Director: Adam Pankow
Company: West Fargo Summer Arts Intensive
Role: Sound Designer, Projection Engineer
Time: July - August, 2016
"HAIR - The American Tribal-Love Rock Musical", or simply "HAIR" for short, was the first example of a "Sound Design" ever on Broadway. It was with this knowledge of the original's groundbreaking production that made me want to honor its experimental roots. This would be my first show exploring substantial live-filter effects and surround sound routing.
The script describes an incredibly psychedelic experience, something we wanted to capture aurally as well as visually. The show began monaurally, utilizing only the center cluster with a heavy compressor, bandpass filter, hiss, and static to emulate the sound of a cheap 1960's turntable, playing classic Vietnam war-era rock music to set the mood while the house was open. The preshow announcement was of a similar style, leading to the pit beginning "Aquarius", still routed through the vinyl-emulating filter. As the rest of the instruments came in, the routing crossfaded to the side speakers as the filters and static faded away, until the pit was playing in full "stereophonic fidelity", leaving the center cluster for vocals.
Modern JBL PRX subwoofers were placed onstage near the proscenium to help augment the show's rock sound and feel, with custom printed period-accurate JBL logos affixed to their sides and the front power LED's disabled to help them blend into set. Surround sound effects and reverb washed through the house, enveloping the audience during the dream sequence in Act 2. We posted a trigger-warning due to the use of actual Viatnam war-tape sound effects coming from all sides of the theatre, including a circling helicopter during the sequence's climax.
The final scene revealed the use of 3 separate projections on the side and center walls, depicting the anti-war and civil rights protests of the 1960's. By the end of the song, these images transitioned into modern protests - distinctly mirroring those of many years ago; reminding the audience that the issues tackled in HAIR are not just history lessons - but issues we still cope with as a nation.
Both sound and projection equipment were connected to the main production network over a variety of formats including MIDI, Ethernet, and Wifi.
Photo: Full Company & Projections, HAIR
WF Summer Arts Intensive, 2016