Anna Herbst performing at Simply Delish! (Photo: Fredericksen)
BUHS sound system upgrade offers new ‘wow’ factor for Playhouse 395
A coin spinning on hardwood. A string symphony. An alarm buzzer blaring. A saxophone serenade. Live Broadway solos. These were some of the crystal clear sounds filling the Bishop High School auditorium last Wednesday for the public debut of the newly installed sound system. Thanks to a $60,000 grant by the Deininger Foundation, Playhouse 395 and the Bishop community will now have access to a state-of-the-art sound system that rivals those of entertainment hotspots such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
As a “thank you” to the Deininger Foundation and to the key people who helped with the project, Playhouse 395 hosted a reception last Wednesday evening at the Bishop High School Auditorium. Simply Delish! Catering served decadent hors d’oeuvres prior to the show and components of the new sound system were on display for people to learn more about the advanced technology.
To showcase the quality of the sound, Playhouse 395 put on a four-part show. Pat Powell played the saxophone, demonstrating the system’s ability to pick up subtleties of instruments during live concerts. A sound effects medley produced by Derik Olson featured the system’s broad range of sound effects capabilities. To spotlight the new microphone quality, Anna Herbst sang “How Lovely to Be a Woman” and Jessica Burchett sang “Taylor the Latte Boy.”
Up until now, setting up sound systems for productions was a logistical nightmare, as all the equipment had to be borrowed, said Katharine Allen, Board President of Playhouse 395. Usually, setting equipment up for a show took about two hours. The new system should enable the setup crew to cut that time in half, said Dan Totheroh, Playhouse 395 Technical Director.
“We feel really sure that we installed the best quality product with the most longevity and versatility,” Allen said.
The wow-factor new sound was made possible by hiring Preston Dunn, a
consultant from Carson City, Nev., to painstakingly tailor the new system to fit the auditorium space. He measured the acoustics of the building by compiling information such as the material and measurements for the walls, seats, ceiling and angles of the building. The final sound product is evidence of his detailed work.
“The sound is way, way better,” said Derik Olson, Playhouse 395 Sound Director. “You can tell that it’s been fine-tuned to fit the auditorium.”
Although the Deininger Foundation grant acted as the catalyst for the project, the sound system would not have been installed without the help of many people. Volunteer labor helped cut installation costs in half. Totheroh alone spent about 600 of his own hours to help lay more than 8,000 feet of cable. He was involved from start to finish. Even while lying in a hospital bed after doctors surgically removed a walnut-sized brain tumor, Totheroh called to make sure the project was still underway.
Olson worked alongside Totheroh during the installation process and will be responsible for its maintenance, as well as training Playhouse 395, School District employees and students on how to use the equipment. Mary Daniel wrote the grant request and sought feedback from major performing arts group in the area, such as the Felici Trio, Community Concerts and Inyo Council for the Arts, to ensure the new equipment would meet the needs of these groups.
The system is a testament to the power of giving and community collaboration, Allen said. She said the change in quality will be noticeable to audience members when they realize they no longer have to find the “sweet spot” in the theater where the sound is actually audible. Now, the audience can sit anywhere, kick back, and not only see but also really HEAR the show.
Check out the new system this weekend during Playhouse 395’s Broadway Revue fundraiser, Oct. 7-8 at the Bishop High School Auditorium. For tix and other info: call 760.920.9100 or visit www.playhouse395.com.