During the fall of my sophomore year in college, I took Jax Vadney’s scene technology class. In that class, we explored technical theater jobs and figured out which ones fit us best. I ended up deciding that sound design and operating a soundboard would be good fits for me. Later that year, I worked on the sound design for a Steampunk rendition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion; while I did not design the sound effects, I ran the soundboard for Eugene O’Neill’s Lazarus Laughed at the Schuster Theatre this past February.
Running a soundboard may seem like an easy tech theater position. You just play the sound effects at the right time, how hard could that possibly be? Even though I ran the board during Pygmalion, I realized that running the soundboard when you did not design the sound effects yourself is a lot more difficult than it sounds.
I discovered that I needed to figure out exactly what line to start each sound effect on and when exactly I needed to stop. I also had to figure out how loud and how soft each sound effect should be. To make things even more difficult, I had to run two sound sources, a CD and an iPod, at the same time. Yikes! I was about ready to have a mental breakdown after my first rehearsal, but I persisted.
Running the soundboard for Lazarus Laughed was one of the more worthwhile experiences in my college career. Even though this was an intimidating, daunting task, I feel a lot more confident in my ability to work with sound. I not only am more experienced with the board, but after running someone else’s sound design, I have a better idea how to design my own. As crazy as this sounds (this is strikingly obvious to me), working with theatrical sound will have a positive impact in my educational career.
I am studying to teach middle school English. I am sure we all can remember reading books in English class which were so dreadfully boring, you were ready to pass out and hibernate for the next five years out of one hundred percent pure boredom (my personal experience with this had to do with the fact that I went throughout my entire middle and high school career without knowing that I needed to wear glasses. See Article: “I can’t read: The story of how I got glasses”). Because many middle schoolers feel dreadfully bored when reading something they normally would not read on their own time, I have to change how they interact with what they are reading because if they want to fall asleep, you really are not doing your job. This is where the theatricality comes in.
If I can find ways to incorporate multimedia which incorporates sound effects and activities that include students reading for characters like they are voice acting for a PIXAR film or any other theatrical element into my reading lessons, I will probably be able to drastically decrease the number of classroom sleepers. While there will not be a soundboard in my classroom, I realized that the absence of sound has the potential make theater seem a bit more boring. If this is true of theater which is supposed to be lively and animated, then this must be true when instructing struggling readers to read.
My soundboard experience will not only help my English lessons, but I also see it allowing myself to have more options with extracurricular activities. Since I am double majoring in education and theater, there is no doubt that I will eventually become the teacher that directs the plays and musicals. There is no way out of it.
I was originally trained as an actor, so I would be able to work with the actors as a director. But this sound experience would allow me to work with some of the students in stage crew, and in particular those who work with sound. I do not see myself as a tech director. Let me rephrase that, that is a job I would be absolutely terrified to have. But as an education major who is also a theater major who has taken “Scene Technology,” there is a great chance that I could have that job thrown at me. I’m actually slightly terrified. Since I know how to run a sound board, I can say that there is one aspect of tech theater I can do. Now it’s time for me to learn how to work on sets and costumes and other technical theater elements just in case that becomes my job. I am terrified, but I accept that challenge.