My master’s thesis (one of them…) was about using sounds to communicate information about what was happening off-stage. It’s a core component of the “theater of imagination” that we engage with in the Original Practices community. I’m always a little disappointed when I go see a show and I notice that they’ve cut or ignored lines like “It is the Moor; I know him by his trumpet.”
At one point in the process for Richard III, Scott Lange, my long-suffering music director, asked me, “Do you want to have a bell tolling when each person dies? Just three slow chimes, like church bells? Because we could do that.”
I looked at him and, with a perfectly straight face, said, “I’m sorry, are you asking me if I want more offstage sounds that help tell the story?”
He smiled. “Chimes it is.”
We have magic sounds for Margaret–sometimes she’s onstage and fully visible, but not visible to the other actors, and during that time, we have some magic sounds happening backstage. We also have some creepy sounds for the ghosts and for the moment when Richard’s arm gets cursed. And chanting for dead Henry’s funeral march, and knocking and clocks chiming! (“It is upon the stroke of four”–we better have heard that stroke.)
In this production, I’m excited about how things sound offstage. Scott Wright, the fight choreographer, included ongoing sword ringing and people shouting during the part of the battle of Bosworth where Richard and Richmond are fighting alone onstage. The texture this adds is incredible.
One of my obsessions is having trumpet calls for battles (more on that here). We’ve experimented with different solutions–we’ve used drums, which are fine, and I think one time a viola, which I found less satisfying. During Antony and Cleopatra, we reviewed various possibilities for faking a trumpet and ended up with the P-Buzz, which is sort of a plastic trumpet/trombone thing. The P-Buzz is fun, but it’s not a trumpet, you know? After our opening performance at Central Michigan University, one of our faculty hosts mentioned that he had a trumpet he was eager to give away. So just when I thought my night couldn’t get any better, now my favorite company has the instrument I have been dying to use in their shows!
But who shall play this wonderful item?
Kimi plays the French horn, surely she can figure out the trumpet? She was killing it on the P-Buzz, but an actual trumpet would be even better.
And now I need to plan another trumpet-heavy play. Or we’ll just have lots of random trumpet.
There is never enough offstage noise!