a christmas story
Director: Lori Bartlett-Koenig
Company: Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre
Role: Sound Designer
Time: November - December, 2018
The original movie, A Christmas Story, holds a special place in my heart. Like many families, the film could be seen playing in the background of most of my family Christmases, thanks to the classic 24-hour marathon aired each year. Even with this tradition, I had only watched the film from start to finish a handful of times; to most of us, it was simply a collection of humorous one-liners from The Old Man and clever quips about childhood experiences from the perspective of Jean Shepard, the narrator and writer of the book on which the movie is based. But beneath that veneer lies a tried-and-true story about the relationship between a son and his dad.
When I first heard of the musical adaptation of the film, I was a bit apprehensive - how could a musical capture all the magic of this Christmas classic, and relay it in a way that audiences could make new connections with? These worries were quickly dashed after sitting through a rehearsal. The genuine relationships our "stage families" had developed with one another abetted any hesitations I felt. To my surprise, no one on my Sound Crew had ever seen the movie - something we made sure to correct before the show opened!
While the film was not a commercial success during its initial theatrical release, it has come to be a cult-classic American Christmas movie, and with that status comes high expectations for the stage version. Cinematic screenplays can make for complicated stage adaptations, especially in regards to sound. Where foley and other sound effects can abound in the highly controlled environment of recording
Digital Script Sample
studios, live theatre presents a challenge to recreating a similar level of acoustic envelopment as the design must be able to be operated live every night by just a few crew members.
One particularly fun aspect of this design was the opportunity to use a wireless trigger for Ralphie's BB gun sound effects (a more detailed write-up can be found HERE.) As FMCT has a permanently installed mono house sound system, rear surround speakers were added for the production, as well as several point source FX speakers, to try and mimic movie theatre surround sound. Much of the remote-located orchestra was mixed into the rear surrounds, enveloping the audience while helping keep the main speakers clear to ensure that dialogue was as intelligible as possible! In the end, this show quickly became one of my favorite designs for the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre, due to its sentimentality and the genuine performances given by our full company.
Several examples of sound effects (most sourced from SoundSnap), a short video of the mixing of "Ralphie to the Rescue", and a photo gallery can be found below:
* - These tracks have been edited down to two-track stereo, and surround information has been lost.
Photo: Perry Rust, A Christmas Story
Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre, 2018