NEW YORK — When the Lonesome Traveler arrived at Off-Broadway’s 59E59 Theaters this month, Masque Sound, a leading theatrical sound reinforcement, installation and design company, was there to greet the eagerly anticipated folk revue with a custom audio equipment package.
Weaving together a tapestry of the venues and historic circumstances that put folk at the core of the great changes that swept American society from the 1920s to the 1960s, Lonesome Traveler celebrates the legacy of folk as the soundtrack of social change and moral revolution. Nine young singer/musicians dramatize key moments in the history of the American folk revival, portraying characters such as The Carter Family, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Odetta, Leadbelly, The Kingston Trio and Joan Baez. Along the way, audiences are invited to sing along to classics, such as Goodnight, Irene, This Land Is Your Land, Puff the Magic Dragon, Baby Blue and We Shall Overcome.
Sound Designer Jonathan Burke was intimately familiar with the production, as he worked on the show when it premiered at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, California, and was excited to help bring it to New York. “My goal in designing the sound was to turn the theater into a place for storytelling, but the show has a diverse soundscape, which proved challenging at times,” says Burke. “The show takes the audience through the history of folk music with its actors playing out various historical performers. It goes from natural sound to a full-blown concert feel and then back again, all supplemented by media of historical significance using a bed of sound effects with transitions. As such, I needed a sound system with a lot of flexibility for those challenging changeovers, and that’s where Masque Sound was really helpful.”
The theater’s size also presented a challenge. A smaller venue, 59E59 Theaters' Theater A seats approximately 196 people, which means that, acoustically, each seat has a dramatically different stage perspective. The theater’s existing in-house system did not have the flexibility that a show of this nature requires, which is why Burke turned to Masque Sound for a solution. Masque Sound provided Burke with a DiGiCo SD9T Live Digital Console with Stealth Digital Processing™ to meet his needs. “The SD9T made all of the shows transitions easier to do,” says Burke. “We use very clever delay matrixing on the show, and the SD9T was instrumental in timing out the system so that it sounded natural.”
Though Burke relied on the theater’s in-house EAW speaker system, he turned to Masque Sound to provide supplemental speakers where needed, including a Meyer Sound UPJ-1P for the center speaker, as well as several EAW JF60s and Meyer UP2Ms strategically placed throughout the venue. “With its horn rotated, the UPJ-1P has great coverage and blends well, making it perfect for the center speaker,” says Burke. “Additionally, we added one EAW JF60 in the mix position to complement the theater’s in-house system, and placed a few more EAW JF60s in various positions for spot coverage. We utilized the Meyer UP2Ms for backfills when we needed to transition into the big concert sound, which worked well, because the additional speakers added more reverb to enhance certain moments without raising the SPL too much. It all sounds great and, thanks to Masque, every seat is a great seat.”
As the show features a fair amount of playback for atmosphere and key moments in time, Masque Sound helped capture those important sounds and effects by providing a Meyer 500-HP high-power subwoofer. In total, the show operated 16 channels of wireless. The production’s nine singers utilized eight of those available wireless channels, wearing DPA d:fine™ 4066 headset mics along with Shure transmitters, which were also part of Masque Sound’s comprehensive audio equipment package. “The wireless was flawless and rock solid from the moment we walked in the door, which is always a relief, especially in a dense television market like New York,” adds Burke. Additionally, six wireless channels were used to accommodate instrument cables for the guitars and banjo, with two spare channels in place as backup.
“Scott Kalata and the crew at Masque Sound have been excellent to work with,” concludes Burke. “The crew was particularly amazing during load-in week. If something came up and we needed a piece of equipment, it was there the next morning. In addition, having Mixer David Crawford, who mixed the show in California, join the team to work with me on the New York show was fantastic. He has done a wonderful job mixing and as a team we work really well together. The final result is something we are all proud of, and I am very thankful to all who helped make this possible.”
Lonesome Traveler officially opened on March 17 at 59E59 Theaters, located at 59 East 59th Street in Manhattan. The show is slated to run through April 19. For more information, visit www.59e59.org.
About Masque Sound
Founded in 1936 by a trio of Broadway stagehands, Masque Sound evolved into one of NYC’s most successful theatrical sound reinforcement, installation and design companies specializing in theatrical, house of worship, sporting, corporate, TV broadcast and live concert events. Celebrating more than 75 years in the industry, the company is led by President Stephanie Hansen and the firm’s third generation owner, Geoff Shearing. The company also operates Florida-based Professional Wireless Systems, a leader in the development and implementation of wireless technology. Credits range from major Broadway shows and tours including “Phantom of the Opera,” “Mamma Mia!,” “Lion King,” “Jersey Boys,” “Memphis,” “The Book of Mormon,” “Newsies,” “Once” and “Kinky Boots” to yearly Super Bowl broadcasts and installations of varying sizes, including New York’s New Victory Theater and historic St. Bartholomew’s Church. Masque Sound’s 70,000 sq. ft. corporate headquarters and main assembly facility is located at 21 East Union Ave., East Rutherford, NJ, 20 minutes from midtown Manhattan. For more information, call (201) 939-8666 or visit www.MasqueSound.com.