Sarah Van Auken’s Tech Week and Opening Weekend

We asked DSF’s Hermia, Sarah Van Auken, to share her thoughts on Tech Week and the Opening Weekend of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Sarah is a recent graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and has performed with such companies as Simpatico Theatre Project and Inis Nua Theatre.

Sarah Van Auken
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listens to Jamal Douglas (Lysander) “riddle very prettily.” [Photo: Alexandra Orgera]

We have opened! We had a long week to get here, but what a successful opening weekend it has been! The last week of rehearsals is known as “tech week”. A week that proves to me time and time again that theater is one of the most (if not the most) collaborative art forms. It is just what it sounds like: all of the technical elements are added in. Normally, tech processes include what’s called, “cue to cue”, which basically means you skip around and go from one light or sound effect to another. In other words: a lot of stopping and starting which leaves little time for acting. Then, eventually, you are able to put the pieces together: the fully built set with the lights, the sound, the costumes, and the actors. As you can imagine, a lot goes into this, especially when you are outside.

However, despite the obstacles (not to mention how little time we had), this tech process was a piece of cake. Thanks to our steadfast director (David Stradley), our talented and diligent lighting and sound designers, our awesome apprentices (getting there early and working their tails off), our on-the-ball stage manager (Melanie Leeds), and all DelShakes people alike, we were pretty much running the show on the first day of tech! During our runs, the actors were able to sit out in the audience and listen to how our voices carried over the speakers – a large concern of mine from the beginning that turned out to be just fine. Blocking became much more clear with our set fully built, with some tweaking here and there, of course (since the space is so wonderfully vast). We were able wear our costumes and get comfortable in them, which is always a great experience for me because I get a more concrete idea of how my character moves. And my favorite part of this tech experience was when we were able to run the show with the sun setting and the fireflies a-glowing.

Then, before we knew it, we had opened and the final, and in my opinion most important element to the theatrical experience came to fill the seats: the audience. All of our audiences this past weekend were gracious, open and responsive, which is always a plus for the actors. But, the process for me doesn’t stop there. I find that my performance always grows once the audience is there to respond. I believe my own performance, and the show as a whole has already grown in one weekend! And although we were rained upon mid-show on Sunday, my spirits are high. I cannot wait to see how Midsummer grows from here! Come one come all! It’s a collaborative, fun, magical event amongst the fireflies and fairies that is not to be missed.