In episode 4 of Geva’s podcast, Out of the Rehearsal Hall, I am joined by Recognition Radio’s Creative Producer, Esther Winter for a conversation with sound designers Christie Chiles Twillie and Larry Fowler. They’re the first designers to join us on the podcast, and it’s a great conversation about how sound designers build worlds onstage, and how their work has become even more pivotal with more and more theatrical work living only online. And, a special bonus, Jenni’s dogs and Larry’s dog make guest appearances, although a sound designer might have placed those appearances in slightly different places!
You can find Out of the Rehearsal Hall on your favorite podcast service, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Pocket Casts, Radio Public, Overcast, Amazon podcasts, or subscribe by RSS feed. Or, keep up with us on the podcast’s website, here.
Sound design plays a critical role in an audio play festival, as you can imagine! We rely on our ears to hear what we would normally see onstage – the time of day, actions the characters take, the physical setting of the story. And of course, we still need sound design to help craft the emotional landscape of the play, as we would in a live stage production. So talking with Christie and Larry about how they approach their work was really interesting. Christie Chiles Twillie designed the sound for Harrison David Rivers’ play we are continuous, and Larry Fowler deigned the sound for Christina Anderson’s play The Resurrection of Michelle Morgan. Both plays are told in monologue form – Christina Anderson performs her play alone, and the three characters in Harrison’s play tell us their part of the story from separate places, through direct address. So there’s a connection in that way between these two scripts. But Christie and Larry come to the work from very different entry points, neither of which might be considered a “traditional” journey into theatrical design.
Christie shared with us her journey to sound design, which began with her studies in piano performance at the University of West Virginia, and led her eventually to composing, musical directing and vocal coaching and finally into sound design. She worked with Fleetwood Jourdain and Piven Theatre, both Chicago-area theatres. After Fleetwood Jourdain had asked her to compose an original score for their production of Dael Orlandersmith’s powerful two-person play Yellowman, the two theatres collaborated on an original production called A Home on the Lake, inspired by stories around race and property in Evanston, IL. (And while we didn’t discuss this in the episode, check out this video of improving with another musician as well as a great video about a piece she wrote, called Homeland 24)
And Larry started out playing the trumpet as a child, got into the world of hip hop, DJing and studio recording at Philadelphia’s Third Story Recording, which led him to running the sound board at the Arden Theatre and, finally, to sound design. Larry credits Ozzie Jones, then the co-artistic director at Venture Theatre and director at Philadelphia’s Freedom Theatre, with giving him his first sound design opportunities. (And don’t miss Larry’s soundcloud tracks!)
We also talked about process, and the ways that sound designers work with directors and writers to build a world onstage, and the many ways that sound design has shifted over the last year or so, as plays and musicals have moved out of the theatre and onto the internet. And we imagined a world where theatres are open and inviting audiences back to experience plays together again – how might that be different than it has in the past?
I’ll let you experience the conversation on your own – but for now, here are their bios:
Larry Fowler designed the sound for Christina Anderson’s The Resurrection of Michelle Morgan, the fourth and final play in Recognition Radio. He is a Philadelphia-based theater sound designer, radio imaging producer, and musicproducer whose work spans 20+ years. Theatre companies Larry has designed for include Arden Theater, Wilma Theater, Azuka Theater, Interact Theater, Theater Horizon, People’s Light, New Paradise Labs, Simpatico, Theater Exile, The Lantern Theatre, Denver Center, Trinity Rep, ELeon Dance, Danse4Nia, and Khaleah London Dance. He is a 3-time Barrymore Award nominee for his work on Blood Wedding at the Wilma Theater, Peter and the Starcatcher at Theater Horizon, and Hype Man at Interact Theater. In broadcast radio, Larry has been an in-studio producer and board operator for Philadelphia’s Radio One, Inc. and is currently an imaging producer, voice over artist, and content editor for Healthcare Now Radio.com, an online radio station with a focus on healthcare technologies and logistics. In music production, Larry‘s talents weave in and out of various genres with original compositions and remixes for local talent that goes back to the mid-1990’s with beginnings in the Philadelphia underground Hip-Hop circuit with the group, NAME.
Christie Chiles Twillie designed the sound for Harrison David Rivers’ we are continuous. She is a Pianist, Music Director and Sound Designer. Some of her regional theatre credits include Home, Kill Move Paradise, and Stew at the Milwaukee Black Theatre Festival), Five Guys Named Moe, Newsies, and The Gospel At Colonus at Skylight Music Theatre. Her film credits include ALONE and the new film trilogy, THE PANDEMIC. Christie was the 2019 Footlights Winner for “Best Musical Direction” for a Professional Production for Five Guys Named Moe and a 2018 Broadway World Finalist for ‘Best Music Direction’ for Big Fish at Big Noise. Christie earned a BTAA nomination for ‘Best Music Direction’ (original score) for Yellowman. Some of her additional compositional credits include A Raisin in the Sun at Invictus Theatre, and In The Red & Brown Water at Northwestern. Christie’s Bachelor and Masters studies were in Piano Performance at West Virginia University.