Two Sides of the Coin...that you made!

Jay Duckworth

Props Master; Props Teacher
There comes a time in a prop person’s career where they have to show an actor how to pull off a trick. It’s sometimes very simple like drawing a sword properly or not using the sword as a cane by leaning on it. These may sound like common sense points, but they all fall under a blanket of teaching. As technicians, we sometimes assume the people know skills that we use every day, but actors who do ask questions about replicating the actions of a skill are being honest with us because they want to know how to do this correctly as if they are someone who’s had that skill all their life. 

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Sound Conversations at USITT 2018

Michael Eddy

At the 2018 USITT Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Stage Directions and USITT hosted the Stage Directions Studio on the show floor. Over the three days we spoke with a wide variety of theater artisans, designers, technicians, and practitioners about their thoughts and advice on an array of topics in their respective theatrical disciplines. This month we are including some of the thoughts of two of the sound designers we sat down with during the show. They shared with us their mentors, technology, and also offered their humble advice to those starting out in a life in theatrical design. We thank them for generously share their experiences and thoughts with SD. Here are Jonathan Deans and Steve Canyon Kennedy in their own words:

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URTA Celebrates 50 Years

Lisa Mulcahy

2019 is a milestone year for the University Resident Theatre Association (URTA)—it’s the organization’s 50th year in service, and what great service has been provided. URTA’s founding intent was to foster excellence in professional theater training. During the past five decades URTA has developed a wide range of programs and services geared to assist and support students, instructors, and working professionals. Of course, MFA students also know and have participated in URTA Auditions and Interviews, where they’re seen and evaluated by top theater program faculty recruiters. URTA member universities have graduated scores of working artists who have racked up incredibly impressive credentials in every aspect of theater business and education. “Essentially, we have three missions: to support student artists; to support faculty; and to support theater professionals as they move through their training and careers,” says Tony Hagopian, URTA’s executive director. 

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Words, Words, Words

Jay Duckworth

Speaking at Maine State Music Theatre this summer, I was asked what my design process was. I said, ‘First off, read the script.’ Holy Cow, I can’t believe the number of people that I’ve worked with that just skim it over to look for ‘he hands him a hammer’. What if the actor must hit someone on the head with that hammer? 

The first time I worked with playwright Arthur Laurents he told me, ‘If you have any questions, look back into the script, and it will tell you everything.’ When I go through a script for the first time, I hit everything that is a prop with a yellow highlighter; everything that is a perishable with a red highlighter, and situational information (year, season, holidays, before and after, financial situation, day of the week, and weather trends) with a blue highlighter. 

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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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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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Shadows in the Dark

Jay Duckworth

Superstitions in the Theater
If I am ever home alone and just feeling a little lonely, I put on a scary movie and about 30 minutes later I am pretty much convinced that there is someone in the house with me. My friend’s cabin in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey has a ghost called Hazel Grunzel, the first owner of the cabin. It’s strange how we always shut more doors than any of us open! Theaters are no different; almost every theater I have worked at has a ghost or two.

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Shaking the Tree

Lisa Mulcahy

Reflections on Writing My Eighth Book
I remember my first days at Brandeis University, when I entered the school’s wonderful theater arts program as a freshman. It felt magical and special to walk into the vast Spingold Theater and imagine myself performing on its stage (which I started doing soon after, loving every minute of it). As my years at Brandeis happily progressed, I learned EVERYTHING—every aspect of top-notch theater study and practice was available right in front of me. I studied acting with the late, great Ted Kazanoff and playwrighting with the incredible Edward Albee, sang and performed many classic musical theater roles, worked as a production sound designer, studied theater history (which I found fascinating), and completed my honors thesis in directing. I learned the practical skills that made me tough enough to survive as an actress in Boston theater right after graduation, and honed the chutzpah I needed to direct, produce, and teach professionally in Boston and New York, too. 

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