As I’ve previously expressed on this blog, I love tech week. It’s a semi-sadistic challenge that I adore overcoming. Preparing for tech week and figuring out how to maximize my chances of survival gives me an admittedly silly thrill. If you’re anything like me, or just looking to help your chances of not dying before your show, this article should come in handy. Here are five common mistakes to avoid during tech week, and five alternatives to take instead that will keep you happy, healthy, and in better performing condition!
DON’T use makeup wipes
Although their convenience makes makeup wipes a popular method of stage makeup removal, there’s a multitude of reasons to avoid them.
First and foremost, they’re just not very effective on their own. Depending on the brand, many wipes are too dry and use such cheap removers that removing heavy quantities of makeup is just impossible with a wipe. Further, most of us simply don’t use them correctly. When you quickly swipe the cloth all over your face, you’re not giving the makeup remover in the wipe enough time to soak into the makeup and break it down. In an effort to circumvent this problem, we usually end up scrubbing harder, which is more abrasive for your skin– now you’re just scraping the makeup off your skin instead of letting the remover dissolve it (if, indeed, your wipe is saturated enough and contains a quality enough remover to be effective at all).
Even if makeup wipes remove all of your makeup, they’re designed to do just that, and aren’t at all effective for cleaning your skin beyond the surface. Since they’re not effective for removing grime from your pores, they won’t prevent breakouts. Therefore, by the end of a strenuous tech week, you usually find your skin is tired, raw, broken out, and even painful– definitely not show-ready!
And that’s not even touching on how wasteful they are. They’re a single-use product, and despite that reassuring biodegradable label, biodegradable products are not always eco-friendly. They’re wasteful for your wallet, too, as you’re getting less bang for your buck by removing makeup with wipes than with better facial cleansers.
So what’s the alternative?…
DO cleanse your face with other products
Admittedly, alternatives to makeup wipes will probably be a more expensive up-front purchase, but they will last longer, be more versatile, and prove better for your skin and the environment. You don’t have to break the bank either, as you can probably buy these alternatives anywhere you buy your makeup wipes.
If your chief concern is simply getting makeup off, a micellar water is a potentially very cheap and easy method of removing your makeup. You can purchase a cheap bottle of micellar water in the skincare section of your local grocery, drug, or dollar store. You may also want to pick up cotton rounds or a reusable cotton pad to wipe away makeup.
However, if all you do is saturate a pad with micellar water and swipe and scrub at your face as you would with a makeup wipe, you’re not helping yourself much. Though even a cheap micellar water will be more effective than lower-quality makeup wipes, remember to let the micellar water saturate the makeup and break it down before you try to remove it! Hold the cotton pad (or whatever you’ve saturated with micellar water) to your face for a few seconds to let the product soak in, then gently wipe the makeup away. Afterwards, rinse away any residue left on the skin. (Many micellar waters say that you don’t have to rinse them off on their label. Do it anyway– some micellar waters can be drying for the skin if you leave them sit.)
While micellar water on its own is a good cleanse, if you want to take extra good care of your face and ensure your skin feels good all week long, you can also follow up with a second cleanse!
You can follow your micellar water with a face wash or some other cleansing product, such as a balm or oil. If you don’t want to break the bank, you can purchase a cheap face wash available at dollar or drug stores. This step cleanses your skin more deeply than the micellar water or wipes, and will be more effective at preventing breakouts than micellar water alone. Double-cleansing may dry out your skin, so follow everything with a moisturizer!
DON’T take tons of vitamins you don’t need
A popular myth among young singers and performers of all sorts is that taking an excessive quantity of vitamin C will keep you healthy and stave off any illnesses lying in wait to ambush you during tech. This is half-true: while vitamin C is beneficial for your immune system, taking too much of it is counter-productive. The body only stores the fat soluble vitamns A, D, E, and K– all the rest (the water soluble vitamins) are merely excreted in your urine.
Think of it this way– you can survive longer without food than without water. That’s because your body stores fat longer. The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are stored with that fat, and so your body holds on to them for more time. You can only survive a few days maximum without water, though, because the body doesn’t retain very significant quantities of water. When you consume excess vitamin C, the body has no place to store it, so you’ll simply eliminate what the body cannot absorb in your pee.
On the other hand, taking excessive quantities of fat-soluble vitamins can lead to vitamin toxicity. Vitamin toxicity can be dangerous and even life threatening, though it is rather uncommon. It is usually caused by taking several times the daily value of a given vitamin several days (or, in some cases, weeks to months) in a row.
Therefore, taking excess quantities of vitamins you don’t need isn’t helpful, and could, in the extreme, be dangerous. You’re simply wasting money at best. So…
DO get the daily vitamins you need
If you’re worried about staying healthy for tech week, you may want to download an app that will help you track your micronutrients. This way, you can easily monitor your vitamin intake and know for sure when you’re over or underachieving with your nutrition.
If that sounds like too much work, simply take the correct dosage of vitamin tablets or a daily multivitamin as desired. You will also see benefit from taking care of your other bodily needs, such as eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and maintaining proper hydration. Taking vitamins won’t help much if you’re sabotaging your health in other ways!
DON’T drink tons of sport or energy drinks
I get the idea behind chugging sports drinks backstage, and I’m certainly not in a position to judge anyone for drinking energy drinks before shows.
However, these come with a variety of unfortunate side effects. Sugary sports drinks can be detrimental when it comes to singing. Sugar, including artificial sugars, can irritate and dry the throat, causing your body to produce more phlegm to combat the dryness. (Artificial sugars, by the way, can cause severe digestive problems in high quantities, with some literally acting as laxatives. You probably don’t want to consume too much of these before performing– just because it’s “sugar-free” doesn’t mean it’s healthier!)
Anything containing large quantities of sugar or caffeine can cause blood sugar spikes or general twitchiness that’s bound to worsen pre-show jitters. And watch out for the crash! Further, caffeine is a diuretic and will likely send you to the bathroom more than is desirable during a performance.
While the allure of these drinks is understandable, they will probably do more harm than good. Instead…
DO drink more water
While any form of hydration is still hydration, plain old water will always be king for performers. It won’t contain any irritants that will dry out your mouth or vocal folds over time, it won’t act as a diuretic, and it won’t make your throat feel “sticky” from sugars.
And yes, I do mean plain water. Vinegar water, lemon water, and tea are popular pre-show tonics, but these popular solutions can sometimes do more harm than good.
If you’re in a particularly sweaty show or simply feel like sports drinks would be beneficial, consider only drinking them after the show or during intermission, when you’ll have time to “wash out” your mouth and throat by drinking plenty of water afterwards. And if you must drink that energy drink, at least try to protect yourself from negative side effects by doing it right.
DON’T hold off on using the voice at all until rehearsal
… UNLESS explicitly told to do so by a doctor or voice expert.
Vocal rest is a legitimate treatment method for a damaged voice. If you are prescribed vocal rest by an expert, or dealing with severe fatigue and pain in the throat that complete silence and rest would help with, please do so.
However, if you’re not contending with either of these factors, then going on vocal rest probably won’t be especially helpful for you, and can even be detrimental to preparing for performance.
Adhering to a strict vow of silence all day long and then going into a strenuous performance is a bit like running a marathon after doing nothing but laying in bed all day. You won’t be warmed up properly, and forcing your voice to do so much so quickly can make fatigue and injury more likely.
UNLESS vocal rest is definitely the healthful choice, you’ll be better off if you…
DO vocalize slowly, minimally, and gently throughout the day
Did you know speaking can be quite traumatic to your vocal folds? Therefore, many voice teachers recommend gently warming up your voice first thing in the morning, before speaking to anyone at all.
Warming up gently in the morning is a great way to “check in” with your voice. Take note of any pain or discomfort, as well as how the body and throat feel. Are you particularly stiff today? Phlegmy? Or feeling good? Starting your day off with a gentle, easy warmup of 5-10 minutes is a good way to keep yourself healthy and analyze where you stand going into rehearsal or performance that night.
No matter what, you definitely should use your voice mindfully during tech week to prevent injury. Don’t scream, yell, or whisper, don’t practice singing all day long, and generally avoid anything that causes your voice fatigue. If possible, reduce the amount of speaking you do. Imagine all of the vocal energy you use daily as a pitcher of water– you want to save what’s in the pitcher for your performance, so don’t use it all up during your school or work day!
To prevent the “getting out of bed and running a marathon” effect, do some gentle singing and vocalizing sporadically throughout the day. While you definitely shouldn’t spend the whole day singing to prepare, consider doing a gentle “pre-warm up” once or twice in the morning or afternoon before heading to the theater and doing your real warm up. This can help you take stock of your vocal faculties and get your voice ready for the marathon ahead.
Of course, everyone’s vocal needs are different, so different methods will work for everyone. If you need some suggestions for warming up sufficiently, consider checking out my article on the subject.
DON’T be a hero
You need no introduction to the tech week hero: you surely already know one.
Tech week hero: (Noun.) Someone who ignores all of their personal health and safety needs under the pretense of doing what’s best for the show, while actually putting themself and others in danger by neglecting to take care of themself.
“She didn’t eat anything because she was rushing to the theatre from work, and then she passed out from low blood sugar. I wish she hadn’t tried to be a tech week hero!”
Often, tech week heroes have excellent intentions, and many are accidentally made by failing to negotiate the intricacies of connecting personal, work, and theatrical lives harmoniously. They think, it’s alright if I sacrifice a bit to make this show work– it’s just for a few more days! So they miss out on sleep and nutrition, neglect other responsibilities, and as a result end up causing more problems for themselves and others than they would have if they took the time to balance everything properly.
This is easier said than done during tech week, I know! No judgement to my tech week heroes: I’ve been there, myself. Remember: If it’s so important that you sacrifice everything for this show, then it must be important that you’re in the show. Therefore, dying or being incapacitated by health issues will pose a major problem, no matter how good your intentions!
So, rather than being a tech week hero…
DO take care of yourself
Eat, sleep, and hydrate as healthfully as you can. Though it’s difficult for anyone to maintain a perfectly healthy lifestyle during tech, now is a great time to at least pretend to be as healthy as you can be. Even if you don’t normally eat right or get enough sleep, tech week is THE time to be a stickler about these habits.
Further, please take care of yourself mentally. Eliminate as much stress as possible during tech. If possible, consider taking some time off of work, or try to complete school requirements ahead of time so you’re not finishing homework in between long rehearsals.
Plan ahead, and don’t be afraid to ask for help! If you don’t have time to get dinner in between work and rehearsal, try to carry some nuts or crackers that you can eat in the car on the way. Maybe ask if a cast mate can pick something up for both of you on their way to the theater.
You’re important to your production! Therefore it’s important you keep yourself in good working condition. Try to stay healthy, and don’t be a tech week hero!