SMASH Fact or fiction? Episode 13 "Tech"

Happy Tuesday and welcome to the thirteenth episode of SMASH Fact or Fiction?  Welcome to all you new readers, please take a moment to read the game rules before activating your buzzers.  Thanks to New York Magazine for naming this blog as “highbrow” and “brilliant” in their approval matrix.’m thrilled to achieve such a high honor with my pooping rhino video link still intact.  I also popped up on  For fun, check it out, it’s an interview with Megan Hilty:

But now, let’s get back to America’s favorite TV trivia game show. If you’ve missed the previous posts, check out Why Smash Matters and our first nine game shows, for the pilot episode  episode two episode three episode four, episode five, episode six, episode seven, episode eight   episode nine , episode tenepisode eleven,  and episode 12.  If you are new to My Own Space the blog, my name is Sharon and I’ve been in pretty many Broadway shows.  I am also friends with Theresa Rebeck, the creator, writer, and all around guru of the show–so I am here to remind you that I am in total support of the fact that the show is, in fact,  a TV show–a fictional drama–not a documentary.  Right?  Right.  Good.  Please initialize your understanding of this fact here: ______.  We are not out to do anything except use the show as a launching point for fun conversation about the theater world.  Based on the success of A Chorus Line  and other backstage shows, we here at My Own Space assume there is a basic appreciation and curiosity of what happens behind the scenes on Broadway.  Or else, one might rightly ask, what in the world are you doing reading this blog.  Right?  Right.  If you can’t sing at least part of the song “Tomorrow”, you’re in the wrong place and should maybe try this instead.

Truth be told, you don’t really even need to watch the show to play along, but you might be confused at points and you will not win the grand prize which is hidden behind door number thirteen and is probably tickets for the studio audience of Tony Yazbeck’s pilot taping.

Here we go.  Lights up…cue theme music….

I will make a series of statements based on events in this weeks episode, and then give my opinion on whether the statements are “fact” or “fiction”.  You play along.  Get your buzzers ready.

I’m so excited.  We’re finally in an actual production and an out of time try out.  So much to talk about.  So little time.  Let’s talk tech rehearsals and out of town travel.

1)  Everyone travels to the out of town venue together.  Fact or fiction?

Fact.  Known as “company travel days” it is common for the whole company to move en masse.  You don’t have to, you can opt out and travel on your own  (and get paid the “travel stipend”), but generally speaking, everyone pretty much travels together.  While we aren’t usually dancing our way through Grand Central Station (picture instead a lot of sunglasses and Starbucks cups–we aren’t “morning people” as a general rule), there usually is a festive air.

I remember a time (this can’t still be true) when all the tours would meet in Columbus Circle to board the bus at the beginning of the tour.  Rows of actors with their giant suitcases and fanny packs.  This was circa 1993 when you could shoot a cannon through Columbus Circle and hit nothing, and Whole Foods wasn’t a blip on the horizon.

2)  It’s a-ok to walk out of tech rehearsals because you got a pilot.  Fact or fiction?

As I have not ever had a “TV out” in a contract, I turned to my friends who were more knowing about this subject. I will quote directly from my iPhone, which has been dinging all night with responses.  Thank you to my unnamed friends who gave me some hilarious responses.

Let’s cover our basis with terminology just in case you don’t know what we’re talking about.  Does everyone know what a “pilot” is?  It’s the first episode written for a TV series.  They shoot the pilot, and then it is decided whether or not the show will make it to air as a regular TV show.  Many pilots are shot that never make it to series, but it is worth the gamble because if the series hits you go from being a guy who made a few grand on a pilot to being The Fonz and making a bajillon dollars per episode and being on a lunch box.  You never know.

So here’s what I asked my friends (lets’ call them Friend A and Friend B, both of whom work at a high level on Broadway, have big-ish agents and do a lot of TV auditions.)

ME:  If you booked a pilot during tech week of a show, could you leave the show?  How quickly?  What kind of TV outs are built into a theater contract?

Friend A:  Generally with principal contracts you have a TV/film “out” clause written into your contract.  That said, were you to do that during tech week you would solidly burn that bridge and never work for those folks again.

Friend B:  You could never walk out of a show during tech unless you’re a very big deal, and even then I’d imagine it’d be even more important that you’re not gone.  On Broadway there are NO outs during “Tony season” if you are in a new show.  If you did walk out you’d be quitting and you would never work again for any of those people–best case scenario.  Worst case scenario?  Massive law suit.   Example:  When I was doing (Show I can’t mention)  I wasn’t even allowed to test for a pilot because it was a new show.  For (another show I can’t mention), I couldn’t get a “pilot out” but I am allowed to shoot one episodic and be out for 8 days max.  That’s how stingy they are.  Like, we got them to practically double their original offer but couldn’t get a pilot out.

Friend A:  The damage is in leaving the production in the lurch.   It burns a bridge badly.  But….ya get a pilot, ya get a pilot.  It’s a business.  Everybody gets it.  But…it’s a big karma/conscience F&%$.

Friend B:  Again….it’s the missing agent in SMASH dilemma.  Sometimes the agent says “F&*% your job, if you get a pilot, you’re walking.”  Then, the agent would call whoever he or she knew on the creative team and try not to burn bridges….for a principal though?  On that kind of show?  That’s big balls.  BIG.  Like, “I’m moving to LA, f&*% musical theater forever” balls.

Back to Sharon again.  Would the actor ever walk onstage during tech and “quit” to the director?  Never.  Ever.  Your agent would handle the whole thing and you’d sit in your hotel room nursing an ulcer.

3)  Tech is all about the set and the lights.  Fact or fiction?

I’ll call that fact.  Add in costumes and sound and an orchestra and yeah, I’d agree with that.  The point?  Tech has very little to do with the actors.

4)  It’s easier to find a replacement book writer and lyricist and possibly composer than it is to replace an actor.  Fact or fiction?

Fiction.  This was made for TV drama.  If the lyricist/book writer threatened to quit if they brought back an actor and they thought they might lose the composer too?  They’d have 5 other actors in there to learn the part in 2 days.  No. Big. Deal.  Actors are way more replaceable than an entire script and score and book.  No contest.  (Sorry actors).

5)  Tech rehearsals are “not for civilians” and take 100% of your concentration.  Fact or fiction?

Fiction.  Yes, they are tiring (not too tiring for a post rehearsal sing-off drunken brawl, apparently, but didn’t Megan Hilty sound fab?), but really, taxi drivers and doctors work longer and harder shifts and still go home and live a life.  (again, sorry actors).  It is totally a FACT that no one can sit in on a tech rehearsal.  That whole thing was right on the money.  Tech rehearsals are closed to the public.  It’s kind of like being seen in your wedding gown by the groom.

And now for our write in question of the week:

David M. asked:  Do people in theater really have that much sex? 

I think that is probably true in summer stock and at the college level, but at this professional level?  Nope.  Made for TV drama, David.

(For the next post in the SMASH series, go here.)

(The next installment of my new series, “Let Me Tell You What I Liked About”….featuring the new musical ONCE, appears tomorrow.  Same time, same place.)



About Sharon Wheatley

I'm a mother, an actress and a writer. I'm glad you're here.
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11 Responses to SMASH Fact or fiction? Episode 13 "Tech"

  1. MeliZoops says:

    You forgot one – "Is it true that you can get a train to Boston from Grand Central?" No.

    • skier74 says:

      Yeah, I noticed that too. Though more along the lines of "Does MetroNorth go to Boston?" Was hoping it would make this blog. Not sure if this counts. :-)

      • claudia says:

        Not only that, they got on a Metro North train and then we saw shots of them traveling on a road, surrounded by other cars.

  2. Doug says:

    Yeah, yeah, I know poor Julia is still trying to help her family heal their wounds after she slept with the leading man in the play, but I found it unbelievable that as the bookwriter/lyricist of a musical that is about to begin out of town tryouts for a Broadway opening, she would even consider remaining at home.

  3. Jenny says:

    How about – Does the Director really call light cues or call a spot cue and the hot spot to be on an actor? NO! The stage manager does that. Like the show – but those kinds of things really don't need to be wrong. :-)

  4. Nate says:

    OK, maybe tech isn’t so taxing on the Ensemble, but as a stage manager, I definitely have had to tell my husband that I can’t think about anything else during tech. Notably, during previews at an out-of-town tryout, he brought up marriage (sound familiar?), while we were carrying groceries back to my hotel suite in the hot Florida sun about 20 minutes before I had to be back at the theatre. I snapped, “Are you seriously going to ask me that question, NOW?” Fortunately, the next day was the day off, so we went to a beach resort for lunch and did the thing the right way.

  5. Peter David says:

    This site was pointed out to me on my own site and I have to say, I enjoyed going back and reading all your comments. My wife is an equity stage manager, so I've been asking her exactly these kinds of questions as we go. I recently posted about SMASH on my site at, including my predictions for what's going to happen in the finale. I'll be back here afterwards to see your analysis.


  6. Kate says:

    I am surpised this hasn't been mentioned. I can't imagine a stage manager who values her job interrupting a tech rehearsal for a birthday party.

    Also, it didn't occur to anybody that ending with the death was not going to be a crowd pleaser before the preview? I don't know what they have in mind but I would end with a full chorus of "Let Me Be Your Star" showing young hopefuls inspired by Marilyn. Theatre lives on as does the legend and so forth.

  7. Kate says:

    Also the gloves. Have these people not heard of velcro?

  8. Jeff S says:

    Obviously a Union House in Boston. One dresser trying to yank off a glove by the fingers, for the A-List celebrity? Nah… I don't think so.

  9. Deb says:

    Let me just add to the love of this blog and all your blogs, which I can hardly keep up with. I love your writing. Every bit of it. And thank goodness, now I have something to keep me from my OWN writing, that I can tell myself is worthy and inspiring.

    I also bought Theresa Rebeck's book "Free Fire Zone" (at your suggestion) and am happily reading that, when I hear, ironically, that Theresa will not be returning to "Smash" next season – "stepping down" or being kicked out, depending on what you read. WHAT? I'm sure you know this but I would love your comments (as if you have all the time in the world).

    Also according to the NYT, 4 cast members from "Smash" are being let go
    (link:… and I would love to hear your comments on that too! Also, what you think about wearing white after Memorial Day.

    Thank you Sharon – I adore you without knowing you.

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