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Jul 09

Check, 1, 2 – #TonyCanYouHearMe

By Brenna Corporal

The Tony Awards– Broadway’s biggest night. A night full of glitz and glamor and performances by your favorite new shows of the season. Everyone is anxious to find out who won Best Actress in a Musical, Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actor in a Play, and so on.

But there are many other categories that aren’t shown during the live broadcast of the awards show. These are the “creative” awards: choreography, costume, book, score, and scenic design, to name a few. These categories are very important. These art forms are what make musicals and plays happen.

The Tony Committee recently revoked the categories of “Best Sound Design of a Play” and “Best Sound Design of a Musical,” having released a statement that the members of the committee don’t know enough about sound design to make fair judgments. The Broadway community has taken up arms and started a protest against the removal of two very important categories.

To realize how important these categories are and why their being removed is so upsetting, one must know what sound design is.

Sound Design: (n) is the process of specifying, acquiring, manipulating or generating audio elements. It is employed in a variety of disciplines including filmmaking, television production, theatre, sound recording and reproduction, live performance, sound art, post-production, and video game software development.

Sound design for a musical entails fitting the performance space with the right materials for the sung and spoken sounds to travel through microphones and speakers. It also includes working on the sounds of the orchestra and special sound effects. Sound design for a play uses the same tactics to assure that the dialogue can be heard throughout the theater and that sound effects are prompt and heard,  but also usually involve setting up musical scores to be played as a background track during a scene change or dramatic moment.

Whether a musical or a play, sound design is incredibly important. I recently worked on a play and at the last minute, I was assigned to work sound. It was a very hard job to do: I had to go over the track list, set up cues, make sure all the CDs were in place, and then I had to be paying attention during the show to know my cues and set the effects going. It was overwhelming at first, but I got the hang of it with a few days of practice.

Boy, did it make a difference. There was a total of over 70 sound effects plus background music. This experience gave me a new-found respect for what sound designers do for a living, and it is not something to be taken lightly. It’s a lot of hard work and dedication that deserves to be rewarded.

The Broadway community took the matter into their own hands and started the campaign, “Tony Can You Hear Me?” There is an online petition that can be signed to help spread the cause. Broadway stars have also taken to Twitter and shared their views on the matter:

The awards for Sound Design of a Play and Musical are two awards that celebrate and recognize the hard work, talent, and dedication put in by sound designers. This category should be reinstated. If you agree, please take the time to sign the petition. Because without sound design, how can we have theater?

Picture via Twitter.

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