A Raisin in the Sun
by Lorraine Hansberry
Co-Design with Sara Huddelston
Directed by Harry J. Elam, Jr.
Lights by Tony Shayne
Set by Erik Flatmo
Costumes by Courtney Flores
Photos by Frank Chen
Department of Theater & Performance Studies at Stanford University
Roble Studio Theater, Stanford, CA
THE DESIGN PROCESS:
The design concept for this show was fairly straightforward. The sound aimed to create realism in the scenes and connect them with period appropriate musical transitions. Our production was specifically set in 1959, so we found jazz and blues from that year for the transitional music. For the diegetic music, we aimed for music that was a little older, to allow for the characters' nostalgia.
The aim of much of the design was to convey realism. Since the audience was only a few feet from the stage, this required us to localize all diegetic sounds. To achieve this we added speakers behind the set, and in set pieces underneath the phone and record player. This allowed us to localize those sounds and, especially for the record player, to easily distinguish between that location and the main PA. The audience was in an 'L' shaped configuration relative to the stage, so we opted for 3 mini arrays to cover both audience banks, and placed the subwoofers behind the each of the outer arrays. We supplemented these with surrounds at each of the corners of the house.
Prior to the proper start of the show, one of the actors read the poem "Harlem" by Langston Hughes, in the script as an epigraph, and from which the title quotes. For this moment, we had the actor speak into a Golden Age Project R1 Active MKIII, an active ribbon microphone that provided both the sound and look we were aiming for. To help round out her voice, we added just a little reverb.
I initially signed on to this project to be the Assistant Sound Designer. Early on in the process I sourced much of the transitional music and was often the only sound representative at production meetings due to scheduling challenges. Because of this work, Sara approached me before tech to let me know she felt it would be more fairer this to be a co-design. I agreed, and we proceeded from there as equals. Though there was potential for conflict, it was an extremely smooth process, eac
DRUMS OF PASSION
The one non-realistic moment in the show was a moment of heightened realism when Walter and Beneatha are listening to Nigerian folk music (Babatunde Olatunji's Drums of Passion), and Walter has a monologue about Africa. As the monologue becomes more impassioned, the entire stage is lit in orange. To add to this heightened moment, we mixed in a version of the song with reverb, and had both the dry and wet mixes fade from the record player to the main PA and surrounds. Since this changed the audio image, it also created a much starker contrast when we abruptly snapped out of the more heightened state.
END OF SHOW MUSIC
At the top and end of the show, we used Charles Mingus' "Better Git it in Your Soul" from "Mingus Ah Um". For the end of the show, we created a version with a button that would precisely line up with the end of the show and the final stage picture. When this music is initially heard at the top of the show, it helps set both the setting and mood of the show. The use of it at the end of the show both created a bookend that effectively closed the show and served to propel the characters forward, since the edit deliberately does not allow the music to cleanly resolve.