Since arriving at PTC, I’ve been hearing a lot of responses about amplification around our productions, so I’d like to take a moment to share with you my philosophy around amplification on stage (specifically when it comes to wiring each actor with a personal microphone) and where we’re at in our solutions to the problem.
I have found, as an audience member, an actor and a director, that when you tape a microphone to an actor’s face, and run a wire down their back to a heavy receiver, you hamper both the artist’s and the audience’s experience of buying into the truthful reality of the moment. You are constantly reminded of the artificiality of the event, and everyone has to work harder to buy into the presented reality.
Our current standard practice is to only use individual body mics for the shows where an actor’s voice has to be heard above a band or orchestra. For all other productions, we will try to make the show accessible through other forms of amplification. (Every play we do is amplified – using different kinds of microphones that are placed around the stage.)
We have 4 choral microphones that hang above the stage (used for amplifying choral singers) that grab the sound from a specific section of stage and amplify it. We’ve been, over the last year, working hard to get these as effective as they can be, but ultimately, we found them wanting. (And we heard about it!)
For DIRTY DEEDS DOWNEAST, we spent nearly $1,000 on 3 fantastic new floor microphones that do a MUCH better job amplifying the actors. The 3 mics cover the entire stage area and, with their installation, we have had a VAST improvement in the quality of the sound. We had many comments, over the course of the run, that the experience was significantly improved.
Additionally, we have upgraded the headphones for our assisted listening devices, that tap directly into our sound feed and literally put the amplified voices directly into a patron’s ear.
It is my fervent hope that, with these improvements, we can continue to uphold what is, for me, an important artistic standard while at the same time, making the play accessible to all of our patrons.
The pandemic, unfortunately, got us all very used to sitting in our living rooms with the volume up and (sometimes) with the closed captioning on making our entertainment VERY easy to hear and understand. One of the joys of the live theatrical experience is the larger room filled with people experiencing the event alongside you – but the drawback is that a more active listening is required to receive the experience.
I want you to know that we are committed to making sure that the experience is accessible without compromising the high standard of the art.