Actors struggle with sound issues

An old sound system makes play performances difficult

ROUGH REHEARSAL. Last years cast of Sevier on Stage practices for opening night under the direction of Annie Griffith. The cast and director struggled with the schools aging sound system.


ROUGH REHEARSAL. Last year’s cast of “Sevier on Stage” practices for opening night under the direction of Annie Griffith. The cast and director struggled with the school’s aging sound system.

Each school year, Sevier Middle performs a play for the public and the student body in the Koffman Auditorium. In recent years, this performance has become more challenging due to some serious sound problems.

Annie Griffith is the chorus and theater teacher at Sevier. As director of the play, she often has to deal with the auditorium’s sound issues.

“The sound system is so old,” she said. “Certain parts can’t be replaced if they stop working due to the age of the system, nor can we get a good sound to come through the system without compromising other aspects of the show. It’s really hard to try and create a pleasing sound when the sound system only partially works.”

During last year’s play, “The Music Man”, the audience reported that it was hard to hear the actors even with their microphones on.

“It’s obviously something that we struggle with and we are working to find a way to resolve some of the problems,” Griffith said. “We are well aware that hearing cast members can be difficult, especially when we don’t have enough mics to fit all the students”.

A donation last year will allow the theater program to purchase extra microphones for this year’s show. Griffith hopes this will help solve some of the issues.

Nathan Anderson performed in last year’s school play. To him, the sound system is a major problem.

“It will glitch out and start a soundbite,” he said. “It will also randomly restart mid-track. There are no speakers in the back, either, causing the audience to not be able to hear.”

Amelia Lockhart, another actor from last year’s play, agreed.

“The biggest challenges with the sound system are when it cuts out during a song or when it skips a part of the song,” she said.

The microphones Sevier uses are Shure brand. They have a headset which is connected to the mic pack that is hidden in the costumes of the students.

“These mics are wonderful, but they are newer than the sound system, which can cause some technical issues,” Griffith said. “It’s not a problem with the mics, it’s a problem with the sound system.”

Pearce Farr, another member of last year’s cast, ran into some problems with the microphones.

“There are a few good microphones that work well and are up-to-date, but those are for the leads,” he said. “The other microphones are definitely not as good and could use replacements.”

According to Anderson, battery life is also a problem.

“It will be fine, then lose battery charge overnight,” he said.

According to Griffith, it would take a lot of money to update the sound system.

“When I’ve spoken with administration last year and the year previously, it’s basically out of the question to repair the sound system with the move to the North building; however, since that keeps getting delayed, I see no reason as to why we can’t make these repairs now,” she said. “The cost would be in the thousands to even begin fixing the system.”

Although the sound system is old, it is not a major challenge for students to run the sound system.

“Each mic is connected to a different channel, so the students running sound have a list of which mic is on which channel and have a cue sheet that tells them when to mute and unmute the mics,” Griffith said. “In terms of the music and running that side of the sound, students follow a sound cue sheet and have multiple systems to operate in order to get the sound running correctly.”

Technology, however, is not the only problem Sevier’s actors face.

“The stage is very old and slippery,” Anderson said. “There’s also so much carpet [in the auditorium] that the noise gets ‘sucked up’.”

Farr, too, is concerned about the stage.

“One thing that did get in the way was barely enough space on stage during full cast scenes,” he said.

Performing for a middle school audience is also not without challenges.

“People were bullying other kids and one person cussed out a teacher,” Lockhart said. “We need kids who won’t be mean and listen to the adults.”

Anderson agreed.

“The back [of the auditorium] is dark and cold,” he said. “It’s the perfect spot for not wanting to watch the show. However, most of the time, the people interested in the show get plopped in the back, while the kids who don’t care as much tend to be near the front.”

The age of the technology is easily the biggest obstacle to a strong school play production.

“There’s always something happening that is out of our control or that can’t be seen, making fixing the issues incredibly difficult,” Griffith said. “The sound system and lighting system are both ancient and need to be repaired or replaced. Some of the spotlights don’t work, half the stage lights are out. We’ve just gotten really good at working with the resources we are fortunate enough to have.”