"Angels in America (Millennium Approaches)"
Written by Tony Kushner

Staged at the Robsham Theater Arts Center, Boston College, November 2008

Produced by Boston College Theater Dept and the Robsham Theater Arts Center

Directed by Stuart Hecht

Set Design: Crystal Tiala

Costume Design: Jackie Dalley

Technical Director: Ruth Conrad-Proulx

Sound Design/ SFX Programming Team:

Designer: George Cooke

Assistant Design: Chris Casey (Class of 2010)

Board Operator: Jay Kloo (Class of 2010)

The sound design for our November 2008 production of "Angels in America" provided interesting challenges in implementation and SFX 6 was invaluable in meeting these challenges due to its ease of use, reliability, and flexibility.  The overall design was a 100+ cue combination of music for scene changes, actor-driven special effects, loud special audio effects, music underscoring, and wireless mics.  We used SFX's buss system to create six zones for playback: center cluster, front fill, rear fill, subs, onstage center effects, and offstage left effects.  The six busses can be seen in the active matrix section in the "Angels1" screen shot.

Angels 1 Screen shot

  Scene 2 of the play, which we referred to as "The Phone Scene",  provided a great challenge for the actor playing Roy Cohn and our board operator, Jay Kloo, as there were 26 cues in approximately  2 minutes.  Each cue had to sync with the actor pushing buttons on the phone, and the timing had to be perfect as phone holds had to be stopped and started at the correct times.  The cues can be seen in both the "Angels1" and "Angels2" screen shots.  We held several rehearsals for just the actor and the board op due to the complexity of the scene.

Angels 2 Screenshot

Sound effects were handled largely by Chris Casey, our assistant sound designer.  While many of the effects were straight ahead, such as the sound of a phone ringing or a bus honking, there were several cues that required thinking outside the box.  In the final scene, right before the angel appears, the bed on stage starts to creak and groan (cue KKKK in screen shot "Angels4").  For this cue, we ended up using the sound of a submarine creaking underwater.  The sound of the angel's wings provided more of a challenge as it was hard to find realistic sounding and very large sounding wings.  In the end, we viewed some movie footage of dragons and pterodactyls and found that the sound of a gas pilot lighting ("whoosh") rendered the best effect for this cue.

Angels 4 screenshot

There were points where we able to use SFX's buss structure to create some simple "surround" effects.  One such example begins at cue UUU on the "angles3" screen shot.  For this transition we had:

-city sounds in center cluster, front and rear fills
-rap music playing in the background in the offstage right speaker
-sirens playing in the background in the onstage center speaker
-a bus starts up and drives "through" the audience (created by crossfading the bus from the front to rear fills)

Angels 3 Screenshot

Lastly, we were able to use the MIDI capabilities of SFX to send program changes to our M7CL and turn on the wireless mic we used to amplify and process the ethereal voice for the angel.  This can be seen in screen shot "angels5", cues W and X.

Angels 5 Screenshot

This production was staged at an academic facility, but the production value and experience that the students working on the production received were of professional quality.  SFX was a vital part of the process as it reliably handled a complex show and our student tech staff had important skill training in working with professional software.