Creating anything (especially a play) is a violent act, and bedside manner is everything when it comes to a great collaborative process. In my experience, the best theatre is created when the lines are liquid between everyone involved. I feel like designers are put into boxes in the American theatre, and because I’m the sound designer, it doesn’t mean I’m not having ideas about the show outside of those boundaries. Sometimes collaboration is as simple as syntax, when you have an idea in the process if you were a fellow collaborator which would you rather hear: “I had this fantastic idea that I want to try in this scene,” or “I was thinking about this scene we’re working on and what if we try…” There is a way to work that is inclusive in the creative act of making a play.
I think most of the time when I go to see a play and am musing on the sound design of that production, I feel more likely than not that the design is based in what kind of cool things the designers equipment will do and not based in any inspiration from the play.
We have all this digital technology around us and can do anything now which sometimes gets us away from the soul of a play. I mean, I love all my technology, no doubt, but I started designing when a couple of reel-to-reel analog recorders were the penultimate of technology. Going digital for me just meant I got more sleep time, to be frank with you; I didn’t have to stay up all night the night before the technical rehearsals doing notes. Digital just allowed me to do things faster than I could in the analog realm. But I’m constantly having to make sure now that I’m running the technology during the creative process, and the technology isn’t running me, if you know what I mean.
All of our technology should just be tools in our toolboxes, nothing more or less. The reason I think I like to think of myself as an aural dramaturge is I really believe that everyone that works in the theatre is a storyteller, and we are all just using different tools for the job.
Now with all the technology we actually have to pay more attention to the page of a play. As our ability to create expands out, we, as artists, also have to make sure that we dig deeper in the other direction as well and stay focused on what is happening in the room in front of us and what is on the page.