Director: Steve Broadnax
Scenic Design: Karl Jacobson
Lighting Design: Nathan Hawkins
Costume Design: Carly Reeder
Sound Design: Liz Sokolak
Blood at the Root
Blood at the Root is a play that was commissioned at Penn State. I had the opportunity to design this show’s State College debut at the Citizen’s Bank Theatre. I was also asked to create a touring file of the show, which allowed my design to travel with Blood at the Root as it started on its international tour.
My sound design has followed Blood at the Root to several U.S. cities such as Philadelphia and Washington D.C., and has traveled internationally to Pretoria, South Africa; Edinburgh, Scotland; and Adelaide, Australia.
Blood at the Root has also been the recipient of many awards: The Kennedy Center's One Mic Hip-Hop Theater Creator Award, The Holden Street Theatre’s Edinburgh Fringe Award, and the Week One Adelaide Fringe Award.
In the spring of 2016, Blood at the Root was remounted in New York at the National Black Theatre. I received a 2016 Audelco nomination for my sound design for this show.
Director: Courtney Young
Scenic Designer: Susan Garyantes
Costume Designer: Laura Clay
Lighting Designer: Ian Starner
Sound Designer: Liz Sokolak
Musical Directors: Roberto Sinhas
The Design Process
One of the first steps in my design process for a musical is to draft the performance space in a sound predicton software called ArrayCalc. Once the Playhouse Theatre was drafted in 3D, I chose the specific types of speaker and their exact location in order to achieve the best possible sound. One of the many goals of a sound designer is to ensure that the show sounds the same from every seat in the theatre. ArrayCalc allowed me to simulate different speaker positions and angles so that I could find the optimum speaker placement for this venue.
I created paperwork that specified all of the equipment needed for the show, as well as the inputs and outputs. Using the information from the paperwork and the calculations done in ArrayCalc, the speakers were hung, cabled, and focused.
A small sample of the paperwork made for Avenue Q, this output list shows where all of the 26 output channels were routed.
The screen shots to the right show the ArrayCalc file used to design the sound system for Avenue Q. The color scale represent the sound pressure levels, measured in decibels. Warmer colors depict higher SPLs and cooler colors show lower SPLs. Going clockwise from the top, the system for Avenue Q is shown at broadband pink noise, 5,000 Hz, and 1,000 Hz.
Once the speakers were hung and in place, I was able to tune the system. I used a computer program called R1 to remotely control the amplifiers’ settings. By using R1 in conjunction with an audio measurement software called Smaart, I was able to make adjustments that affected the EQ of the entire sound system.
When working with several sound sources, it’s important that the sound arrives at the listener’s ears at the same time. By using R1 and Smaart together, the delay times of certain speakers could be adjusted to ensure that the audience heard only one sound source.
From this template that I created in R1, I had control over the volume and delay times of 11 speakers: 4 left and right music speakers, 2 center vocal speakers (A/B system), and 5 front fill speakers.
For this production, the eleven actors were each equipped with a wireless body mic placed either at their hairline or over their ear. Two side-stage monitor speakers were hung about 15 feet high on either side of the stage to ensure that the performers could hear while onstage as well as on the second story platform of the set.
The six piece pit orchestra was located backstage behind the set and contributed a total of 23 channels of inputs. Avenue Q’s musicians were given either a personal headphone mixer or a monitor wedge to hear the actors onstage as well as each other. The conductor was oufitted with 3 video monitors so that he could see what was happening on stage.
QLab, a live playback program, was also integrated into the show. Using QLab, I programmed the show’s sound effects which included voice-over tracks that I recorded with the actors in a studio. QLab was also used to send OSC messages to other computers on the network. These messages triggered video cues to fire on another computer located backstage. In the end, Avenue Q contained 46 channels of inputs and 26 channels of outputs.