Totally stumbled into it. I fell in love with music in high school—the universal quality of it, how visceral it is, the way it can juxtapose events, etc. I particularly loved how it was used in films I watched, like Requiem for a Dream and Little Miss Sunshine. Eventually I started making mix tapes for my friends based on whatever mood they wanted to feel, and this hobby carried over into college. One of my friends was a wonderful director—of course I made mix tapes for her because that was normal in my head—and in the last semester of my sophomore year she asked me to sound design a show she was directing, Rabbit Hole. I had no idea what the hell she was talking about or that sound design existed, but I took on the show and would stay up all night making sure I got a loop correct or a fade to be perfect. After we tech-ed the show I wouldn't shut up to my friends about how cue O (this was before I learned that if you're using letters, you shouldn't really use “O” or “Q” unless it's dire to make your stage manager's/board op's life easier) worked so well with the lights. I was pretty annoying and so in love with this new thing, but still didn't consider it as a career as it wasn't what I went to college for.
The following year I designed Zoo Story. Fordham University (where I went to college) does this thing after a show where they'll discuss the play and the various aspects of it in directing class—well, the director and I were great friends at the time (and now dating, cheers to theatre bringing people together!), and after her critique she found me and told me that people really liked what I did on the show. That was the moment I realized I could potentially make a life in the theatre doing sound. I made meetings with the head of the directing program, Elizabeth Margid, along with the production manager for Fordham, Kai Brothers, and asked them if they could see me doing this professionally, and if so how the hell to do it. Both of them were incredibly supportive and introduced me to some amazing people, and, well, here we are!
What brought you to New York City?
Back in the day I wanted to work for The Daily Show as a satirical reporter, so I went to Fordham because it was near where The Daily Show records.
What influences you as a designer? Are there any artists, musicians, industry professionals, or other resources that shape your personal aesthetic?
One of the main influences that isn't a person or musician is sound in general. I love listening to the general noise we encounter every day and how it has a certain musicality. The artists I'm drawn to explore this in their own way—I'm so in love with Andrew Bird, Nico Muhly, Son Lux, Michael Nyman, The Books, Zoe Keating, etc. I think what I'm trying to say is that I'm influenced by noise and hearing the ways we can use it.
In terms of industry professionals, I'm influenced largely by the designers I work for/with. I've gotten obnoxiously lucky in terms of the people I assist. They're all so talented I can't believe it, and are incredibly generous with me. It's an honor getting to watch how they work, react to situations, and interact with their collaborators—I'm gleaning everything I possibly can from them.
Tell me about your creative process. What do you look for in a first reading of a script? The second read?
The first pass through a script I just listen to what it feels like and let myself get sucked into the world, figure out the heart and tone of it. The second time around I'll go more into the logistics of it, the whole “okay, so there are ten transitions, an act break—okay do we need intermission music?, there's a phone call in that scene—can we get a practical?” rigamarole. The second time is also when I'll get a whole lot of silly ideas about how we can do certain things or use a piece of music and I'll bombard my poor partner with thoughts and email the director at like two in the morning because I'm so excited about something.
How do you approach an indie show with limited time, labor and budget? Do you have any special techniques for maximizing artistic expression?
On an indie show, the goal for me is always to get sound in the room as fast as possible. If I can get the entire show designed and put into runs that occur in rehearsal, then we're just setting levels during tech and dealing with anything new that comes up—piece of cake. Sound has the big advantage of being able to be designed outside of the theatre space, so I try to take full advantage of that before getting into tech since there's so little time in the space.
Tell me about FLAMINGO. Where are you in the design process?
I'm so excited about Flamingo; it's a beautiful play that delves into matters of the heart and how relationships can change us. We're in a super great place in the design process. We know what the world sounds like and feels like tonally. The other day I sent Jillian, the wonderful director, a list of ideas for all the transitions and once we check in about those I'll lock myself in my bedroom and put all the puzzle pieces of the show together.
Is there anything the indie theatre community can do to make things easier for theatre designers? Anything you’d love to ask of producers, production managers, or artistic directors? Anything you’d like to ask of other designers?
As a sound person, I'd say please please please update your inventory. I know new equipment is expensive and often not the top priority since people need to be paid and all those things, but new speakers and lights are an easy way to drastically improve the quality of the shows that can be designed. As a theatre designer in general, it'd be amazing if everyone involved in indie theatre only had to do the job they were hired for. Have a production manager, a TD, an ME, a stage manager (oh dear lord please always have a stage manager), etc—all the stuff needed to make sure the designers can focus on designing the best show possible.