2013 Illinois Shakespeare Festival

Photo: Pete Guither | 

As the sound designer/composer of the 2013 Illinois Shakespeare Festival, I sound designed all three shows (A Comedy of ErrorsMacbeth, and Failure: A Love Story) on the main stage, and I composed music for two of the shows (A Comedy of Errors and Macbeth). The Festival is working to return to original practices with its Shakespeare productions, and as such, I decided that for both Comedy and Macbeth all sound and music would be created live, rather than through a loudspeaker system. I composed music for both productions and used both musical instruments and everyday objects to create sound effects. Due to Equity rules, I was not able to record the cast creating sounds, but some of our interns created promotional videos that I have embedded below.

A Comedy of Errors directed by Michael Cotey

I had so much fun working on this production! From the beginning, Michael Cotey, our director, had a vision of “Foley merchants” for sound effects. We were inspired by Foley artists in films, but also by productions like Stomp, to create a live sound design using found objects. We had four merchants: a meat merchant, a cloth merchant, an artisan, and a produce merchant, who all used objects on their carts to create hits and other sound effects throughout the production. Additionally, we had two musicians who played guitar and mandolin to play music throughout the play. Creating the music and the sound design for this production was an exciting collaboration between areas, as we had to involve props, scenery, and fight choreography to create a cohesive design.

Macbeth directed by Robert Quinlan

Macbeth was another exhilarating collaboration amongst areas, as again, I worked with the fight choreographer to create sound that worked well with movement. From the beginning, director Robert Quinlan mentioned that he felt the coronation of Macbeth felt like a sacred Catholic event, possibly that it is a Coronation Mass. I took this idea and ran with it, imagining the music of this piece to feel like a Requiem for Scotland. I did not complete a full Requiem Mass, but thought of the piece as such, writing music in Gregorian modes. The Kyrie (heard in the video) opened the show. The cast came on stage singing the piece, and then the opening battle ensued.

As we were aiming to move toward original practices with our Shakespeare pieces for the Festival, I wanted to explore creating music and sound effects with instruments. The ISU School of Music generously allowed us to borrow some tympani for the production, and between the tympani, guitars, mandolin, frame drums, singing, an upright bass, and even an ocarina, we were able to create a rich bed not only of music, but of atmospheres and sound effects to complement this visually stunning piece.

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