More from Mikhail

by Bryan Reesman

Sound Designer Mikhail Fiksel
Sound Designer Mikhail Fiksel
Sound Designer Mikhail Fiksel talks about the perils of over-miking.

Mikhail Fiksel designed sound for The Hypocrites in Chicago for a new adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. The full interview will be posted on March 1, but for now, here’s a little more about audience reaction and the perils of over-miking.


How people have reacted so far the show?

It’s a lot of fun and so far it’s been very well received. It’s actually a fresh approach to a classic. I’ll be the first person to say that I’m not a huge fan of Gilbert and Sullivan, but suddenly seeing it in a refreshing way got me appreciating how it is incredibly smart and witty musically and linguistically. This is not a huge exaggeration: they made a party out of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. You walk in there and feel that this is a social environment where we get empowered to have fun. The actors are having fun, but the audience is also having fun. A lot of it has to do with staging but also with the music and the joyfulness within that music.

These days musicals and some bigger dramatic productions have mics everywhere.

To be honest, these days I think we over mic too much, especially musicals. I totally understand when you’ve got a large pit and have a large space that you want to do that, but in Chicago especially there a lot of spaces that are small enough where with proper treatment of dynamics of the band, placement of the band, or just teaching the band to control the volume, having 12 wireless mics in a 70-seat house seems a bit of overkill. That is definitely a battle that I fight with directors all the time because I prefer, as much as I can, not to make the mics noticed. They’re there as reinforcement, not as replacement, for natural projection. I think movies have really done a number on us; we’re used to hearing things front and center, super loud, super clear. Whenever I start my sound design class, I say that Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address to 9,000 people outdoors without a microphone. It is possible to do that.