Between the Signs


I've been working on selecting the sfx and music to be used in PROOF. It's one of my favorite tasks with a production. It is so important to me for the music for scene changes or intermission or pre- and post- show express and embrace the feel and personality of the production. It's challenging to find the right material, and I am almost always second guessing myself.

Years ago we produced a great little play called The View From Here. There were three women and one man in the cast, and the main character was an agoraphobic. The other two women—a sister and a neighbor—all had lots of advice and tried to help. I wanted a woman's voice between scenes. There were references to the main character's likes and dislikes and fears. I used almost exclusively songs by Bonnie Raitt. I remember one scene in the second act and Raitt begins singing as if in the main charater's mind: “Turn down the lights, Turn down the bed, Turn down these voices inside my head, Lay down with me, Tell me no lies, Just hold me close, don't patronize...'Cause I can't make you loveme if you don't...” I can still feel what I did every night of the performance when that moment came. It worked. It did more than resonate.

There have been a number of these moments in HG's history like this...when the stars align, as they say. I am grateful for the times that it all works. Another moment was in Bill W and Dr Bob. It took me a long time to get those scene change music pieces. Even before we began casting I knew that I wanted to end the piece with Arvo Part's “Spiegel im Spiegel”, cello and piano. I had only recently come across this piece and it moved me—still does—to tears. When that roller-coaster of a play comes to the conclusion with Bill talking about his close friend Bob, Arvo Part's music completely espressed the moment. (If you don't know the piece, please look it up on youtube and find the clip of the two young men on cello and piano; absolutely powerful.)

So how does one express in music Catherine's journey? It takes place in Chicago. Unique Chicago jazz? And Hal is a drummer in a band. Percussion music? And Robert's mind is unstable. Phillip Glass? There is no mention of music other than the band than Hal's band. Oh, wait, yes, Robert's proofs are described as “the most elegant proofs, perfect proofs, proofs like music.” So where to go with this?

Our set is minimalistic, a skeleton of a house, devoid of stuff, so it seems right for the sfx to follow that feel. I've been slogging over the selections for days—slogging is another word used to describe Robert's mode of operation—and I've just finished it...ready for the sound technician to put it all on a disc ready for Linda to operate. To celebrate I put on Spiegel im Spiegel and am reminded again how powerful music is.

I'll be curious to know if you think the sfx works. If you don't notice, that's a good sign that it's all blending into a unified whole...which is the goal of course.