As requested, I’ll describe the duties of each of the members of the team. While these descriptions will be close for most Broadway level musicals, some of the duties described may float between members depending on the show.
The designer is responsible for merging the technical and creative aspects necessary to serve the show’s sound needs. This includes deciding what gear will be used, the best use of budgeted money, creating and editing sound effects, and being the central figure that it in charge of interacting with other departments to make sure we are all working toward the same goal. All other members of the team ultimately report to the sound designer. During the production process the designer will work with the director and music department to shape the sound of the show.
Associate Sound Designer
This person is responsible for the translating the sound designer’s wishes into reality. This person will draft paper work including bid lists, system signal flow drawings, inventories, and extensive label databases. This person is often the functional link between the creative side of the sound department and the technical crew executing the design. Typically, this is the person that will be in the shop overseeing our progress and answering any questions we have as we go. For this show, the associate sound designer was also our SIM operator and LCS programmer during the production process.
Production Sound Engineer
This individual is responsible for making sure the technical aspects of the show are being taken care of from the beginning of the build and through the end of the production process. This person is often charged with hiring the build staff and organizing the build process. Typically this person will also direct the load-in to the production theater. Once technical rehearsals begin this person is charged with directing local stagehands in completing projects and tasks while the road engineers learn the show.
Head Sound Engineer (A1)
My responsibilities in the shop are to oversee any aspects of the build that might affect how the show moves from city to city. I also work with the associate designer in laying out and performing the initial programming of the console. During production I work with the production sound engineer to make sure all of the needs of the sound system are being taken care of. I’m responsible for snapshot programming of the console and mixing the show (this will be a separate post). When we leave production I become responsible for all day-to-day aspects of the show. These responsibilities include directing the load-in and load-out, supervising local stagehands, coordinating equipment repairs and replacements with the shop, tuning the sound system, collaborating with stage management and the music department (and really all departments), and mixing most shows. I report to the design team after opening in each city and in the event that any issues arise.
Assistant Sound Engineer (A2)
The assistant sound engineer performs most of the “in the trenches” work of the load-in and load-out. Coordinating with the A1 and directing the local crew in where to place gear and running out our many miles of bundles to the appropriate destination. The assistant is also responsible for RF maintenance and tuning. During the production process the A2 works with the design team to find mic placements for each actor. These are documented and maintained throughout the run to insure consistent response. The A2 will document the backstage track (mic changes, patching of practical speakers, battery changes, etc) and work with/train a local stagehand in performing this track. The A2 will also train to learn the mix in order to be able to cover for vacations or emergencies. For this show the A2 mixes weekend matinees each week to stay in practice.
Now we’re introduced and the rig is packed and in the truck. Next stop, New Orleans!