A Midsummer Night's Tech Rehearsal

Tonight should be interesting, to say the least.

Nancy Haller is doing the music part of the sound design for MSND, and has come up with some really unique musical choices.  As Eric mentioned, we spent 5 hours on Sunday cleaning up and editing the selections, Monday night we did a rough playback during rehearsal, and then Tuesday before rehearsal started I started the process of building the cues into our show cue software.

This is one of those things where it takes some more time up front -- building the cues, setting timing and levels, things like that -- but it pays off with simplicity and repeatability on show night.  The other awesome thing about the show cue software is that in an emergency, anyone involved with the show, even [**gasp**] the director can jump in and run the cues.  They just need to follow along in the script and hit "next" on the screen when it's called out on the page.

Having seen one rehearsal with more or less finalized cues on Tuesday, I was able to insert all of the automation cues that control when things start and stop, how the following cue interacts with the previous one.... and then ran it during last night's rehearsal.  A few minor tweaks tonight, and we should be golden.

The beauty of this system is that when we're at CST, I have a fully-professional audio workstation built to run the show from.  However, when we do "guerilla theatre" like Shakespeare In The Park, I can install the show software on a laptop, plug in the audio interface, copy the show file folder from the main PC to the laptop, and I have the exact same show to run in the park.  For those of you "in the biz" who are reading this, the system I use is from http://www.showcuesystems.com/.  And no, I'm not getting paid to plug 'em.  It's just really good, fairly inexpensive software (Windows only.  I know, I know.  I'm a Mac guy.  But I built Windows machines just for this app.)

However, that's only one part of tonight's rehearsal.  This is a play, performed in an outdoor, downtown pavilion.  And that means microphones.  Lots of them.  And since this is the first time at this venue, some of what I'm trying is a bit experimental.  I'll have 6 "boundary mics" across the stage - those are flat mics that are designed to sit on a hard surface, and the sound is picked up at the boundary of the floor and the mic.  I'll also have eight wireless mics on key actors.

So, I'll have my hands full mixing 14 microphones, trying to control extraneous sounds and feedback while a sound tech runs the show control software.  This is most definitely a two- or three-person sound crew kinda show.

I will also be setting up four front-fill speakers at the front of the stage to support the front lawn section, while at the same time providing a feed to the house system consisting of pole-mounted speakers throughout the park.  And then we have to strike it all tonight, pack it into storage, set it up again tomorrow, tear it down, set it up Saturday, tear it down....

It's a big undertaking.  In my head, it all works.  We'll see how reality pans out tonight. 

--Paul Braun, Sound Manager