Creating music and sound design for actors, clowns, and dancers is a unique challenge I’ve come to enjoy. In 2013, while I was in working on an MFA in music & sound design for visual media at Academy of Art University, director Patricia McGregor asked me to compose for a Cal Shakes production of A Winter’s Tale. I had a blast, and since then, I’ve learned a ton working on productions for a long list of companies that includes ACT, Berkeley Rep, Aurora Theatre, Shotgun Players, Santa Cruz Shakespeare, Marin Theatre Company, African-American Shakespeare Company, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Custom Made, and FaultLine. My work on Skeleton Crew at the Geffen Playhouse was celebrated by an NAACP Theatre Award for Best Sound (Larger Theater) and a nomination for a 2018 Ovation Award in Sound Design (Large Theater); I’ve also been nominated by broadwayworld.com for Best Sound Design (for African-American Shakespeare’s Richard III and A Streetcar Named Desire) and a 2017 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Production for Skeleton Crew at Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C.
In 2018, I was interviewed by my friend Ross Jackson for stage-directions.com. His great questions helped me articulate the beginnings of my design aesthetic and philosophy, and I loved the chance to give thanks to collaborators and inspirations.
Here’s a sample of work I’ve done as a composer and sound designer for theater.
It was so much fun to orchestrate composer André Tank’s 1970 sheet music for Derek Walcott’s TiJean and His Brothers, directed by Dawn Marie Williams for ACT San Francisco, while exploring the dark and comic edges of this island parable.
Working with acclaimed director Patricia McGregor is always inspiring, and this production of Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew — which brought together Detroit auto-factory sounds, ’90s hip-hop, classic R&B, and Motown, at the Geffen Playhouse in L.A. — was no exception.
Orchestral/electronic vocal cues, manipulated classics, and a climactic battle scene were highlights of African-American Shakespeare’s production of Richard III, directed by Kirsten Brandt and starring L. Peter Callender, the company’s artistic director.
This production of Ayad Akhtar’s The Who & The What, directed by Hana Sharif for Marin Theatre Company, was all about soulful Indian and Pakistani moments with hints of jazz, R&B, and a Kentucky warbler.
I loved assembling supernatural atmospherics and bass-heavy fury for Medea, reimagined by Peter J. Kuo and this American Conservatory Theatre team as a spurned voodoo queen married to naval officer Jason in 1930s New Orleans.
Director Adam Sussman’s take on Sarah Ruhl’s How To Transcend a Happy Marriage for Custom Made was a hit with audiences and critics.
Despite having only two main actors, this Hannah Dworkin production of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe for Bay Area Children’s Theater conjured magic with the help of sound design, voiceover, and a classic score by Daniel Mertzlufft.
Caryl Churchill’s wild Cloud 9, directed by Allie Moss for Custom Made, skillfully took audiences from 1880s colonial Africa to decadent 1980s England and back.
My friends Miriam Wolodarsky and Rosemary Hannon asked me to make music for their The Crane and The Crocodile performance piece, which they premiered at Finnish Hall in Berkeley. Things got funky and weird. It was great.
There was heat, humidity, humor, and eventual breakdown in African-American Shakespeare’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by L. Peter Callender.
Steven Jones’ virtuosic one-man performance and Margo Hall’s spot-on direction of August Wilson’s How I Learned What I Learned at Marin Theatre Company made me reimagine Paul Robeson, John Coltrane, ring shouts, Spiritual Baptists, and the sound of typewriters.
Beethoven, balls, Beyoncé, and lots of bells were integral to this Santa Cruz Shakespeare production of Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Kate Hamill and directed by Paul Mullins.
I felt like an ’80s DJ putting together favorite playlists when I revisited that over-the-top decade for this hilarious take on Comedy of Errors, directed by Kirsten Brandt for Santa Cruz Shakespeare.
The sonic foundation of James Ijames’ Kill Move Paradise, directed by Darryl V. Jones for Shotgun Players, was a doozie: Thunder, earthquakes, 1970s classics, choirs, shofars, toilets, gunshots, and old-school laugh tracks.
This World War II flashback, directed by L. Peter Callender for the African-American Shakespeare Company, balanced aerial gunfights and era-correct plane sounds with music by wartime stars like Lena Horne, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday.
FaultLine Theater’s Where The Boys Are, written by Vanessa Flores and directed by Kieran Beccia, imagined a suddenly boy-less world soundtracked by women’s voices and girl groups.
Director Margo S. Hall and actor Steven Jones brought Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall to life in this stirring one-man play for Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, and the sound design included gospel, blues, voiceovers, and synth strings.
I had fun putting together hip-hop tracks, train sounds from Chicago’s “L,” current and old-school hits, and voiceovers for Lorraine Hansberry Theatre’s production of A. Zell Williams’ The Urban Retreat, directed by Darryl V. Jones.
On my first gig as a theater composer, I tried my hand at making Afrofuturistic grooves for director Patricia McGregor’s superfly, bluesy take on A Winter’s Tale for California Shakespeare Theater.