Sound Design

Samples & Resume

(Headphones Recommended)

By Tennessee Williams

A Streetcar Named Desire

Produced: Spring 2017,
University of Wisconsin - Parkside.

 

- First Place, 2018 KCACTF National Award for Excellence in Theatrical Sound Design

- KCACTF Region III 2018 Excellence in Theatrical Sound Design Winner

- KCACTF Certificate of Merit - Sound Design

Opening Sequence:

The full length version of the cue included a preshow soundscape with the background music starting at top of show.

Here:

  • We hear the streetcar arrive (behind the audience) and depart.

  • Blanche enters, checks her address card, and begins to have a panic attack

  • The world goes blue, the people around her walk in slow motion, and Blanche's inner turmoil is established.

  • The madness snaps out with a whoosh as Blanche is greeted by Eunice: "What's the matter, honey? You lost?"

Second Flashback:

Blanche runs from her past throughout the play but the more she runs, the more it gains on her.

In this cue, her past has gained a lot of ground.

More details of her recurring memory are heard:

  • the crowd,

  • the glasses clinking,

  • the shot and the ringing ears.

Scene Transition and Blanche's River Memory:

This cue demonstrates the blending of real and unreal elements and the pacing of the scene transitions throughout.

  • It begins with a distant thunder clap, echoing piano from the bar down the alley, a train rattling past – then a return to Blanche’s reverie.
     

  • At the top of the scene, she is seated, lost in childhood memories, swimming in the river. The last time she was care free.

"YES, YES, I FORGOT SOMETHING!"

Blanche cannot run anymore.

  • The familiar “Varsouviana” steals in again but this time it distorts and howls, echoing Blanche’s own screams.

[Mysterious Voices from Behind the Walls]:

Blanche’s demons are in the room, no longer knocking at the door. 

 

  • We hear the inside of Blanche's mind: each line is heard and then reflected back in Blanche's own voice, then in more sinister tones.

  • Reality and unreality blend as she loses the ability to tell between them. Her ruin is complete.
     

  • This cue is composed entirely of vocal samples from the actors, cut together and modified.
    (Voices featured: Hannah Shay, Akira Alston)

More About the Design:

I wanted the audience to feel that the world of the play would remain after they departed. To aid this sense of habitation, my soundscapes were subtly present throughout the play. They would swell at scene transitions then fade down to a very low volume, providing an active noise floor without stepping on the lines.
 

The design’s music was selected to 1) match the period and 2) match the themes. Every piece of music was written before 1947, the year the play is set, and each jazz tune was selected for how its lyrics reflected the themes of the play: love, loss, nostalgia, despair. Torch songs of the period were a major resource.


My speaker plot was arranged so the town had dimension. I sketched on a draft of the ground plan the locations of the surrounding world: the bars, the train tracks, the streets, other homes. The soundscapes were then built accordingly. The bars played their music from their respective corners of the house, the streetcar and trains passed behind the audience and across the house. The world was wrapped in sound.
 

Thanks for listening.

The Hiding Place

By Bradley Winkler

Adapted from the book by John and Elizabeth Sherrill

Produced: Spring 2018,
Acacia Theatre Company, Milwaukee, WI

An original adaptaton of the Corrie Ten Boom story

(All production photos by Laura Heise)

"Turn on the Radio":

Family and friends are gathered around the radio to hear the prime minister's address, falsely promising peace.

  • Our production deliberately played with time period and modern parallels.

  • Not a pure period piece
     

  • Audio on airwaves includes

    • "Blood and Soil" chant from Charlottesville​

    • "Zeig Heil!" Hitler speech clip

Invastion - Monologue Underscore - Beje:

Scene transition into Corrie backstory monologue

  • Includes

    • Bombing as the invasion starts​

    • Moody drone underscore for speech

    • Clocks as we return to their home and watch shop (which they call the Beje.)

Nazi Raid - Hiding Sequence:

Their home has become a shelter for hunted Jews. Following a recent drill, this raid surprises them at dinnertime.
 

  • This cue supported a Suzuki-inspired movement sequence which dramatized everyone's experience of trying to hide - in under a minute

  • The gasping breath is the sound of a severely asthmatic refugee they were hiding, whose audible wheezing had caused other safe houses to turn her away

  • NOTE: This sample is somewhat condensed. When performed, it featured much more space between voiceover lines

End of Act 1 - Arrest:

After the raid, they have all been arrested. Corrie's father utters the last lines of Act 1:

"Thou art my hiding place and my shield. I hope in Thy word; hold Thou me up and I shall be safe ..."

  • Drone underscores Father's line above

  • A symbolic prison door slams shut (as lights fade)

  • The sound reverberates and swells 

  • The world groans

Train Sequence - To Ravensbrück:

Another movement sequence. As the train arrived, all prisoners walked in a slow line to the platform.

  • The train moans with them

  • Corrie and her sister, Betsy, reach out for each other

  • They recoil at the guard's line: "Silence!"

  • All the prisoners are assembled and the train lurches on

More About the Design:

This story of WWII-era Nazi resistance was immediately compelling to the director and I. Corrie Ten Boom and her family resisted the Nazis by running a secret concealment operation for hunted Jews out of their home, finding placements for them often in rural areas. Unwittingly, they became one of the largest and most successful operations in Holland (The Netherlands) before they were found out, arrested, and sent to concentration camps. Corrie's father and sister would not survive but she did and spent the rest of her life sharing their stories of human and divine kindness overcoming the brutality of the Reich.

 

The director was interested in playing with the parallels between then and now, the tension between times, and the perennial nature of hatred. To this end, all production elements were not purely period. The scenery was minimal and suggestive, the lighting stark and atmospheric, and so too with the sound. 

 

The blending of here and there - both in time and location - came largely through the music and the moody tonal palette I used. To score certain moments, I used Dutch, German, and American experimental and ambient music, all with a similar sonic palette. The cues featured equal parts period accurate clocks, trains, weaponry etc. as well as moody drones, rumbles, trance-like sounds and sounds pulled from current events (like Charlottesville). I also took inspiration from the movement coach who informed me that Suzuki movement pieces are often scored with only a singing bowl. The reverberant, chime-like tonal quality of the world was drawn directly from this.

Thanks for listening.

The Potting Shed

By Graham Greene

Produced: Spring 2019,
Acacia Theatre Company, Milwaukee, WI

(All production photos by Melinda Rhodebeck)

A hybrid of Greene's catalogue, The Potting Shed is both a supernatural search of the heart and a genre thriller,

James Callifer digs for answers about a long-hidden family secret which caused his loved ones to shun him, though he can't remember why...

Yet, it all seems to revolve around some horror once found in the potting shed on the family estate and a shame no one will address.

  • This was my first time ever devising original music for a play. Desiring to create a sense of suspense and the supernatural, I employed a blend of Hitchcock-inspired atmosphere, piano, strings, ghostly synths, and abstract, mottled drums. 
     

  • The music was approached as variations upon a theme and was crafted to track the pace and tension of the story as it ramped up and, ultimately, resolved.

    Thanks for listening.

Resume & Awards

Awards

  • First Place 

KCACTF National Award for Excellence in Theatrical Sound Design

A Streetcar Named Desire

  • KCACTF Region III Excellence in the Theatrical Sound Design Winner

A Streetcar Named Desire

 

  • KCACTF Certificate of Merit for Sound Design - A Streetcar Named Desire

ColinJKovarik@gmail.com  |  All production photos by Alyssa Nepper (unless otherwise noted)

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