NACOGDOCHES, Texas – A distinctive twist in Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ play “Everybody” is that, at any given performance, any one of five different actors could play the title role, based on a lottery which also determines what roles will be played by the other four actors in that group.
As a result, there’s a lot of sound recording technology involved, which presented some unique challenges for CC Conn, professor of theatre at Stephen F. Austin State University and sound designer for the SFA School of Theatre and Dance’s presentation of “Everybody,” slated for Feb. 23 through 26 in Kennedy Auditorium.
“Everybody” is an allegorical story in which a representative human faces the prospect of imminent death and tries to find a way to avoid or ameliorate the situation.
“Everybody offers challenges in sound in several ways,” Conn said. “First, four monologues had to be recorded – not just by one actor but by five actors that all can potentially be selected to play ‘everybody’ in the lottery. So we needed to set up recording sessions where we recorded five versions of four scenes, or 20 separate recordings in all.”
For the character playing “God,” a microphone is used to enable live sound manipulation, Conn explained.
“And, there is the matter of organizing playback when for each performance a ‘lottery’ determines who is playing which parts,” she said, “which also determines which versions of the recorded monologues the operator needs to play. So setting up playback is a sort of logic problem.”
Fortunately, Conn explains, QLab is an industry-standard software program for theatre sound playback that SFA uses that makes that task easier than it would have been in the past. Even so, typical theatrical productions rarely require a lot of (if any) recording of actors, and the playback of effects is normally sequential and the same every performance. Not so with “Everybody.”
A play like “Everybody,” while uniquely challenging, gives a future sound engineer like Calista Cusano, a freshman from Frisco, a good opportunity to exercise her skills in recording, post production of audio, microphone technique and live sound manipulation, Conn said, while also giving her a deeper understanding of QLab programming. Cusano is assistant sound designer for “Everybody.”
“It's a perfect production to cover all of the sound skills we use in live theatre in a single production,” Conn said. “I am particularly delighted to be able to use it as I teach introduction to sound technology, as well.”
“Everybody” is recommended for mature audiences. The play contains profanity and is not appropriate for children or anyone sensitive to such language. It also questions traditional ideas about God and the afterlife, possibly making it offensive to some people with strong religious beliefs.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 23 through 25, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 25 and 26. General ticket prices are: adult, $15; senior (62+), $10; youth (high school and younger), $8; SFA faculty/staff, $8; non-SFA student, $8; and SFA student, $5. For ticketing information or to purchase tickets, call the Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or (888) 240-ARTS, or visit boxoffice.sfasu.edu. For information about the play, call (936) 468-4003 or visit sfasu.edu/theatre-dance.