Designer, You’ve Failed…Designer.

Wait…so the whole show is in the transitions?

Long ago…the first sound designs I did for theatre were pretty basic. Initially, I was just filling a shopping list given to me by the director. For the next couple of shows, I’d go through the script and mark stuff down that was specifically called for by the writer, add scene transition music and fire off a CD.

I was young. I didn’t get it. Seriously, no clue. Fortunately we learn and grow.

I got my sound-designy ass handed to me on a show where I had set’n’stared at the script for hours, not getting anywhere, not “hearing” anything. And at some point, totally blank and frustrated, I had to go make some recordings of the live music that was happening in the show. So I toddled over to rehearsal, DAT recorder under my arm.

Geez Louise. Once I actually watched the rehearsal the whole show opened up. It was all right there. I knew what I had to do. It was obvious. Go to a rehearsal.

Pretty simple, huh? Pretty stupid. “Well of course you go to the rehearsals, dummy.”

You may think that, but I still see designers not attending rehearsals for shows they’re working on. Some seem to want to get by just coming to two or three production meetings. Or they design entirely from the script. I’ve even seen designers who show up for the first time on day one of tech, apparently not having even read the script. Pointing at the lead actress, asking “Who’s that now?” “Where’s this scene take place?” I’ve talked to directors who shake their heads and say, “I just don’t understand designers who don’t come to rehearsals.” They’re generally talking about someone on the show we’re teching who’s underprepared and wasting everyone’s time.

Thankfully, many of the directors I work with now go out of their way to invite designers to rehearsals, to let them know they’re welcome. Which is good, because I’ve been on some shows where I felt like I was intruding if I dropped in on a rehearsal. It’s also good for the whole ensemble if the designers have been visible at a rehearsal or three; the cast won’t have as much of a “who the hell are THESE people?” response when the design teams descend on them during tech week.

Yes, it sounds basic and stupid. But go to a rehearsal.

About toxicbag

Toxic Bag Productions, Inc. provides sound effects and music for independent films, animated shorts, theatrical productions, dance performances, podcasts and video games. They work out of their studio on the north side of Chicago.

Posted on March 26, 2009, in Theatah and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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