Sound Design - Theater

Photo Credit: Jen Rock

Photo Credit: Jen Rock

  • at: New Repertory Theatre - BlackBox Theater

  • by: Duncan Macmillan

  • directed by: Bridget Kathleen O’Leary

  • scenic and lighting design: Jen Rock

  • costume design: Emily Woods Hogue

The Show

Playwright Duncan Macmillan states in the performance notes for the script of Lungs that the play should be performed without a set or props, that the actors should never use mime to portray any props or set, and that lights and sound should never be used to indicate changes of time or place. The two characters, named M and W, are both onstage for the entire play. As the play progresses, their conversations and arguments periodically jump seamlessly forward in time and place. Macmillan describes the piece as “something between a stand-up comedy, a dance piece, and a wrestling match.”

The central focal point of M and W's conversations is the question of whether or not they should have a child, particularly given the state of the world, environmentally and socially. However, in many ways this topic is really a frame around which the play explores how we make decisions, the potentially paralyzing effects of hyper-self-analysis, and a sense that, however much we try to carefully plan our actions, the universe will keep moving forward whether we are prepared or not.

The Sound

Photo Credit: Jen Rock

Photo Credit: Jen Rock

My inspiration for the sound design for the production came from ideas of sand: how it settles over time on its own, how it defies control through our inability to grasp it, how massive sand dunes can move over time through small but inevitable, incremental change, and the suggestion of erosion and its links to entropy and chaos.

My sound design consisted of a series of short sonic statements I created by combining recordings of sand with synthesized elements. These were played at various points throughout the show to accentuate and comment on moments of emotional or motivational shifts.

Through a combination of a multi-channel surrounding sound system and use of the extremely close-perspective sand recordings I made for the piece, these sonic statements give the audience the feeling of being inside the abstract world the characters inhabit, surrounded and enveloped in the slowly shifting mindscape of the story.

The sample below is a series of these short statements, assembled sequentially.

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