New effects used in School District of Rhinelander drama department spring play
BY KRISTIN HIGGINS, DIRECTOR
Special to the Star Journal
What are the 39 Steps? Definitely not a staircase or a self help program! The 39 Steps is a secret organization of spies that collect information on behalf of the secret service of…we never know because the keeper of the secret gets shot. Dun, dun, dun. It’s implied and assumed that it’s for Germany. The book was written in 1915 by John Buchan. Alfred Hitchcock made a movie version in 1935. It was made into a play for FOUR actors in 2005 by Patrick Barlow.
During our production, we were lucky enough to contact John Buchan’s great-grandson, Alasdair Buchan, a British actor, who graciously recorded an introduction for us to project prior to the play. He told us that his great-grandfather didn’t like the Hitchcock version of the story when he attended the premiere.
While the play was written for four, two principle actors and two actors to play every other character, we decided that we have way too many talented student actors to limit our cast to just four. Ironically (or not), we ended up having 39 students involved in this play, including actors, tech crew, and Foley sound effects technicians. Our production team of Roddy MacMillan, Al Higgins, Neil Rumney and I decided to spice up the production by creating live sound effects, in the vein of Foley effects.
“The reproduction of everyday sound effects that are added to film, video, and other media in post-production to enhance audio quality. These reproduced sounds can be anything from the swishing of clothing and footsteps to squeaky doors and breaking glass. The technique is named after Jack Foley, who established the basic modern techniques still used today.”
We used a box of mac and cheese for train sounds, a handmade wind machine for wind, a ratchet for a knife, a bin with newspapers and water in it for walking-through-a-bog sounds, a belt snapping for gunshots, a toy phone for phone ringing, and others to add depth to the performance.
We also built a screen to project various images to enhance the play, including an explosion, traveling in a car, and a crackling fire. Because we had the screen, we were also able to backlight certain scenes, including a flying airplane.
We were lucky enough to team up with the Rhinelander Cafe and Pub for an experimental program called “Dinner and a Play.” Pub patrons were able to dine at the Pub and ask for a ticket to the play and the Pub generously donated the cost of the tickets to the drama department, so we all thank the Pub very much!
This production was incredibly technical for us and the entire team handled it beautifully. I’m extremely proud of the staff and the cast and can’t wait to start working on the fall musical…stay tuned. Photos by Bob Mainhardt.
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