I’ve always loved acting. In fact, I’ve been strolling across the stage since third grade. However, acting is the only branch of theater I delved into, or at least it was until this semester. As a theater major, one of the requirements is to fulfill four credit hours of practicum courses across three mainstage productions, which means you have to be a crew member or technician for three shows. I’ve always wanted to work in the behind-the-scenes world of a production, mainly because I’m a strong believer that you’re never too experienced to learn. So, I figured I should start as soon as possible. I was offered not only the chance to be sound board operator, but to also serve as sound designer for the theater department’s first mainstage production of the academic year, “Uncommon Women and Others” by Wendy Wasserstein, a play set in the wake of second-wave feminism. To be honest, I was initially quite hesitant due to my lack of knowledge around my exact responsibility, but I accepted the role anyway.
Basically, the job of a sound designer involved in a Connecticut College production is to be in contact with the director about their vision and ideas, do research about the show, attend a few rehearsals, and be present during technical rehearsals. As sound board operator, the only requirement is to work the sound board for each performance and stay after the final performance to work strike, which involves dismantling the set, cleaning the theater and returning it to its original state before it was altered for the show. I was truly excited about what was to come, especially since it was the first time I would be doing it.
Over the course of a few weeks, I attended a few rehearsals, met with Professor of Theater David Jaffe, the director of the show and chair of the department, and listened to more James Taylor, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, and other artist from the 60s and 70s than I ever thought I should. On the plus side, I did find new favorites in James Taylor and Stevie Wonder, so I can’t say it was a bad experience at all. After sifting through several voice recordings (one of them of President Katherine Bergeron, who is a musicologist), about 50 songs from the 60s and 70s and tons of how-to videos on QLab (production cue software), I finally had a set list of music and cues to work with for the show.
Tech rehearsals, which involve run-throughs of the show to analyze each technical element, came and went. When songs and voice recordings faded in and out; and as the curtain call song, “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac, played for the final time, I was relieved that the show was over and I had gone through it error-free. I was also proud of myself for stepping into two roles I knew nothing about. This experience was not only rewarding in that it allowed me to see a piece of art from a new perspective, but it also opened opportunities for me for future internships and my career. And best of all, I stepped out of my normal element on the stage and wandered into a new one.