A Conversation with Distinguished Achievement Award-winning Sound Designer Eileen Smitheimer

by Michael Eddy

Eileen Smitheimer is a theater professional and educator focusing on sound and lighting design. She has been designing and assistant designing for more than 30 years across the United States and Europe. Smitheimer served for 22 years as the head of audio for the Professional Theatre Training Program, the former graduate theater conservatory at the University of Delaware (UD). Currently, she is an associate professor in UD’s Department of Theatre, as well as resident sound designer and sound supervisor for the Resident Ensemble Players, the university’s professional theater company. At the 2019 USITT Conference in Louisville, KY, Smitheimer was honored with the 2019 Distinguished Achievement Award in Sound Design and Technology. She is the first woman to receive the DAA in sound design. The DAAs honor individuals who have established meritorious careers in specific fields of expertise in any area of design or technology in the performing arts. Smitheimer, who received her B.A. and E.E.T. degrees from Purdue University, has been an active member of the USITT Sound Commission for 35 years where she is a vice-commissioner. She is a member of TSDCA and the OISTAT Sound Design Group and was also part of the planning and staffing committee for the Sound and Lighting Design Exposition at the 2003 and 2007 Prague Quadrennials. We caught up with Smitheimer at USITT 2019 for a brief conversation:

A Q&A with Resident Sound Designer Robert Gilmartin at The Marriott Theatre

by Michael Eddy

The Marriott Theatre was founded in 1975 and has grown to be a staple of the Chicago theater scene. It has presented more than 180 productions to an estimated 11 million people over the years. With a well-deserved reputation for its productions of classic American musicals, The Marriott Theatre is also known for the development of original and re-imagined musicals. As a founding member of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre it assists and fosters artists in creating new works for the stage. It has also produced the regional premieres of many Broadway shows throughout its history, including A Chorus Line, They’re Playing Our Song, Miss Saigon, Cats, Beauty and The Beast, The Producers, Les Misérables, and Legally Blonde. Along with its regular full season of productions, Marriott also produces Marriott’s Theatre for Young Audiences, presenting original works as well as classic fairy tales in special one-hour productions. They have produced more than 75 shows, seen by over 2 million children. We recently spoke with Robert Gilmartin, Marriott’s resident sound designer. Gilmartin also oversees all the audio needs at the theater. His team consist of himself and sound engineer Sarah Ortiz, and between them they handle the main productions as well as the children’s theater presentations. Gilmartin has been with the company since 2007 and has done around 100 productions at The Marriott.

Pips Island Enchants Young Theatergoers

by Stage Directions

Immersive theater pieces have for some time been realized for the most part focused on drawing adult theater audiences. Though Stage Directions, in December 2017, did cover Punchdrunk’s Fallow Cross experience in London, which was geared towards elementary to middle school ages, Pip’s Island draws an even younger audience of 4-10 year olds. Yet it should be noted that with the quality of the creative design work and realization of Pip’s Island, adults accompanying the youngsters are apt to be just as transported in wonder. A truly immersive theatrical experience, which had a limited run that was quickly sold out in 2016, returned to New York City this April in a new custom-built, state-of-the-art permanent location on 42nd Street at 9th Ave to rave reviews by critics, parents, and most importantly, the under 10 yr. old theatergoers. Developed over five years, the creation of the sister-and-brother partnership of Rania & Rami Ajami, and creative director Walter Krudop, Pip's is an hour-long walk-through journey filled with a mix of live performers, puppets, interactive set-pieces, and animated characters. Pip’s Island boasts beautiful design and fabrication work throughout nine distinctive environments, modern technology, and an imaginative interactive narrative that turns the young audience into adventuring explorers helping the hero Pip and his fellow adventurers Pebble and Finn save the island. 

Rights are right...

by Michael Eddy

Welcome to the June issue of Stage Directions magazine. Once again, students are graduating and moving on to the next stage of their studies, professional training, and/or starting the work of their professional career. For many, work in summer stock is the most immediate thing on the horizon. Spring also brings spring openings of new productions on stages across the country. Some revivals, some brand new original works and some new works from other sources, especially film adaptations. Film to stage has been a trend that seems to keep building momentum and one that adds a layer to a topic that is very important to any artist—theater or otherwise—copyright. 

The Pros, The Cons, and The Promise of Alien the Play

by Howard Sherman
in Feature
Alien the Play at North Bergen High School (photo: Howard Sherman)
Alien the Play at North Bergen High School (photo: Howard Sherman)

In space, you may have heard, no one can hear you scream. However, in North Bergen, NJ, when you scream in outer space, you can be heard around the world.

That was the case when North Bergen High School mounted Alien the Play, an adaptation of and homage to Ridley Scott’s celebrated 1979 film, which at the root of the movie’s stunning visual sci-fi design, was about a group of people trapped in a haunted house with a monster, only in this case, the house was a space ship.