Rande Ferguson, a well known audio professional, served as the live sound engineer for this year's programs. In addition to having engineered sound for the annual festival since its inception, Ferguson is also the FOH engineer for Mannheim Steamroller, perhaps best known for its contemporary interpretations of Yuletide favorites. He discussed the challenges of the Shakespeare project.
“The Nebraska Shakespeare Festival performances take place in a lovely, tree-lined corner of Elmwood Park adjacent to the UNO (University of Nebraska, Omaha) campus,” Ferguson reports. “We make every effort to produce these plays without relying on technology. While we use a sound reinforcement system, there are no wireless mics, in-ear monitors, or anything of that nature. As a result, the actors and actresses must project their lines—much like they did when these works were originally performed. Being outdoors, we â€˜aid' those performers with a sound reinforcement system, but beyond that, what you see and hear is what you get. Vocal articulation is the key factor when determining audio performance for this type of presentation and, for this application; nothing beats the Grund Audio GA-4041's.”
For this year's programs, which occurred on June 23-26 and July 6, 8, and 10 (A Midsummer Night's Dream) and June 30th, as well as July 1-3, 7, and 9 (Hamlet), the sound system consisted of six Grund Audio Design GA-4041's—positioned three enclosures per side—for the â€˜house' mains. These were elevated roughly 12-15 feet above ground and hidden among the scaffolding that framed the stage area. The GA-4041's are line array loudspeakers specifically optimized for ground stack applications. Effectively housing two Grund Audio Design GA-2021N line array elements in a single enclosure, each GA-4041 incorporates four 10-inch low frequency transducers plus four 1-inch high frequency compression drivers. The GA-4041's are also fully weatherized and, hence, make a great choice for outdoor use.
For front fill and backstage cueing purposes, Ferguson also deployed four Grund Audio Design GT-1601 two-way, dual bass reflex loudspeakers. The two frontfill loudspeakers were mounted on stands and positioned just below the house mains while the two remaining GT-1601's were placed backstage to handle cueing for the talent.
For loudspeaker processing, Ferguson utilized three Grund Audio Design DP-26C loudspeaker processing units—one for each loudspeaker stack and a third for adjustment of the overall sound. “The DP-26C is a terrific unit,” Ferguson says. “I programmed the two units that stayed with the loudspeaker clusters using the software front end when we originally configured the system and then just let them work their magic from that point on. The third processor stayed with me at the FOH mix position so that I could make adjustments to EQ and compression.”
Ferguson commented on the performance of the Grund Audio Design GA-4041's, “For this application, it's all about the spoken word. Speech intelligibility is crucial. Without this, no one can understand the play. These loudspeakers have the best performance of their kind I've ever encountered—to a distance of 300 feet. Further, the 4041's also provide very even dispersion. While I wasn't running stereo, I had a very wide and deep audience area to cover and these loudspeakers did an exceptional job of providing clear, highly intelligible coverage throughout the area.”
As he prepared for the day ahead, Ferguson offered this parting comment. “The sound system did everything it was supposed to,” Ferguson said. “It delivered exceptional vocal articulation to all areas of the audience. When I get positive energy from the actors, I know we're on to something good. This system provided crystal clear audio, uncolored and in no way doctored to deliver something that wasn't there. These loudspeakers never get in the way of the art—they reinforce it, and without ever distracting the audience.”
About Grund Audio Design
A division of Grundorf Corporation, Grund Audio Design has been producing and wholesaling engineered sound reinforcement products since 1984. Customers include touring sound companies, music stores and fixed installations such as churches and theaters. The company also serves as a turnkey OEM producer for a number of significant audio manufacturers. Its parent company, Grundorf Corporation, is an internationally recognized producer of customized, high-durability touring/mobile cases, racks, and accessories. For additional information, visit the company online at www.GrundAudio.com.
Photo Info: Rande Ferguson mixing during this year's Nebraska Shakespeare Festival.