Sunday, February 08, 2009

A Couple of Quick Updates

The new season is under way, and I have been terribly negligent in making posts here. So, please accept my apologies. With this one post, I will try to remedy the situation and bring everyone up to date.

Award of Excellence

I already mentioned this on my main blog, but it makes sense to post it here, too. In 2008, I focused on upgrading and expanding music and sound effect control for Main Stage productions at Montgomery Theater. For my efforts in this and other projects, I was honored with the 2008 Award of Excellence. My wife schemed with the theater's staff to ensure that my parents and a few close friends were in the audience for the surprise presentation which took place immediately after the final performance of "The Last Night of Ballyhoo" (That would be, I think, the last night of "The Last Night of Ballyhoo"). And, believe me, I was completely surprised. I just never saw it coming; never expected such an award.

Yours truly flanked by the 2007 winner on my right, and the Artistic Director on my leftYours truly flanked by the 2007 winner (Heidi) on my right, and the Artistic Director (Tom) on my left

Over the Tavern

I'm currently in the midst of tech for "Over the Tavern" and I love the script. This wonderful show, set in the late 50s, focuses on 12-year-old Rudy. He's a rebel and budding comedian who starts to question everything about the Catholic church even as he struggles to survive his dysfunctional family. After deciding to skip confirmation in favor of investigating the "over thirteen hundred religions in the world," all (um) Hell breaks loose.

The sound has been a bit of a challenge. At least, acquiring some of the sounds has been challenging. I needed:
  • polka music (fast and slow)
  • radio tuning/changing station sounds
  • radio announcer speaking in Polish
  • loud western gunfight noises
  • TV channel changing sounds
  • cartoons (played on the TV)
  • audio from the Jack Paar Show
First, I'll cover the radio stuff. The polka music was not a difficult acquisition. I actually found two great albums on emusic: "More Polish Polkas" by the Polish Radio Polka Band, and "Great Polkas With Ray Henry" by Ray Henry & His Orchestra. Most of the radio sound FX I found included snippets of modern music, so they were of no use. The day before our tech run, I was able to find two snippets with static and such that seemed to work fairly well. The Polish DJ, however, was another thing entirely. Oh, I have a Polish voiceover, but I hope no one listens too closely to the content.

The television FX proved to be an interesting set of challenges. First, I needed cartoons. Lots of them. Fortunately, I was able to record the audio from classic cartoons that have been compiled at This is another situation for which WireTap Pro has been a perfect application. was less helpful with the other TV audio I needed: Jack Paar. Oh, there is plenty of Jack Paar content on the web, but most of it was not time appropriate for this show. I needed something from 1959 or a little earlier. What I found was Jack interviewing Bobby Kennedy, Jack interviewing Richard Nixon, and Jack introducing a clip of the Beatles ... all of which were taped after 1960. I finally did find two clips that were earlier and settled on one of them: a Polaroid commercial with Jack Paar and Jerry Lewis conducted live on Jack's show. I'll use a later post to describe how I assembled all these clips for use in the show.

Thanks to an anonymous donor, we have a new laptop for controlling sound playback. It's a Windows Vista machine, so I'll have to keep an eye on it for the problems that have been publicized. Also, it's chock full of bloat ware that just isn't necessary, so I constantly find myself having to disable yet another "gadget". But the best news about the machine is twofold: (1) I was able to find drivers for the Firewire 410 audio controller on the web (the included CD did not have Vista drivers), and (2) We have not seen any of the memory dump issues that the older laptop experienced. Knock on wood.

Well, I started this post during the Tech Sunday, and we are now finished with the first weekend of shows. So I think I'd better post this short missive before it becomes too far out of date.

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