sound design

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June 13, 2018
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I bring musical theater to schools and after-school community centers that never had musical theater and or/do not have sound or lighting equipment. It's so frustrating to rehearse for months only for the students/cast members/parents to cringe each time there's feedback, or no sound from the mic, or no mic at all.

Are there any "wandering minstrels" who do the same thing as I do (Theater On The Go!) bringing theater to places with nothing? Do you have ideas for an easy, ECONOMICAL, out-of-the-box solution for sound and lighting when the school/center/venue doesn't have any?

 

 

 

 

2 answers

June 23, 2018

Susan,

If you know anyone who does travelling Karaoke, they often have enough equipment to help you out.  I've supplemented their resources with some Pyle lavalier mics and a couple of overhead choir mics.  Total cost to me for the choir mics and eight lavalier mics was less than $400.  We recouped that from our first performance for parents and relatives.  If you go this route, don't forget to purchase a maintenance plan or extended warranty.  With only eight mics, you often have to share and moving the mics around places extra strain on the equipment.  That additional $10 or so comes in real handy after a few performances.

 

Regards,

John  

VIP Answer
June 13, 2018

Hi Susan!  I talked with my friend Matt Kraus who is a Broadway Sound Designer but can interpret tech for teachers and kids better than anyone I know.  This is a little lengthy but valuable- hope it helps! CR

I think that the first step is to set expectations with the director, the kids, and the parents.  We all want this to be full production ala Broadway, with beautiful lights and CD quality sound... But the reality is that these productions are bare bones.  Trying to achieve too much will lead to a production that looks sloppy.  Instead, try to pick design elements and outcomes that are easily achievable, then make those as good as you can. 

 For lighting;  There are some really great LED lights with simple controllers.. The link here is for lights under $200 that change color, are wireless, and controlled by your phone.  Charge them before the day of show, then get them out of the trunk and place a couple downstage to light the kids, and a couple upstage to light the backdrop.  But here again... KEEP IT SIMPLE.  Try to avoid the impulse to make 20 cues in your show.. Instead, make only a warm, and a cool look.  Maybe switch back and forth between them a couple times.  Or, just stay in white or amber light. 

For the Sound;Area miking is going to be your solution.  Its not glamorous, but there's almost no failure rate.  The catch here is that these mics only pick up the sounds that there are in the room...  So if the kids are loud, it will amplify it.  If the kids are quiet, you'll have a tougher time.  If the costumes are loud with noisy beads or plastic, you're audience will hear that too.  

I'd stick to a basic setup like the Fender system, then add some shotgun mics or foot mics.  2 Crown PCC 160s would be a great place to start.  Then just remember that the closer the kids with solo lines are to the mics, the better they'll be heard.  Keep in mind that the original Chorus Line was blocked for the foot mics, so you're not alone in your struggle.  

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I've been sending everyone to David Snyder at SweetwaterSound.com.  David offers low prices like Amazon, but then follows through with killer customer service.  He's a very good music arranger and MD, so he knows what its like to work with kids or be part of a show.  The best part is that he always follows up to make sure that things worked and that they have all the parts, and if its the wrong thing, they can send it back...