of 12s. So, what was Katherine McPhee doing having a fancy primetime dinner in the middle of tech?! Y'all meeting at the Times Square Olive Garden at 4pm Eastern Standard Time?! Gobbledygook! I love Smash!)

Anyway, I love Tech Week. It's the least isolated part of playwriting, despite the fact that most of the time I'm just sitting in the back of the theater in the dark, trying and failing to resist the box of Cheetos on the snack table.

(I am also dedicating down time to answering questions from my new, forthcoming advice column. If you want to submit a question anonymously, you can do that here!)

Tech Week is useful for me to be here in a new play process--or even in tech for a play that has been done before--because I learn a lot about my own play. I learn places where I've written things that can better be illustrated using design or places where I've written with one intention and it's been read with another intention. I learn what's possible--literally anything. And I learn what's inadvertantly expensive, lol.

Ya boy be writing stage directions like "he turns into a frog and then flies into the sky". This is the problem with the arts--they make you believe anything is possible.

And this is the opportunity with Tech Week: you learn that anything actually is possible. It's just going to take a few hours of team work.

There's a line close to the end of the play where a character says "A tree alone is at the mercy of the elements. It has no other roots on which to depend. But in the forest, the trees connect." This is said as a metaphor of liberation work, of resistance communities, which is the substance of the play. But I also think of it as a metaphor of art-making. Writing a play is often a lonely process, one that I'm always trying to make more communal and collaborative.

Me having a professional conversation.

Even rehearsing a play can sometimes be lonely. Most of the time, when people do a play, the playwright isn't there; more often than not the playwright is dead. There have even been some processes where I have been in the room and everyone was still like "Wait, didn't you die in 1616? And didn't Christopher Marlowe technically write some of your best stuff. Anyway, uh, just sit your corpse over there and don't make noise."

But Tech Week is a forest, a collaborative body with a root system that grows and expands in real-time, growing more complex and more supportive, all in service of a story we get to tell you together.

(Speaking of collaboration: Our lighting designer, Natalie Robin, who also worked wonders on my play Backing Track, is releasing a new book on theatre and labor practices called Theatre Work: Reimagining the Labor of Theatrical Production. I highly recommend it!)

Some of Natalie's stunning work on Backing Track. Pictured, Bren Thomas and Carl Hsu. Photo by Wide-Eyed Studios.

All this to say, COME SEE MY NEW PLAY. It's very good and I am not saying that to boost my ego. This is a beautiful forest and it only appears May 2 through May 19.

Question of the week!

A sneak preview of my forthcoming advice column! Send me your questions anonymously here!

Dear Eric,
I retired early and don’t know what to say when people ask derisively “what do you do all day?” Any sassy comebacks?
Out of Office

Dear Out of Office,

Try this: “What do I do all day? Whatever I want.” Or, if you’re feeling particularly like a razor sharp diva on Dynasty, try saying “I spend my days pursuing joy, discovery, and personal fulfillment. I know you can’t relate.” Enjoy your days (however you want!)

Send questions to or submit them anonymously here.

Let's hang out!

On May 10th, I'll be at the Black Affinity Night at Army of Lovers! More info here!

On May 11th I'll be at Books in Bloom in Columbia, MD! More info here!

On May 16th, I'll be at the LGBTQ+ Affinity Night at Army of Lovers! More info here!

On May 18th, I'll be at the Gaithersburg Book Festival with Helen Ellis! More info here!

didn't you die in 1616?,