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Scoring a World: Sound Designing Compleat Female Stage Beauty

Sounds by Fey Ilyas (http://www.flickr.com/photos/renneville/)

A simplistic reduction of a theatrical designer’s job would be “to create the world of the play.”  Designers create the space in which the actors play, the clothes in which they move, and the light by which they see; among other things.  As a sound designer, I have the unique opportunity to work with invisible materials.  If I have done my job correctly, the audience may close their eyes and still feel as though they are a part of the world of the play.

Sound is invisible, but it is not intangible.  It is pressure acting upon the ear, imposing not just force but, hopefully, an emotional response upon the listener.  Gala Lok, my original sound mentor at Pitt, adapted a concept from musical theatre to guide her sound design.  As an actor in a musical must be pushed by emotion to break into song, the events of a play must force the sounds I design.  Whether these are obvious environmental cues such as the clopping of horses’ hooves; or the music that may underscore a dramatic confrontation or scene transition, these sounds must be natural reactions to the world of the play and the changes wrought upon it by the characters.

As a sound designer, I love to work with the human voice as an instrument.  Luckily, Kynaston’s theatric, celebrity-oriented world is crowd-centric – many of the characters in Compleat Female Stage Beauty perform during the show, and the reactions of the crowd guide their character arcs.  The crowd sounds you will hear during the show contain the ensemble’s own voices, giving them a further opportunity to create their version of Restoration England.  The actors’ voices become an organic part of the soundscape, creating a link between performance and design.

When this show is over, there will be many pictures documenting the set, costumes, and lighting effects.  And my design will still exist as sound files that can be replayed.  But sound design is unique in that it, more than any other design field, depends upon the context of the show and the events onstage in order to be appreciated.  If I have done my job well, everyone who comes to see our show will leave with at least one memory that isn’t just a moving picture, but a tiny snippet of Kynaston’s world and its own unique soundtrack.

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Andrew Sours (sound designer) is delighted to help bring Kynaston's world to you.  Professional credits include designing Quantum Theatre's Fat Beckett, assisting City Theatre's POP!, and engineering multiple shows at Utah Festival Opera.  Past Pitt credits: design for The Gammage Project and Cleansed, and engineering Sweeney Todd.  Up next: assisting Pittsburgh Public Theater's 1776 adn designing Pitt's City of Asylum.