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Work Samples

Live sound mixing and sound design

Live sound mix, original music and sound design: an excerpt from El perro del Hortelano, at Gala Hispanic Theater, October 2020.

Spooky Action Virtual Plays 2020-2021(720)

Original music and sound design for online collaborations with Spooky Action Theater and director Craig Baldwin:
 1. ZERO: desire, danger and the forbidden in the New England woods. 2. A DOG IS A CREATURE OF A NOSE: life and death, "seen" through the nose of a dog. 3. WATER DOESN'T KILL: a bereaved mother reaches out to her daughter, veering toward suicide. (We used different "room tones" to reinforce her fragmented sense of time and memory.)

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About David

Baltimore City - Station North A&E District

David Crandall's picture
From an undergrad fascination with English ritual street theater and Peter Brooks’ THE EMPTY SPACE, through my years in Washington crewing with Peter Sellars’ American National Theater, then as one of the first theater sound designers in the Mid-Atlantic, to my time in Baltimore, I’ve been interested in theater “in the wild.”  I’ve pursued theater that lives in spite of, and in the interstices of, commercial, academic, and regional theater institutions, and have worked to leverage... more

Theater in a plague year I: a live production of Lope de Vega's El perro del hortelano

Sound design/live sound mixing.

In Fall 2020, eight months into the COVID-19 crisis, Gala Hispanic Theater was afforded a unique opportunity: as a test for possible future shows, the District of Columbia government permitted Gala to mount the city's first fully staged production for limited-capacity audiences. The facility was revamped for COVID protections and extensive testing was carried out; the project was carefully monitored for risks, and ultimately concluded a successful run with no new infections.

The play was a classic of Spain's Golden Age of theater: Lope de Vega's romantic comedy-cum-social satire "El perro del hortelano," or "The Dog In the Manger," in a streamlined modern adaptation set in a futuristic Venetian club scene.

The set was encased in plexiglas walls as a barrier for aerosols from the performers, who were not masked. This required the use of microphones on everyone, and provided a unique sound-design opportunity. Isolated from the speakers by the plexi walls, the normally feedback-prone microphones could be mixed and effects applied much more creatively. The overheated passions of the close-miked characters could be voiced with telenovela-like reverb effects.

Pulsing club music filled the world on the stage, while speakers surrounding the audience provided an environment for this "terrarium of passions:" the jewel-like set confining the action was heard as if placed outdoors in a garden, the sounds of which provided a gentle context during quiet moments.

  • El perro set - on stage

    El perro del Hortelano - the set
    The set for El perro del hortelano had walls of plexiglas, and sat onstage like a terrarium set outdoors in a garden. During lulls in the action, the natural sounds of the garden could be heard surrounding the audience. Photo by Daniel Martínez.
  • Teodoro reads a love letter - Daniel Martínez.png

    A perspective view of the set with an actor reading a letter.
    The hero, Teodoro (Ariel Texido) reads a love letter. Enclosing the actors behind glass required the use of microphones, but also enabled us to create many creative cinematic audio effects.
  • Diana and her suitors

    Set with cast members
    A wide view of the set, with the cast. Director José Zayas used vivid costumes and energetic club music between and during scenes to reinforce the "emotional hothouse" effect. Photo by Daniel Martínez
  • Echoing breath

    Heroine breathes on the glass and draws a heart.
    At one point in the play, the heroine Diana (Soraya Padrao) breathes on the glass wall of the set and draws a heart in the surface fog. We captured the sound of her breath and sent it echoing around the theater. The actors quickly learned to use their microphone's proximity to the reflective glass surface to create aural effects of their own.

Theater in a Plague Year II: Online productions with Spooky Action Theater

When the COVID-19 crisis struck early last year, resulting in the near-complete shutdown of the entertainment industry, some theater companies took the initiative and started searching for ways to present, if not live theater, then at least actors reacting to each other in real time. The technology that permitted this, as we know, was Zoom. While far from perfect in terms of sound and image quality, the real-time connection of Zoom provided a means to preserve this essential element of the theatrical experience.

Following a few experiments in late spring and summer, Spooky Action Theater in Washington DC devised a way to create a more fully-realized production: record the actors on Zoom, place them into a graphic environment using graphic- and video-design tools, and hand the result off to me to design sound and music to, as well as cleaning up and mixing the dialog to the extent possible. From June 2020 to January 2021, I had the opportunity to design and compose sound for nine productions, from short one-acts to full-length productions, which gave me a chance to explore an unusually broad range of different styles and approaches.

Director Craig Baldwin seized the opportunity to take the creative process one step further, to establish a connection between the Zoom screen and the world of graphic novels: to pass from an attempt to present a virtual stage to a more successful realization of the work on a virtual page. (Please see my work samples above for excerpts of ZERO by Ian August, A Dog Is a Creature of a Nose by Emma Gibson, and Water Doesn't Kill by Alaina Messineo)

The other virtual productions included:

  • The World Is Sand by Jacob T. Zack: two women interred in a mass grave consider life.
  • Welcome to Hell!: An Orientation by Bridget Grace Sheaff : Jean-Paul Sartre meets The Office.
  • The Devil Exclusive by Jeff Dunne: an overworked reporter interviews the Devil him- or herself.
  • The Very Furious Kugel by Clare Bierman: what to do when an ancient Yiddish demon turns up in your fridge?
  • By A Lady by Laura Shamas: a 19th century chautauqua on vampires, led by none other than Jane Austen.
  • Circular, also by Laura Shamas: ancient history repeats on a Middle Eastern battlefield.

(Unfortunately, agreements with Actor's Equity do not permit substantial excerpts to be offered.)

Original music 2018: En el tiempo de las Mariposas

From GALA Hispanic's production of EN EL TIEMPO DE LAS MARIPOSAS, about four sisters who gave their lives fighting dictatorship in the era of Trujillo. This production featured a combination of historic merengues and bachatas, as well as original music based on the contemporary reggaeton style. Winner of the BroadwayWorld Regional Theater Award for Best Sound Design, 2018.

Original music 2018: Como agua para chocolate

Original music and sound design for Gala Hispanic Theater's production of Como agua para chocolate. From Laura Esquivel's beloved novel.

At one point in the show, this musical sequence was used to cover a longish pantomime depicting 15 years passing in the life of the de la Garza family. I was reminded of François Couperin's "Les Barricades Mystérieuses" while creating this music, so I guess that makes it an hommage of sorts.

  • D Crandall 2018: Como agua para chocolate

    From Laura Esquivel's beloved novel. At one point in the show, this musical sequence was used to cover a longish pantomime depicting 15 years passing in the life of the de la Garza family. (I was reminded of François Couperin's "Les Barricades Mystérieuses" while creating this music, so I guess that makes it an hommage of sorts.) Production photos by Daniel Martinez.

Some lighting designs 2016-2017

My lighting designs have focused on guerilla techniques for non-traditional spaces and productions. For her 2016 Theatre Project performance Subject/Object, Naoko Maeshiba turned the theater around, seating the audience on the stage. This enabled her to "swim" down the audience risers through billowing plastic waves, lit from beneath, and emerge from the first row of the theater as a newborn creature. Strategically placed household LEDs were used to prevent heat buildup to creat the "waves." For an appropriately warm look for the "birthing" sequence, small "hot lights" were placed in the front row.
After a second act that was a comedic cabaret, the third section of the piece turned dark and mysterious as the audience, now facing the back of the stage, witnessed a performance tied together by mystery, sound and salt.

The Shattering Frame was a unique noir tale of urban corruption, produced by Annex Theater in 2017. Director Trevor Wilhelms wanted a shadowy, fluid lighting treatment, controlled by the actors during performance. Four small spotlights were hand-held by performers and controlled from the dimmer system. This low-tech "moving lights" approach permitted many unique effects to be produced, which lent the story the demimondaine aspect it deserved.

The Fête of Mistakes, produced by Psychic Readings Company at Le Mondo in December 2016, presented a number of interesting challenges and opportunities. The performance space, lacking an existing lighting system or grid, became an intimate, claustrophobic theater that opened out into the wider space of Le Mondo for a spectacular finale demolition derby. Lighting instruments, ranging from LED flashlights to clip lights to standard theatrical fixtures, were used to create a subterranean "Cave of the Winds" beneath Niagara Falls.

Original music and sound design examples, 2015-2017

A short video featuring clips from recent music and sound design projects. Projects featured:

  • don Juan Tenorio, Gala Hispanic Theater, Washington, DC, 2017.
  • The Master and Margarita, Annex Theater, Baltimore, 2016.
  • The Year of the Rooster, Single Carrot Theater, Baltimore, 2015.
  • Jarry Inside Out, Spooky Action Theater, Washington DC, 2015
  • Richard III, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Baltimore, 2017.
  • Minotaur, Annex Theater, 2016.

Mozart's THE MAGIC FLUTE at Annex Theater: music direction & orchestrations

One of my favorite classical works is Mozart's Magic Flute, a singspiel that is connected, not only to high opera, but to the rowdy German music halls of its time. So I was delighted when, in 2015, Annex Theater asked me to help as music director in staging this gem in a tiny, 30-person theater on North Avenue.

Budget ruled an orchestra out of the question—the score would have to be played on computer and built in software—but it occurred to me to embrace this fact by scoring the orchestra as a collection of sampled toy, mechanical, and a few historical and folk instruments. By "historical" I mean samples of not just 18th century orchestral instruments, but also authentic 1950s and 60s synthesizers, including the unique Jennings Univox, a vacuum-tube instrument from 1954. The result was an exceptionally warm and unique accompaniment for the singers. The score was mixed in 4-channel surround and played back on computer.

Annex company member Jacob Budenz joined me as director of the singers, and we collaborated on stylistic details; Evan Moritz directed the staging, and Doug Johnson provided magnificent painted backdrops that paged like a giant picture-book to reveal the settings.

Photos by Dave Iden

  • "Hm! Hm! Hm!"

    The orchestration of the quintet "Hm! Hm! Hm!" featuring (the magically silenced) Papageno, Tamino and the three Ladies, set up for editing as MIDI data in Ableton Live.
  • Papageno

    Ishai Barnoy as Papageno in Annex Theater's production of THE MAGIC FLUTE
  • Virtual orchestra

    A "rack" of digitally-sampled instruments in Native Instruments' KONTAKT application. Note the presence of various toy instruments. The panel at the bottom holds controls for the Jennings Univox synthesizer plugin.
  • The Queen of the Night

    Allison Clendaniel as Queen of the Night in Annex Theater's production of THE MAGIC FLUTE.
  • Rehearsal score

    A page from the Queen of the Night's first aria. Red markings indicate "rehearsal letters" corresponding to phrases to be manually cued in performance. We found a Russian-language piano score that had plenty of space to insert our new English translation.
  • Real time playback control

    The music was broken up into phrases for easier rehearsal cuing, and larger sections to be manually cued in performance by the stage manager. This software is Qlab, from Baltimore-based company Figure 53.
  • Overture excerpt

    A brief excerpt from the Overture using sampled toy and mechanical instruments.

THE WEDDING DRESS: Projections (and sound) design

Playwright Nelson Rodrigues revolutionized Brazilian theater in 1942 with this dreamy, radical story of the death of a young woman in the 1920s. Director Rebecca Holderness and set designer Vicki Davis devised a white, fragmented playing space sliced in two by a sheer curtain that ran diagonally for the entire width of the theater.

The video design for this project was based on a small projector mounted in a housing that mimicked the movie cameras of the day, and allowed projected imagery to play across the curtain, permitting actors to have access from either side, and also to "shoot" video onto actors' bodies, upstage walls and other surfaces.

I also contributed the sound design for this project.

  • Video on the curtain

    Video of Rio de Janeiro traffic projected onto a sheer curtain, with an actor behind "mirroring" her own shadow.
  • General view

    The playing space with the curtain open. Note the projector in its housing on a tripod to the right, and the image on the floor, where the actor is looking.

Rhymes with Opera's RED GIANT: Lighting and projections design, tech direction

After working with Baltimore's Rhymes With Opera on David Smooke's Criminal Element, we discussed creating lighting and video for operas that are specifically intended to tour in a standard minivan.

Adam Matlock's Red Giant was an excellent choice for this. Set in a time when the Sun has become a "red giant" and is about to engulf the Earth, this opera follows three individuals who, among many others, have built jury-rigged spaceships and blasted off for destinations unknown, to escape certain destruction at home.

The lighting rig was very simple: a few instruments on either end of a tiny (8' wide) playing area, LED strip lights along the sides of this "rocket," and a scrim upstage that screened the orchestra (a home security monitor provided a conductor's video feed to the singers via a small CRT that was part of the set). Complex colors and imagery were provided by a single video projector mounted behind and above the action, which washed the singers with nostalgia-laden imagery as they sang of their lost home.

  • Red Giant trio

    Elisabeth Halliday, Bonnie Lander and Robert Maril, in a side view of the stage
  • Red Giant duet

    Elisabeth Halliday and Bonnie Lander at the controls
  • what's out there?

    Robert Maril, Bonnie Lander and Elisabeth Halliday face the unknown

Songs from stage productions

Occasionally, I am called on (or inspired) to compose songs for particular scenes in the plays I design. Here are a pair of songs from recent shows.

  • Hella Bossa

    A character in Annex's MASTER & MARGARITA inspired Dan Hanrahan and myself to create a song for the mysterious redhead demon, Hella, here sung by Kristen Toedtman with Portuguese lyrics by Dan.
  • Kafka On The Shore-title song

    The story of Haruki Murakami's KAFKA ON THE SHORE revolves partially around a song, created during the 60s by a young, amateur musician, which threads throughout a tale of love and redemption that spans 50 years. The thought of period Japanese "rockabiri" music and a mournful Badalamenti-esque baritone guitar inspired this tune, here sung by cast member Julia Nakamoto and with lyrics by Murakami himself.

David's Curated Collection

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