BWW Blog: SCANDALOUS' Elizabeth Ward Land - Praising the Sound Guys
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by Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Ward Land
Please allow me to introduce you to the fantastic team that helps you hear us each night here at SCANDALOUS. Designed and led by Ken Travis, the SCANDALOUS Sound Guys are Lucas Indelicato and Charles Grieco. They are responsible for the day to day operation of the sound board and all the mics for the cast and orchestra.
Each member of the cast and orchestra has their own microphone, which has to be maintained and mixed thru the system that allows you to hear them in the house. Most of the female members of the cast wear their mic packs on their heads (this allows for less readjusting and maneuvering during costume and wig changes, but puts a bit of strain on your neck and head). Carolee wears two mics, in case one shorts out. After pin-curling your hair and placing a wig cap over the "prep", the mic is pinned into the net to secure it. Another wig cap, and, eventually, the wig are placed over it, with the mic head placed on your face. The male members of the cast wear their mic packs around their waist or mid-back, and wear the mic head in a clip over their ear if they don't have a wig. The sound is controlled by the sound engineer (Lucas) at the sound board.
Lucas is completely "off-book" for the entire show - which means that he knows every line of dialogue, the lyrics of each song, and who says them. He follows it all with his hands, as he brings the 12 faders up and down as each character speaks or sings. Each scene is pre-programmed in the computer, with information about which characters are in which scene, etc. Then, Lucas controls the volume levels and and on and off for each mic. (Mics are turned up only when you are speaking or singing.) While we were in previews, and still in the midst of things changing, the sound team had to constantly re-program and update each sound cue before the evening performance, making sure that they cues were assigned to the appropriate characters.
One of the more specific challenges of mixing SCANDALOUS is mixing the orchestra. Our orchestra is hidden under the stage, with the percussion and bass in a sound booth of their own and one of the keyboards in the hallway! So, the challenge is to make them heard at an appropriate level in the audience, but also so that they can all hear each other in order to be able to play. (They wear earphones and hear thru those but many of them keep one ear open to hear acoustically, too). Not only does the sound board control what the audience is hearing of the orchestra, but they control what the actors on stage hear of the orchestra, too, since we can't hear them acoustically. The sound board operator always controls the mic levels for the orchestra, but usually they are heard acoustically as the sound comes out of the pit, too. There are speakers placed all over the stage proscenium.
Charlie runs the "deck audio", and will eventually learn how to run the show from the board. This will help alleviate any burn out that Lucas is feeling from mixing the show. The over two hours of intense concentration while running the show, along with the long hours (8AM to midnight for the past six weeks) can a toll on anyone's concentration levels. They will first have to teach someone what Charles does backstage (prepping all the mics, checking mic placement on actors, troubleshooting anything that happens during the show, etc) and then begin teaching Charles the show from the sound board, scene by scene. They estimated this would be about a three-week process, and would begin sometime soon. (One interesting side note - John Kelly, who works in electrics, helps out for one cue by placing the mics inside the two hoods that the actors wear to play the Klu Klux Klan Members and are only used for those few lines!)
Both Lucas and Charlie prefer starting a show from its beginnings, rather than coming into a show that is already running. They know first hand what the director and creative staff have in mind, and have a good idea of the original intention of the sound design, which helps maintain it as the show runs and the human elements (sickness, vocal fatigue, understudies,etc) start coming into play.
Thanks so much, for all you do to make us sound so great!