PerformInk is Chicago's entertainment industry trade publication.
In this 4-part series, PerformInk takes you inside Windy City Playhouse’s SOUTHERN GOTHIC through blog posts written by the people behind the scenes. To read past INSIDE articles, click here.
By Jeffrey Levin, Sound Designer
Picture this: you’ve just walked through your front door, set down your keys, and stop. What do you hear? The neighbor’s dog just started barking, again. Your landline phone is ringing from another room. A car drives down your street, a song floating from its speakers. The reality of life is filled with noise, much of which we don’t even notice as we go about our daily lives – but in an immersive show, noise is the key to reality.
In “Southern Gothic,” I set about creating the layers of sound that would exist in a normal home, using a combination of music and internal and external sounds. We wanted the audience to feel as if they had stepped out of a production, out of a show, and into an actual party in 1960’s Georgia. This meant that the approach to sound design would be completely different from that of another show – acquiring period phones, record players and period records, and some various sound equipment that might be in a house in that time. We found a speaker from 1960’s, which I took the interior out of, and replaced with my own, more modern rigging to get it up and working.
Music was also a huge influence in this show – we started out with a master playlist pulled from popular songs of the time, Elvis, Perry Como, Frankie Avalon, and from there, we chose some songs that would best inform the story, that would best elevate the scene. Some of the songs featured throughout the show are “Moon Glow,” “Banana Boat Song,” and “Shangri-La,” which we tracked down on record.
Because of the immersive nature of the production, and the audience’s ability to experience the show while moving from room to room at will, I used sound throughout the set to drive the narrative and direct the audience’s attention to a particular scene. Along with lighting design through the house, sound will help to signify the passage of time through the night. As we get closer to the show opening, I’m working on building those layers of sound to make the experience as real and enthralling as possible for the audience. I’m incredibly excited for audiences to experience the production and hope they walk away feeling less like they’re leaving a show, and more like they’re leaving a great party at a friend’s house.
Performances of SOUTHERN GOTHIC start February 7th. For more information visit windycityplayhouse.com.
Jeffrey Levin (Sound Design) is a composer, sound designer, and musician based in Chicago IL. Jeffrey is happy returning to Windy City Playhouse having previously designed EXPLORER’S CLUB, THIS, and was Associate Sound Designer on BOOTYCANDY. Jeffrey has contributed original music and sound designs for around 100 productions for various theaters in and outside of Chicago. He has collaborated with Steppenwolf, Steep, Strawdog, A Red Orchid, Oracle, Cor Theatre, Emerald City, Theatre Wit, Collaboraction, Albany Park Theatre Project, The House Theatre, TUTA, Greenhouse Productions, Jackalope, Stage Left, Chicago Commercial Collective, Chicago Fringe Opera, ChiArts High School, and Columbia College. Jeffrey received his Masters of Music in Composition at DePaul University and Bachelors of Music in Composition at Columbia College Chicago. www.