Can You Hear It Now? Good!
One of the more interesting side-notes to becoming an Equity actor is that, because I can't act for non-union theatres without some sort of contract, which most of them can ill-afford, if I want to work at any of these places, I have to be willing to do things outside the normal ouvre of the actor.
Case in point: I'm running sound for Annex Theatre's production of "The Changeling", a Jacobean revenge tragedy given a smart and funny update by Annex Artistic Director, Bret Fetzer. It's been something like 16 or 17 years since the last time I worked a sound board, and although the basic skill set remains the same, it is simply amazing how much the technology has changed in that time.
Back in the day, I used to cut cues onto quarter-inch reel-to-reel tape from vinyl recordings like the venerable "BBC Radio Sound Effects Library", then splice them into a master tape with 12 inches of white leader between each cue. Quadrophonic sound systems were considered "state of the art" back in 1986 or '87. Today, everything is done digitally, either burned onto CD's or recorded onto Mini Discs, and instead of marking the cue on the leader with a Sharpie felt pen, now it scrolls across the display screen like an old-fashioned New York Times chaser-board (just one example of how new technology tends to mimic old tech in subtle and ingenious ways). All I have to do now is push a button and slide a volume-control bar.
Still, for all the advances, some aspects of the job are refreshingly familiar. The Clear-Com headsets are pretty much the same (but that may be because the ones we're using are at least 20 years old, they have Bakelite in them, for goodness' sake!), and Sound Designers still insist that the board op have a certain dexterity in terms of being able to instantly adjust volume and directional levels on-the-spot, instead of just having it all done internally within the recording itself. So, as sound op, it's still possible to be able to finesse the sound to fit the onstage performances; if someone is a bit late on an entrance for example, you can take the cue a bit late to match, and so on. Today, when there is so much controversy in the industry over things like "virtual orchestras", and withthe whole process of live performance becoming increasingly automated, it's really heartening to know that in some artistic realms at least, the availability of new technology is seen as a means to enhancing the creative process, rather than supplanting it.
By the way, you really should come see the show. February 14th through March 22nd. Friday and Saturday nights, 8:00 p.m. at the Jewel Box Theatre, Rendezvous Tavern, 2320 2nd Ave. Only $12. Call 206-728-0933 to make a reservation.
on 2:51 PM