Theatre sound engineers use sound equipment to increase and balance stage sounds from different instruments in the orchestra and the voices of singers and actors on stage. They feed in sound effects and background music for stage plays. Theatre sound technicians/engineers consult with the producer or director and technical colleagues on what is required. During the technical rehearsal, the technicians balance the sound and adjust the equipment to suit the performers and the director. During dress rehearsal and performances, they may sit at the sound control desk, operating switches and levers in response to cues from the stage manager or from cues noted in the sound script.
They may work with sound assistants or sound operators, who usually handle the operation of a large stage show after the opening performance.
There is no set pattern; in large theatres, there is a basic 37 to 40-hour week but actual worked hours are usually longer, with paid or unpaid overtime. Shifts are worked to cover performances as well as daytime preparation/rehearsals/maintenance work.
Work is mainly in theatres (on stage and in the auditorium) or performance venues. Working in a touring theatre company can involve extensive travel at home or overseas.
Sound engineers require balanced hearing. They should have an ear for music pitch, timing and rhythm. An awareness of range and limits of sound equipment is needed. Sound engineers should have knowledge of electricity and electronics and safety factors involved. The ability to grasp director’s aims and come up with creative solutions and suggestions is important. Engineers should be fit, agile, and have a head for heights.
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