Masque Sound Captures The Magic For Shakespeare’s The Tempest

CAMBRIDGE, MA - When Sound Designer Darron L West and Associate Sound Designer Charles Coes were looking to create a dazzling audio experience for William Shakespeare’s fantasy play The Tempest, they turned to Masque Sound, a leading theatrical sound reinforcement, installation and design company, to provide a custom audio equipment package.

The Tempest is a co-production between The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas and the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The play premiered under a big top tent in Las Vegas on April 1 and is now playing at the A.R.T’s Loeb Drama Center.

The Tempest tells the story of shipwrecked aristocrat Prospero and his daughter Miranda who wash up on the shores of an enchanted and strange island. They find themselves immersed in a world of trickery and amazement, in which Tom Waits’ and Kathleen Brennan's Dust Bowl balladry, Teller’s (of the legendary duo Penn & Teller) magic, and Pilobolus' dance movements animate the spirits and monsters.

The sound designers’ goal was to create a very traditional Shakespearean play in the most modern way possible. Most of the soundscape was created by a four-piece live band and an array of eclectic percussive instruments. 

“We have live musicians on stage accompanying the actors, so we utilized a lot of microphones and effects units,” says Coes. “We took a modern spin on the idea of a traditional Shakespearean ensemble by updating it to include a mix engineer and console. We really wanted to bring the band out and lift the vocals up so that you could effectively and clearly hear both from within the theater.”

One of the main challenges on the project was to create a sound design for two very different venues. “We encountered quite a bit of ambient noise from air conditioners, trains, helicopters and the nature of being in an unprotected acoustic space at the tent in Las Vegas,” adds Coes. “From there, we transitioned to the very quiet, typical theater space at the A.R.T.”

To give the designers the flexibility and dynamic audio that they were looking for, Masque Sound provided a custom equipment package featuring a Yamaha CL5 mixing console along with Yamaha Rio3224-D Dante digital network remote I/O racks. 

For the speaker package, Masque Sound provided d&b audiotechnik Q1s for the left and right line array and a Meyer Sound M’elodie array for the center cluster. “We needed speakers with a lot of horsepower for Las Vegas, but the real challenge lay in the fact that we then needed to fit that same amount of equipment into the A.R.T., which is a shorter house,” continues Coes. “The crew at Masque Sound worked very hard to get us another M’elodie QuickFly frame in an extremely short amount of time, so that we could split our array from a single eight cabinet rig into two side-by-side four cabinet rigs.”

Although not in the original plans, 16 channels of Sennheiser wireless were used as well. “Right before we left the shop, the directing team had some concerns about the background noise in the tent and area mics, and we moved very quickly to change the show over from those area mics to a full RF package with body mics for everyone,” says Coes. “We went from a little bit of wireless to expanding it out to the full cast of 13, and we did it in about three days. Masque was incredibly accommodating and incredibly speedy in making it happen.  They are always a great company to work with.”

About Masque Sound

Founded in 1936 by a trio of Broadway stagehands, Masque Sound evolved into one of NYC’s most successful theatrical sound reinforcement, installation and design companies specializing in theatrical, house of worship, sporting, corporate, TV broadcast and live concert events. Celebrating more than 75 years in the industry, the company is lead by Geoff Shearing, the firm’s 3rd generation owner, and Vice President and General Manager Stephanie Hansen. The company also operates Florida-based Professional Wireless Systems, a leader in the development and implementation of wireless technology. Credits range from major Broadway shows and tours including “Phantom of the Opera,” “Mamma Mia!,” “Lion King,” “Jersey Boys,” “Memphis,” “The Book of Mormon,” “Newsies,” “Once” and “Kinky Boots” to yearly Super Bowl broadcasts and installations of varying sizes, including New York’s New Victory Theater and historic St. Bartholomew’s Church. Masque Sound’s 70,000 sq. ft. corporate headquarters and main assembly facility is located at 21 East Union Ave., East Rutherford, NJ, 20 minutes from midtown Manhattan. For more information, call (201) 939-8666 or visit www.MasqueSound.com.

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