Oh, the things I don't know! I'd be lying if I said I knew much about country music. Sure, I know some of the classic tunes; I get a kick out of George Jones now and then, Willie Nelson's life is as entertaining as his music, and who doesn't like Patsy Cline? But I'm pretty much in the dark about the stuff that passes for modern country music. I know that Tim McGraw is the son of former Mets pitcher Tug McGraw. I know that Shania Twain is easy on the eyes. And I know that Reba McIntire was in Tremors. But as to who sings what, forget it; I couldn't tell your Kenny Chesneys from your Kennebunkports.
But I do know cutting-edge design when I see it, and the Dixie Chicks' Top of the World tour sports one of the most innovative blends of design and technology I've seen on the stage in years. Production/lighting designer LeRoy Bennett has outdone himself again, creating a winding, in-the-round stage that doubles as a video floor. If it comes near you, you should check it out, even if, like me, you're not exactly up on the Dixie Chicks' music. If not, you can read all about the tour in Cathy McHugh's story on page 18.
If opera's more your thing (don't think for a minute that it's mine — I may know less about opera than country), we also take a look at the recent production of The Little Prince at the Houston Opera, which features some of the final design work of the late Maria Bjornson.
If I tell you I'm a 41-year old white male with two kids, do I also need to add that I'm not much of a dancer, either? Probably not, but if you want to learn about some of the challenges in designing and building a dance space, you should read Ellen Lampert-Greaux's story on the new Laban Centre in London.
I do know something about sound design, but not nearly as much as some of the folks featured inside this issue. First we profile UK-based sound designer extraordinaire John Leonard, whom I had the pleasure of getting to know during our recent Broadway Sound Master Classes in New York. And because September has long been our sound issue, we also offer you not one, but two On Sound columns, both from veterans of the road. John Sibley, who can often be found running the board on The Producers National Tour (that is, when he's not posting his pearls of wisdom on the Theatre Sound Mailing List), makes a passionate plea in favor of amplification. And Bruce Yauger, another touring veteran, urges designers not to sacrifice the needs of a show for the sake of the latest gear.
And speaking of columns, Patrick Dierson takes aim at bad attitudes. Finally, a topic I know something about.