Friday, November 27, 2015

Man of La Mancha: Kelsi's Thesis Show

Time flies, huh?
It feels like yesterday that I was a first year, assisting my third year cohorts on their thesis shows. The day we strive for for three years came and went in a flash, and now I look back and reflect: Last Sunday, I closed my thesis show, Man of La Mancha, (affectionately abbreviated as MOM), in the Irvine Barclay Theatre. For those who don’t know, MOM follows Don Miguel de Cervantes and his manservant as they await their trial in a prison vault during the Spanish Inquisition. To pass the time, and keep from getting harassed and robbed, they perform a play Cervantes has written. Before the audiences’ eyes, we see the duo transform into the adventurers Don Quixote and Sancho. My amazing team was comprised of Ben Scheff (2nd year MFA, Associate Des.), Jordan Tani (1st year MFA, Assistant Des.), Garrett Hood (1st year MFA, Mixer) and Jacques Zweilich (senior undergrad and prospective honors candidate, Lead Deck Audio). The show was directed by Don Hill, our Drama co-producer/Head of Stage Management/multi-tasker extraordinaire and stage managed by Amber Julian (3rd year MFA).

Man of La Mancha was handed to me with incredibly high stakes, as this was the first show in the Barclay since 2009. With a hyper-compressed tech schedule, we knew our biggest enemy would be time (we didn’t have any 10/12’s, only evening techs, and two runs with the orchestra). To combat the time constraint, the team decided to do all rehearsals for MOM in the Claire Trevor Theatre, our typical proscenium space, whose stage dimensions are the same as the Barclay’s. The set was loaded into the theatre and rehearsed on for six weeks before load into the Barclay. Team Sound also took advantage of this by having the console used in the show, the Avid Venue Profile, and the show’s wireless set up in the Claire and utilized in rehearsal. We also used the Venue’s ability to record a virtual sound check, so Garrett was able to practice mixing outside of rehearsal. Additionally, we mocked up all speakers’ rigging in the Claire prior to load in, so each piece was assembled and ready to go.

Don’s vision for MOM was to keep it dark and not so “musical theatre”. Our buzz phrase was “not your grandma’s Man of La Mancha”. The costumes and props would come from the world of the prison and not be paraded on awkwardly from the wings. There would be no flashy musical numbers or distracting dance breaks. Sound-wise, we would have a stark difference between the feel of the prison and La Mancha. The prison had a constant ambience of dripping water, rodent sounds and drone-y creaks and moans. We hid two speakers behind the back wall of the set that these ambiences played from, as well as a reverb send of the actors on stage, changing the feeling in the room, creating a faux VRAS experience. We also mic’d and affected the large gate the Inquisitors entered through, enhancing the overpowering class discrepencies. When we enter La Mancha, all ambience goes away and the diegetic sounds are created foley-style by the actors from those found prison props.
Excitedly, this is the first venue I’ve ever designed in that has a balcony. No other theatre on campus poses these design challenges, so I was able to learn how to design for and implement fill speakers. System-wise, I chose d&b Q7’s and Q10’s as my main orchestra system, the Meyer M1D line array for the center, and d&b QSub’s for the subwoofers. Underbalconies were Meyer MM4-XP’s, front fills were Meyer M1D’s, and balcony fills were Meyer UPM’s. I had 3 onstage specials, 2 Meyer UP-JR’s that contained prison ambience and vocal reverb, and 1 Meyer M1D hidden within a scenic piece for diegetic effects.

Overall, Man of La Mancha was an incredibly challenging, overwhelming and fulfilling experience. My design team was so supportive and encouraging of exploration. My mentor, Mike, taught me more than I could imagine. Putting up a fully produced musical in the time we were given was a great challenge and preparation for the real world. 
Shoutouts to Mike Hooker, Ben Scheff, Jordan Tani, Garrett Hood, Andrea Allmond, Matt Eckstein, Vinnie Olivieri and BC Keller, my amazing UCI support system. Julie Ferrin, my thesis critic. Phil Allen and Ian Burch, my long-time LA mentors. Eric McFall, the one who started me on this amazing aural journey. Jon Weston and Josh Millican, my NY friends and mentors. My puppies Albi and Remy for their emotional support, and my mom and dad for their love.

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