Sunday in the Park with George

By Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine

Directed by Vince DeGeorge

Music Direction by Julie Spangler

Projections Design by Jason Bowden

Costume Design by Iris Harmon

Lighting Design by Alaina Pizzaforato

"White. A blank page or canvas."

Our director wanted to experiment with creating a blank page for our audience; to allow them to imagine the possibilities for that canvas. A minimal scenic design was created for projections to cast onto.

Act One, as represented visually, included warmly toned whites and cream colors while Act Two was intended to look more stark white and gray until the finale. I attempted to mirror these intentions with differing vocal reverbs; longer tails for act one and shorter tails for act two until the finale, which would return to the act one vocal reverb.

Presented in Cohen Family Studio Theater, this production required that the sound system cover a narrow, but deep space on two levels. Audience seating on the main floor included a set of risers, while the balcony level seating line the outskirts of the room. My goal was to provide even coverage for all seating areas while also supporting the naturalistic musical style of the piece.

The only content creation required of the sound department for this production was that which represented the breaking down of the Chromalume in Act Two. The Music for the Chromalume presentation was arranged, performed, and recorded by our music director, Julie Spangler. The sound effects required to indicate the machine's breakdown were curated by me. Here, also, is a link to the projections for this moment as designed by Jason Bowden.

 

Blue Stockings

 

By Jessica Swale

Directed by Susan Felder

Scenic Design by Noam Denenberg

Costume Design by Brittannie Travis

Lighting Design by Will Baker

This production of Blue Stockings was presented in the spring of 2022 in Patricia Corbett Thater at CCM.

Our director was interested in creating a "playground" of the mind for our cast members to inhabit and our audiences to experience. The goal was to present this piece as a play for everyone, not just women, and to push the audience to draw parallels between the educational oppression of women in Edwardian England and that same oppression as it exists in our world today.

Our director was interested in creating music for transitions that would help move the play along quickly between each vignette-like scene. She was looking for simple, layered, contemporary piano and driving percussion that could drive the action forward so as not to stagnate in the frequent despair of the piece, but to project into the joy of each moment of learning. I was asked to imagine these girls in boots as hard working intellectuals.

I utilized a piece called "Trains" by Poppy Ackroyd found by my assistant, Alena Milos, to build our theme. From that theme, we mixed and matched different rhythms and low drones with affected piano melodies to create our transitions between each scene.

As you can see from the images from the production below, our cast was masked. In addition to music and incidental sound effect support, I designed the sound system to effectively only just lift the cast's voices above the limitations of their masks to allow audiences to better understand the text of the piece.

 

Xanadu

By Douglas Carter Beane, Jeffrey Lynne, and John Farrar

Directed by Diane Lala

Music Direction by Ian Axness

Scenic Design by Mark Halpin

Costume Coordination by Brittannie Travis

Lighting Design by Alaina Pizzaforato

The stage production of Xanadu is a zany, bubbly, and nearly parodical homage to the 1980 movie of the same name that inspired the adaptation. My goal for this production was, while the visual aspects lived in a world of bubble-gum and rainbows, to seat the aural environment closer to the world of rock 'n' roll. To do so, I enlisted the help of vocal affects similar to those used on the tracks popularized by Electric Light Orchestra.

Xanadu was my first production back after the season cancellations in 2020 and spring of 2021 with full production support; live cast, band, and audiences, albeit at 50% capacity. This production did still take place mid-pandemic and was affected by campus-wide requirements for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors to be masked while indoors, which provided its own set of challenges.

The tracks below are two of very few effects created for this production. I had trouble finding an existing sound effect appropriate for the time period within which our telephone ring needed to exist. Our props department had a functional phone in stock that I was able to record using a Tele-Q.

The "Whoosh" track was an effect requested by the director to cover actor movement in the first scene. This effect was intended to mimic the sound of the muses' movements as beams of light in the movie.

Bright Star

 

Cancelled due to Covid-19

By Edie Brickell and Steve Martin

Directed by Katie Johannigman

Music Direction by Steve Goers

Scenic Design by Karissa Hodge

Costume Design by Christa Hanks

Lighting Design by Bransen Black

Story telling brings people together. Bright Star is a story of love and loss and of finding your way back home. This production aimed to create an intimacy between the audience and Alice's and Billy's stories and how they brought the two back together.

The goals of the sound design in turn became support of that intimacy with crisp, transparent support of vocals and the warm, rustic sound of Appalachian instruments. Subtle atmospherics would aid in pulling the audience right into humble Zebulon, Hayes Creek, and later Asheville, North Carolina.

Unfortunately, this production was not fully produced. In the fall of 2020, when we returned to campus, the creative and production team loaded the show into Cohen Family Studio Theater for a day of tech and a photo call with two masked cast members.

Eurydice

 

By Sarah Ruhl

A Theoretical Design Project

Region Three of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival 2018

-Earned honorable mention-

The world of Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice revolves around music, which is made obvious by the choice to structure and organize using musical terminology, such as "movements" in the stead of acts, as well as lyrical styles of dialogue, Orpheus' profession, and the a variety of other nods to musicality. In addition to themes of loss, sorrow, memory, sacrifice, and love, musicality is a theme that can uniquely illustrate each of the other themes present. A simple melody and variations of it were composed and could be used to aid in illustrating the musical through-line as well as the focus and stakes of each individual "movement." Necessary sound effects also incorporated elements of the Eurydice's theme.

 

Obama-ology

By Aurin Squire

Directed by Shea King

Scenic Design by Maddy Dozat

Costume Design by Blaine Shepherd

Lighting and Projections Designs by Ethan Sepa

This production of Obama-ology revolved around the concept of change and the temporary nature of campaign offices, and running in rep with Evita meant the design elements needed to help bring our audience into 2008 despite the 1940s-era tango bar setting that was permanent to our space at the time. A large portion of the sound design needed to establish the locations of our scenes as we moved from the campaign office to the streets of Cleveland as Warren canvased to the eventual triumph of the election night celebrations and finally the prospect of moving forward into the change the election of 2008 garnered hope for. This fast-paced piece relied on "campaign instructors" to guide our volunteers. the audience, through the ins and outs of working for a campaign. Each of these shifts in the subject, following Warren's illustration of instructions, was signaled by various accents reminiscent of a phone or computer notification a la 2008.

 

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Karen Kessler

Scenic Design by Adam Borchers

Costume Design by Grace Wylie

Lighting Design by Mickie Marie

Pericles is a story of life's journeys. Pericles journeys not only literally across his world, but through the realities of love and loss, and of finding his place as a leader.  This production was interested in exploring how his journey affects the world around him, and how the world around him guides his journey. Pericles is the first realized production for which I tried my hand at using original music to establish original themes for each location our Prince of Tyre graces and each turning point in his journey. As music is a staple element of Shakespeare's plays, I also aimed to let music guide the construction of incidental effects and ambient sounds, specifically in regard to the storms and shipwreck.

Bunkerville: A Post-Apocalyptic Musical

By Mark Sonnenblick

Directed by Matthew Reeder

Music Directed by Michael Elliott

Scenic Design by Adam Borchers

Costume Design by Grace Wylie

Lighting Design by Austin Zimmerman

Bunkerville: A Post-Apocalyptic Musical is a story about Steve, an annoyingly confident journalist, living in the underground city of Bunkerville. Steve gets swindled by his coworkers into believing the world outside is safe, and ventures out of the bunker to prove it. In his ventures, he meets mutants, a gun-happy mutant slayer named Fluffy, and a cult of technology-and-mutant-hating, hippie-like humans who believe in Earilalooloo, the earth goddess. Steve and friends, Fluffy and Greg, a mutant, befriend the cultists and have to hide their true identities in order to gain their trust and eventually fight the cult leader’s plot to destroy Bunkerville.

The inspiration for our world of Bunkerville was in comic books, graphic novels, and video games. Heightened design elements were intended to lend to the self-aware nature of the script and the ridiculous nature of its content. The sound design took its cues from the realm of video games. The use of sound to help illustrate and accent specific actions, accomplishments/failures, and other plot developments, as well as establish the environment/setting of a few scenes, were key goals of this design.

Bunkerville was produced in a "black-box" space that lent it's preexisting rugged, i.e. cinder block, aesthetic to the world of the piece, which led to a variety of challenges regarding the amplification of this pop-rock musical. Additionally, the layout and infrastructure of the space necessitated the use of networking the sound system. I took advantage of Yamaha CL series and Rios, Shure ULXD, and Dante Virtual Soundcard compatibility to fulfill the needs of the system.

The tracks below feature Nate Shumate as Steve and Civil Defense Instructor, Michael Elliott as a Newscaster, Michael O'Hara as a Newscaster, Brent Knipper as a Newscaster, and Pete Zapp as a Newscaster.

 

Shrek the Musical

By David Lindsay-Abaire

Directed by Bill Jenkins and Sutton Foster

Music Directed by Michael Elliott

Scenic Design by Kip Shawger

Costume Design by Emily Bushá

Lighting Design by Mickie Marie and Violet Smith

The big, bright, beautiful world of Shrek the Musical, as produced by Ball State University in the spring of 2017, aimed to bring audiences into the swamp; to help them identify with the wide variety of characters and celebrate theirs and each others' differences.

This production was my very first large scale musical design with a cast of 32 and 15-piece orchestra. Due to the busy nature of the ensemble roles in the show, we needed to get creative with mic placement for those cast members and for Shrek whose overhead cowl restricted our placement options. Shrek's mic eventually made its way through the foam-front piece of the face of his cowl, resting just above his cheekbone, and was dressed to look like a mole.

The tracks below feature the voices of Reagan Pender as Shrek and Amanda Walker as Fiona.

 

The Great God Pan

By Amy Herzog

Directed by Karen Kessler

Scenic Design by Gavin Mosier

Costume Design by Sarah Carmen

Lighting Design by Savannah Cousins

This production of Amy Herzog’s The Great God Pan was conceptually centered around the theme of memories, both vivid and vague, of Jamie, an early-thirty-something just getting his footing as a writer. Through small frames of memory we see into Jamie’s relationship with his parents, girlfriend, former babysitter, and childhood friend, and how Jamie uses and pulls support from those relationships to try to put lost memories back together.

The goal of this production’s concept was to create a tense environment. The scenic/props designs used a very minimal amount of set pieces because their focus was a low-hanging installation of frames, each containing an object referenced by Jamie in speaking of his childhood. The area of lighting used isolation, stark angles, and shadow. Both areas created a sense of pressure in our black-box space, which made it feel smaller and oppressive to our audiences. The sound design then needed to not only provide locational support, but also from house open to the end of the show, support the sense of pressure in the space. The sound design progressively moves closer and closer to a resolution of tension as Jamie discovers more about his past. 

Jamie’s theme is one piece of music, used in transitions through out the play. The piece, “Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears” by A Winged Victory for the Sullen, was chosen because of its intense build from beginning to end. The piece has a sense of pressure that only almost releases in the last thirty seconds of the piece, which were used to transition into the final scene of the play. Paige and Joelle’s theme has a similar build, but the piece is constructed with more delicate instruments. Paige and Joelle’s rocky relationship of friendliness and tension due to their roles in each other’s lives is never resolved, so we never hear the resolution of their theme, “Threnody” by Goldmund, in the play. “Familiar” by Nils Frahm was chosen to cap off the final scene, as Jamie is presented with more clarity about his potentially lost memories, because it begins with a walking-pace tempo and a sense of movement forward. Jamie has a lot of work to do and a lot of soul-searching to accomplish to figure out if he’s going to let something he’s forgotten affect the rest of his life. There is no release of tension; only movement forward.