A Streetcar Named
Desire at The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts
This summer, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. showcased the playwright Tennessee Williams in a series of three of his most famous works: A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Glass Menagerie. Sound Designers Scott Lehrer, Jon Gromada, and Associate Designer Sten Severson used Stage Research's SFX sound playback software as a key component of their designs. Scott Lehrer's work on Streetcar illustrates this.
an important tool for designer Scott Lehrer. A Streetcar Named Desire,
with a run time of about three hours incorporated over two hours and twenty
minutes of sound and music cues and contained over 100 sound cues. How did he
approach putting together a show with so much sound playback?
Lehrer initially sat
down with director Garry Hynes to discuss the script and the concept of the
show. Streetcar, set in the lively French Quarter district of New
Orleans, is full of references to music and Jazz. It seemed natural, according
to Lehrer, to draw those references out of the book by incorporating into the
show an ever present "sonic background" -- whether it was coming from a radio
or from a club down the street.
The next challenge was
making the actors feel comfortable with the nearly constant music onstage.
Lehrer prefers to introduce the underscoring as soon as possible in the
rehearsal process, so that the director and actors can get used to it. But,
with the schedule for Streetcar, the earliest he could incorporate the
music was during tech. This is when SFX made his job easier.
One interesting source
of music in this production was the establishment of an offstage Jazz club that
was to sound as if it were located a few blocks away from the action on stage.
By applying heavy doses of echo and reverb, Lehrer had this offstage source
sounding distant, and had it sound like it was bouncing off the walls of the
narrow French Quarter streets, creating the illusion of a night club around the
Like Streetcar, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Glass Menagerie also were due ambitious sound designs and the sound designers and operators benefited from Stage Research's SFX by enabling them to focus on the art and provide the best possible design.