Crafting Theatre, Part 14 - Sound Cues
One good way to make a solo show more compelling, and to make the audience forget that there is just one actor onstage, is the use of interesting sound cues. I don’t mean door slams and dogs howling (although those could serve some shows perfectly well), but other voices, so that there are ‘conversations’ at times with other characters, whose voices are not merely imagined but actually heard.
Actually, in this show I’m doing both: There is an ongoing narrative with an unheard character, but there are also conversations with other people, where both sides are audible. I think the mix should work well. I guess we’ll see. But to achieve the vision I had for Ingenue, I needed several different voices and sounds, most of which were surprisingly difficult to get!
Honestly, I had thought it would be easy. Shove my recorder in someone’s face and a paper in their hand, and they would emote as expressively as they do in everyday speech. I figured I didn’t need actors, that if someone spoke well generally, they could say a line or two without difficulty.
Was I ever wrong. The first few people who recorded lines sounded wooden and robotic. It was painful. (And awkward, since they might expect their clips to be used if they ever see the show… ) But luckily, my audio engineer recorded a clip for me, and my mum was kind enough to record another, and that was a start (apologies to my mum, for the repeated wails of, ‘aaugh, not THAT way!’ coming from behind the recorder…)
I also needed clips in Australian and British accents, and, as it happened, this spring I was traveling to perform in both Britain and Australia. There was a recording session in a phone booth in London. Another in a theatre lobby in Newcastle. Another in Adelaide on the lawn outside a performance venue, and yet another in my tech’s car.
That just left two spoken sound clips to go, and my billets in Tampa (where I am currently), have agreed to help with them.
And then there are the actual sound effects: A wooden door opening and closing, a knocking sound… Some of these I downloaded from a sound effects site, and others – the door knock, for example – I just did myself, rapping bruised knuckles onto different doors and walls until I had the sound I needed.
And then there were the historic cues: Old music, clips from 1930s radio shows. I managed to track them all down, too.
There are just under two weeks to go, and the sound cues are not finished yet. But they’re getting close, and although most people won’t notice all the subtleties to the different cues, they have taken me almost 5 months to collect and build, and are an important element to the new show.