“Storytelling is my first love,” explains 2008 USITT Rising Star winner Elisheba Ittoop, who recalls being so shy as a child that she turned to acting at the age of 11 as a way to get out of her shell. But after one year of acting courses at NYU, she developed an interest in directing, and later, sound design. “They put me in a sound class by mistake, and I decided I'd give it a whirl,” she says. Today, she holds an MFA in theatre sound design from North Carolina School of the Arts, where she enjoyed the balance of gear and art.

Ittoop now works pretty steadily, often at the Children's Theatre of Charlotte for director Alan Poindexter, who has asked her to design three shows he is directing next season, including Peter Pan and Alice In Wonderland. She also designed sound for the company's current production of Surviving The Applewhites, based on the award-winning book by Stephanie S. Tolan. “Where else would you get a chance to hear someone play ‘The Sound Of Music’ on an accordion?” she asks, explaining that the characters put on the musical in their barn without musicians.

“I like to sit with my headphones on and create a cool little world in my head, then share it with everybody,” she says. A sheaf of lists and diagrams helps Ittoop explain these imaginary worlds to her collaborators. “The diagrams are helpful for me, as I am not an engineer,” she admits. “They show signal flow, for example, and I can give them to a younger crewmember for a pictorial representation.” She also created a loudspeaker plot for a North Carolina School of the Arts production of The Brothers Karamazov — using a d&b audiotechnik system — and a mic-swapping chart for Leader of The Pack at the Little Theatre of Winston Salem, where she designed the show, then became board op by default and found there weren't enough mics to go around.

For The Wizard Of Oz, which she describes as an “effects-heavy show,” Ittoop created a cue list that indicated each time a special pitch-shifting vocal effect was used for the witch's voice. “The kids were like, ‘What was that?’ when it happened,” she recalls.

“I have discovered that sound is another way to tell a story,” Ittoop continues. “I like creating effects and talking to the director and the other designers about the world they are creating.”

In nominating Ittoop for the Rising Star Award, David Smith, chair of the sound department at North Carolina School of the Arts summed up her work. “Her sound designs never talk down to the kids but, instead, elevate while remaining witty and accessible,” he says.

The 2008 USITT Rising Star Award, sponsored by LDI2008 and Live Design, will be presented at the awards banquet at the USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo in Houston on Saturday, March 22.