Technically Speaking: Sketchy at Best

There’s a certain subset of people, less than the number of American Doctor Who fans, but more than the number of British King of the Hill fans, who like to do sketch shows in addition to Improv. These people are braver than I, but for the life of me they don’t leave me alone. If you become a hot-shot tech wizard, sketch people will knock on your door. If you answer, be prepared to up your game to a level that no improv show could possibly prepare you for.

Case Study: Tim and Micah

About a year ago I was asked to run tech for a visiting sketch show. It was a two-man group who toured nationally and were bringing the touring version to TNM Austin. I was told they wanted a tech rehearsal and knowing that sketch work required a large number of cues, agreed.

When they arrived they handed me an unmarked CD-R. It had 33 tracks.

33… tracks.

The average improv show has about 3-5 cues. Lights up, lights down, music on, music off. The trick to improv tech is knowing how to end the show, the trick to sketch tech is preparation.

Every sketch show MUST have a cue sheet for the tech. If you a directing a sketch show it is your responsibility to provide one to the tech or to take the time like Tim and Micah did to go over each and every cue so that the tech could write it down himself. The tech’s responsibility is to make sure that you make notes on each cue and let the performer know if you have any doubts about cues that you don’t think will work or you yourself are unable to make work in the given time. A complicated music-and-light combined cue may need to be toned down to just music so you’re not overwhelmed. Honesty and preparation during rehearsals will help come showtime.

33… tracks.

With 33 cues, I had my work cut out for me. To their credit, Tim and Micah knew how crazy of a request they had for me. The show was the next day and this was the only rehearsal time we would have. Luckily I was in the middle of a three-month period of my life where I was carrying a pocket notepad around. I whipped it out and got to work.

When it comes time for the show itself the best thing you can do is sit down with the director and go over any last minute changes. There will be changes, be flexible. Scenes will get moved around, actors will come up with last minute ideas to make their scenes pop, learn to love chaos like I love pie. These days, I really love pie.

By the time Tim and Micah’s show was over, I managed to hit 32 out of the 33 cues. 96.9% isn’t bad a percentage.  After running a few sketch shows, your overall confidence about running tech will increase, and more and more people will look out for you come the next show.

Mikey DoDo Out.