NEW YORK - Masque Sound, a leading theatrical sound reinforcement, installation and design company, returned to the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center to support Sound Designer Dan Moses Schreier with a dynamic custom audio equipment package for Lincoln Center Theater’s newest production, Act One.
In Act One, James Lapine directs his own adaptation of Moss Hart’s classic autobiography, which chronicles the legendary playwright and theater director’s struggle to escape poverty and forge a career in theater. This led to his collaboration with George S. Kaufman, and culminated in his first great success, Once in a Lifetime.
Schreier’s biggest challenge in designing the sound was dealing with the acoustics of the theater itself. “The Vivian Beaumont Theater is notorious for requiring special acoustic systems, since there is no natural reverb in the room,” says Schreier. “When the theater was constructed it was built with traps all the way around the back wall of the auditorium, which gives the effect of an acoustically dead space. Technologies have evolved so much since the theater opened in 1965, however, that it is now possible to make the room feel alive.”
Part of the aesthetic of Act One is driven by the set design, as it features a three-story structure built on an 80-foot revolving turntable. Each part of the turntable highlights a different New York City locale throughout the play. “It’s very monumental, it’s very theatrical and it’s a very beautiful structure,” adds Schreier. “All of the sound effects were driven by the look and the movement of this turntable, which signifies that specific time period of Moss Hart’s life. In addition, every time it spins, you get a different sonic picture of New York City — sometimes it’s the subway, other times the street or a playground. The idea behind the sound design was to create a sonic version of New York City. With Masque Sound’s help, I think we did a wonderful job.”
Another key component of the sound design was the use of Yamaha’s DME 64 Programmable DSP Engine. “I worked very closely with my Associate Sound Designer Joshua Reid to create nine different zones that all have different timings to help with the architecture of the space,” says Schreier. “Because of the theater’s shape, a third of the audience is always looking at the back of an actor. A big part of the sound design was to compensate for this, which is why we created these different time zones based on the actor’s locations on the set.”
In order to achieve the sound he was looking for, Schreier chose the Yamaha CL-5 digital mixing console. With a three-section fader layout for efficient hands-on control, the CL-5 is an ideal choice for a diverse spectrum of live sound systems, giving Schreier exactly what he needed. He utilized 12 discreet outputs of the console going to various areas of the theater in order to provide real sound effects, such as the sound of the subway moving across the back wall of the theater at the same time as dogs barking upstage. This added real depth and three dimensions to the design.
For his PA, Schreier thought a lot about what speakers would be right for the space. “The Vivian Beaumont Theater seats like a coliseum with a three-quarter fan shape,” he continues. “There was one speaker in particular, the d&b audiotechnik E12-D, that I thought would solve the problem of the theater very elegantly, and it did. The coverage is smooth and it’s amazing how well the speakers work. I think the sound reinforcement part of the design sounds quite fantastic and I really have to thank Masque Sound for that, because they had to purchase this particular model for this production.”
Schreier chose the d&b E12-D for its rotatable horn, as it provides a very wide dispersion. By rotating the horns up and down, he was able to cover the theater almost entirely with one cabinet, thus eliminating the need for an array. Masque Sound also provided d&b Q-subs as well as Meyer Sound M1Ds for the rear orchestra fill and balcony delay ring. In addition, Schreier also utilized the Beaumont Theater’s Qin-house PA system for some of the sound effects when he wanted to envelop the audience.
Act One opened on Thursday, April 17 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. The show features a cast of 22 including Tony nominees Tony Shalhoub and Santino Fontana and Tony Award-winner Andrea Martin. The limited engagement is currently scheduled to run through June 15, 2014.
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.