© 2019 Christian Ekren Design

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"hello, dolly!"
Director: Michael Walling
Company: Trollwood Performing Arts School
Role: Sound Designer
Time: May - August 2018

A show of several firsts for me - first design for Trollwood Performing Arts School, outdoors, and using line arrays! Hello, Dolly! utilized an L/C/R hang of NEXO GEO S8 series line arrays routed from a Soundcraft Vi1 console mixing 39 actors wearing 45 Sennheiser EW wireless packs with MKE2 and Countryman B3 elements. A Soundcraft Si3 Performer submixed a pit of 27 musicians.

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Show Paperwork

The site owns most of its own equipment, but must be struck and stored each season. The 10-year-old venue had fought poor acoustic coverage every year since opening, due mostly to an incorrectly flown center cluster throwing much of its energy back on-stage, causing very poor gain-before-feedback. Side array angles were also insufficient as-installed, with several boxes aimed over the audience - leading to noise complaints from neighbors most seasons. After modeling the site using NEXO's NS-1 software, we changed the box angles and orientations of every hang. The center hang, originally a horizontal cluster of 4 cabs, was flipped vertically, while side array box angles were increased to limit coverage to the actual seating areas. System tuning via SMAART helped keep every element properly delayed and EQ'ed. In the end, many positive comments were received from patrons, indicating the new coverage patterns were working as intended!

A Dante expansion card was purchased this season and installed in a Soundcraft Compact Stagebox to allow for multitrack recording and live monitoring. Recorded rehearsals were fed back into the console to allow the A1 to practice mixing the show at any time. An A2 listening station was setup understage, allowing them to listen and troubleshoot mics without interrupting the A1.

Something never done at this venue before was to have actors performing in the house, in front of the PA. In fact, Dolly's first entrance was from the back of the house - talking all the while over orchestration as she proceeded to the stage, directly in front of several front fills! Careful system coordination, mixing, and lav placement allowed us to facilitate this blocking without the need of a GEQ to filter feedback, while retaining enough level to ensure the entire audience could hear!

Discrete windscreens were used on all soloing actors, and every element was waterproofed utilizing Scotchguard-soaked spandex stretched tightly across the capsules. Packs were protected utilizing WirelessMicBelt pouches and latex sweat protectors. These practices proved their usefulness many times over! Wind noise, typically a large problem at the venue, was all but non-existent during our 3-week run. Sweat-outs and element failures were also very rare - less than 5 elements were lost during the entire run, all of which had already been in use for several years.

A Clearcom 4-channel wired and 2-channel wireless comm system facilitated backstage coordination of all departments during the show. Program input of vocalists to the Pit's channel allowed the conductor to remain on comm during the show. A 2-channel video system also provided overstage views to Stage Management and a front-stage view to the Pit Conductor, located under the stage.

Photo: Amp Room, "Hello, Dolly" 

Trollwood Performing Arts School 2018