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

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:

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Cast on the set of Beetlejuice
Cast on the set of Beetlejuice

Designing from the Inside Out: A Conversation with David Korins

Howard Sherman

Set designer David Korins’s work has been seen on Broadway in, among others, Bridge and Tunnel, War Paint, Passing Strange, Chinglish, and Bring It On. His Off-Broadway credits include Here Lies Love, Oedipus at Palm Springs, Yellowface, Found and The Low Road. He spoke with Stage Directions about his biggest recent projects: The Hamilton Exhibition, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, and Beetlejuice

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DeWanda Wise & Khris Davis in Atlantic Theater Company’s world premiere production of Fireflies.  (Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster)
DeWanda Wise & Khris Davis in Atlantic Theater Company’s world premiere production of Fireflies. (Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster)

A Conversation with Costume Designer Dede Ayite

Howard Sherman

With a resume of recent costume design credits including American Son and Children of a Lesser God on Broadway, Fireflies at Atlantic Theatre Company, Slave Play at New York Theatre Workshop and School Girls, or The African Mean Girls Play for MCC Theater, it’s slightly surprising to learn a few facts about Dede Ayite’s education and training. “I double majored in theater and behavioral neuroscience,” says Ayite, a graduate of Lehigh University. As for her graduate work at Yale School of Drama? “Scene design,” she explains.

Ayite connects the dots that took her through various courses of study to her burgeoning costume design career. Growing up in Ghana and only moving to the U.S. in her final years of high school, Ayite recalls, “I’d very much been into clothing and fashion in Ghana. You have your own clothes made, so that was very exciting for me. I would just sketch it out, and then I would go to the seamstress’s and spend the day there, just hang out, to see what they’re doing, how they’re putting things together. But it was just something you do for fun. I enjoyed it.”

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Theater of War's Antigone in Ferguson at Harlem Stage
Theater of War's Antigone in Ferguson at Harlem Stage

Reordering the Hierarchy of Culture: Bryan Doerries and Theater of War

Howard Sherman

"Our belief is that when you approach audiences with a reverence for the intelligence and the experience that’s in every room, and the humility for what might be possible, new things are possible in the theatre.” 

Those are the words of Bryan Doerries, founder of Theater of War Productions, which for a decade has been bringing classic works by Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides and others to military audiences, revealing how works that are some 2,500 years old still hold meaning and emotional power for present-day audiences, particularly those dealing with some of the greatest challenges anyone can face. Doerries chronicled his own work with both currently serving members of the military, as well as veterans’ groups, in his 2015 book, The Theater of War. In conversation with SD in November, Doerries suggested that while that work continues, it represented merely Act I of his utilization of the classics, with Act II now underway as the company expands to now serve not only the military but the mental health, medical, prison, justice communities and those affected by disasters.

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A Career in Consoles, Catching up with Anne Valentino

Michael Eddy

To say Anne Valentino has been influential in the development of lighting control consoles in our industry would be an understatement. She has been involved in the development of some of the industry’s most defining lighting control products. Most recognized for her work and guidance in the development of ETC’s family of consoles, who she began working with in 1990, Valentino has also worked with Kliegl Bros, Strand, Vari-Lite, and PRG, during her nearly 30-year career. If you have run a lighting console from any of these manufacturers, odds are insanely good that Valentino’s work was an important part of that board. Currently, she is the Eos Product Manager with ETC and is involved with console development from inception through development, and then taking it to the market. Many lighting designers and programmers have worked with, given feedback to, and been trained on the consoles by Valentino at tradeshows and training sessions all over the world. Her contributions to the industry have been deservedly recognized as well. She received the prestigious Gottelier Award in 2016 and in 2018 USITT honored her with the Lighting Design & Technology Distinguished Achievement Award. While at USITT, Stage Directions caught up with Valentino to talk a bit about her career.

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Prop Master Kristine Holmes
Prop Master Kristine Holmes

Kristine Holmes is A (25) Seasoned Props Master

Lisa Mulchay

As the full-time manager of the properties department at Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company, Kristine Holmes has spent 25 seasons building and sourcing props for scores of productions. Having been properties master for over 175 shows during her career, Holmes has worked on both regional and Broadway productions of Hedda Gabler and Private Lives. She has also fabricated props for many Disney Cruise Line Productions and has spent 18 seasons as the set decorator for PBS’s Antiques Roadshow. In 2014, the Huntington honored Holmes with the Gerard and Sherryl Cohen Award, recognizing the quality of her work and contributions to the company’s long-standing success.

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Celia Gooding & Antonio Cipriano in A.R.T.’s Jagged Little Pill (Photo: Evgenia Eliseeva)
Celia Gooding & Antonio Cipriano in A.R.T.’s Jagged Little Pill (Photo: Evgenia Eliseeva)

An Immersive Audio Experience on Jagged Little Pill

Wilson Burke

The rock musical, Jagged Little Pill, scheduled to open on Broadway in fall of 2019, had its world premiere at the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) with a sound design by renowned sound designer Jonathan Deans.  The well-received high-energy musical is inspired by Alanis Morissette’s Grammy-winning 1995 album of the same name and features music and lyrics by Morissette and Glen Ballard paired with a book by Diablo Cody. Deans, a pioneer in immersive audio technologies, pushed the limits of immersive sound design for the show, which moves seamlessly between interior intimacy and arena-sized intensity. 

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Sound Designer Scott Lehrer on his Audio Choices for Carousel on Broadway

Stage Directions

The 2018 revival of Carousel, which started previews in February, just finished up its Broadway run at the Imperial Theatre in NYC. Rogers and Hammerstein’s 1945 classic was revived with a fully digital sound design by Scott Lehrer, whose design was nominated for a Tony Award.

There’s a lot of music in Carousel, from “If I Loved You” to the vocal challenge of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, with 34 actors on stage and a fully acoustic—no electronic instruments—orchestra of 26. Sound design for the musical played a crucial role and was made possible by Lehrer’s technical expertise. Lehrer’s associate sound designer was Alex Neumann and the A1 for the show was Carin Ford.

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The Grand Hall Rises as Battersea Arts Centre Reopens

Howard Sherman

That the Battersea Arts Centre in London is calling its current programming roster its Phoenix Season should come as no surprise to anyone aware of the venue’s recent history. In early 2015, an overnight fire rendered the Grand Hall, the largest space in the century-old facility, a charred wreck, with little but the exterior walls remaining. Fortunately, the construction of the building was such that the while the Grand Hall was a shambles, the other parts of the building, equally historic, escaped any significant damage. Unlike most organizations facing such devastation, BAC was already discussing reconstruction with architects the day after the disaster. How did they manage to set to planning so quickly?

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