What in the world is a paper tech, Q to Q, and tech?
If you are interested in theatre and improving your craft, backstage is a part of it. I’m studying to become a stage manager which I will cover in another article. These 3 different terms are thrown about and seemingly interchangeable. Although they are similar, they have very different defining characteristics. I want to provide you with information about them and help you to make the decision about what works for you and what you could bring to your theatre program to help to create a better program.
Paper tech is something that I was just recently introduced to in the past year. I very much enjoy having a paper tech. A paper tech is where you sit down with your designers and go through the different cue lists and adding them to your cue book. This is mostly for lighting and sound but projections or other aspects can be included. Depending on the amount of cues, a paper tech could take less than an hour to multiple hours. It is in this meeting that you talk through what cues are called together, what each does, and when the designer would like the cue to be called. These are very helpful because theatre mainly just have designers email their cue lists to the stage manager to put into their book. Face to face communication allows for all questions to be raised at once and that designers are happy when the cues will be called. The downside is that you are not seeing or hearing any of them, just transcribing them into your book. Although I find these to be very helpful, many professional theatre skip over them due to budget reasons and they find it would be more cost effective to do to a Q to Q or tech.
Q to Q
The title says it all. This is where you start at the beginning and jump pages moving cue to cue. These can be done with or without actors. If you are doing it without actors, it is mostly for the director to be able to see the lights and set levels for sound. Moving components such as a set piece is not usually worked during a Q to Q. These can be helpful especially if your tech is a couple days away. This gives the designers some time to work and make changes to their cues. For example if the light doesn’t reach a part of the stage or the director would like to hear different transition music. Although lights need actors, many lighting problems would not be able to be detected if your Q to Q is running without actors. Running crew is generally not needed for a Q to Q and professional theatre may have one to see elements of the show without having to deal with actor equity requirements for limits of hours worked and payment for actors and crew.
This is where all the elements are added together except costumes. Costumes are added in 1st dress where they can be the main focus and all transitions are closer to the speed they will be in show conditions for an accurate quick change. The show is run from start to finish with stops and rerunning transitions or difficult cue sequences. Depending on the length of the sow and the amount of cues, tech can run for a couple of days. Depending on time pressures a tech may turn into a Q to Q.
As you can see there are some major differences between a paper tech, Q to Q, and tech. All have their own pros and cons for using them. Tech is usually one that is used with either a Q to Q or paper tech. All 3 are not used together because it becomes repetitive and is not a good use of time. I would lean towards using a paper tech and a tech for a show. In the end it all depends on your show, director, and theatre. Take what works for you but it is always a good idea to know the differences and how to preforms a paper tech, Q to Q, and a tech as a stage manager. It is always a good idea to expand your knowledge in theatre to other aspects of the process!