By Boo Killebrew
Music by Heather Christian
Lyrics by Lucy Thurber
Additional Music and Lyrics by Christine Bile
Directed by Jenna Worsham
Lights by Alexander Fetchko
Set by Joe Burt
Costumes by Ryan Schaap
Community Works on the Main Stage at Williamstown Theater Festival, Williamstown, MA
ABOUT THE PLAY:
Seventh grader Sam has kept to herself since her dad died while serving in the military. Her mother and her aunt have tried everything to get her to open up, but she only truly comes out of her shell around a fire, telling ghost stories, in the woods with her friends. When Sam’s favorite story suddenly materializes before her eyes, she sets out on an adventure and, ultimately, on a journey of self-discovery.
This show was the 2019 Community Works show for Williamstown Theatre Festival. Community Works is a year-round community-engaged theatre program that brings together local residents and professional theatre artists to make plays for and about the Berkshires.
THE DESIGN PROCESS:
In addition to being a musical, there were many sound cues called for in the script. The story was told with a narrator framing it as a ghost story, and focused on a ghost story itself. This led to the primary role of the sound design being that of creating the forest through the eyes of a child. This created a basis for the more supernatural and comedic effects and allowed them to be rooted in the natural, tying them back to the main character and her fears. This role of sound-design-as-forest also allowed the sound to help indicate the time of day. These were often more subtle moments, but they often functioned as the bases for the more heightened, supernatural moments.
The wireless mics worn by a rotating 20 members of the over 80 person cast were supplemented by area mics. This allowed us to still have the intelligibility of the close-micing but achieve the (somewhat overwhelming) effect of the larger groups.
There was a major logistical challenge to this show–it took place on the set of another show! This meant that for every performance (and many of our technical rehearsals) we would have to perform a complete changeover between the shows. We decided to execute this by strategically building this show around the other to minimize physical changes. We added a set of front fills on the lip of the stage, but the most important change was the addition of everything necessary for the band.
On top of this, we had a cast of over 80 people, most of whom needed a microphone at some point, but only 20 microphones. This led to a slightly convoluted and barely executable mic plot. With only a few rehearsals for my engineer to master the show, I aimed to keep the show mix simple. For most of the songs I utilized one of a few reverbs at set starting levels, letting the music dictate the push and pull of the mix.
TOP OF SHOW:
Before the top of show ambience begins we hear a tone. This tone will return throughout the show, symbolizing the protagonist, Sam, and her connection to the ghost of Eli Whitney. We added it to the top of this sequence so it would be familiar to the audience when it returned, and to help create the aura of the supernatural. Following this tone, we hear the forest at night. This continues under the narrator's lines until it is cut off with a click of their fingers.
MOUNTAIN SPIRITS/ELI APPEARING:
This was one of the most important moments in the show. Sam is with a bunch of other kids in the woods telling ghost stories (including one about Eli Whitney) when suddenly all of their flashlights go out. They begin to scatter. They hear the sounds of approaching drums, thunder and more and run away. Only Sam stays, first seeing several mountain spirits and then finally falling into Eli's cabin. The sequence ends as Sam trips and the lights come up.