An area of entertainment that “Un-Block The Music” hasn’t really touched on is opera. I don’t know much about this genre beyond La Boehme. Let’s think about it. All music has the same task…its’s all about telling stories, said Beth Lake, Associate Sound Designer for the most recent production of My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center in New York which closed last summer. And, just as New York City shut-down in March due to the Coronavirus, she was working as an associate sound designer for her first opera called Intimate Apparel.
“I hadn’t done an opera before. It was interesting. I was surprised how engaged the entire music department was. They really wanted to work with us. They had a whole different way of thinking about things than a musical theater team,” she said. (Click here for updates after June 7. (https://www.lct.org/shows/intimate-apparel/)
Sound designers are important for all productions, and if you look at Beth’s resume you will see Shakespeare In The Park, A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Play That Goes Wrong right alongside musicals such as My Fair Lady as well Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 . “I am a theater person who happens to do sound rather than a sound person who happens to do theater.”Beth loves to work on plays that are being written and rewritten “We figure it out as we go along. That’s what makes it fun for me; watching how my soundscapes really help tell the story without much commentary.”
Musicals work the other side of her brain, Beth says. “As an Associate on musicals, you can really sink in, as they are bigger projects. “Marc Salzberg (lead sound designer for My Fair Lady) and I have figured out how to be a team. He knows how Broadway works, and I have a very organized and cohesive way of making his ideas happen. I also can go to him if I have ideas or get stuck and we figure out how to make it happen. My Fair Lady was the epitome of that.”
Here on Un-Block The Music’s Women Wednesdays, I always like to ask the question, are there a lot of women doing the same type of work that you are doing? Beth says, the disparity between off-Broadway and Broadway is incredible. On the positive side, she says, “awareness is there in the Broadway community and people are becoming more proactive and giving women a chance.”
Women may not have been encouraged down the sound design route to New York theater, but Beth found her way there anyway. “I started out doing high school theater in Arizona and very quickly realized I was not meant to be on the stage. We had a fairly large theater program, but it wasn’t necessarily technically complex. I got shuffled around and ended up in lighting and stage management because I am organized,” she laughs.
When choosing a college, Beth thought about English as a major. “I also applied to a couple of theater programs out of state on a whim.” She really had her heart set on the University of Northern Colorado, but she never heard back from them, so she prepared herself to attend an Arizona state school. “Two weeks before classes were scheduled to start, I received a call from University of Northern Colorado asking if I was coming there or was I not? Apparently, there was shuffling in the department and I never got the notification that I was accepted.” Well, not only did Beth attend, but she attended on a full scholarship! “What I loved about this school was that there was no graduate program, so as an undergraduate, you got to do it all.” She then went on to the University of California, Irvine, where she focused solely on sound.
Following her high school track, Beth started out in college doing lighting and stage management, then realized “that didn’t really speak to me either so I started working in the sound shops. It was me and two other guys and we did all the sound for all of the shows. A lot was learned from that, but a lot my skills are also self-taught. To truly learn, you have to get out there and do it. And, every show is different.” For example, she was an Associate Sound Designer on Broadway for The Play That Goes Wrong. It had a British team. “I ‘New York-i-fied’” it, she jokes. Then, when the show moved from Broadway to off-Broadway (which is where it is now), Beth took over design role.
With regard to her next project, Beth is excited to announce that it will be with Williamstown Theater Festival in Massachusetts. “I’ll be designing Chonburi International Hotel & Butterfly Club in collaboration with Audible Studios.”
More details about this festival )https://wtfestival.org/main-events/chonburi-international-hotel-butterfly-club/ and Intimate Apparel will come as the country slowly reopens!! (Fingers crossed…by June.)