Wait Until Dark Wednesday: Behind the Music

Wait Until Dark is in full force and to highlight some of the cool pieces of the show, we are doing a short series called “Wait Until Dark” every Wednesday through Nov. 5.

While the various technical aspects of the production play a critical role in moving the thrilling plot along (set design, lighting, etc.), one piece of the suspenseful puzzle lies with the sound– from the ’60s-era songs that transition the scenes throughout the performance to the spot-on sound effects and ominous music box, sound helps keeps audience members on the edge of their seat.

The man behind the sound is Arkansas Repertory Theatre Resident Sound Engineer Allan Branson, who is in his third season here at the theatre.

For plays like Wait Until Dark, our music professionals and creative team approach the music slightly different than musicals like Memphis and Les Miserables.

Wait Until Dark Photo by Tyler Rosenthal

Wait Until Dark
Photo by Tyler Rosenthal

While musicals are led by musical director Mark Binns on our second stage and mixed in to our auditorium by Branson, plays are done a little differently.

“For straight plays (like Wait Until Dark), all of the music and sounds are prerecorded and pre-programmed into a computer, so that a board op can easily play back the exact same show every night,” Branson said.

From the beginning, Branson works with the director of the play on what they want to accomplish with the music and for the most part, lyrical content is generally not the way he chooses music.

“Most of the time, I look particularly for music with no lyrics at all, if possible,” he said.

Sometimes specific songs or recordings of music are desired, though, like with this production, where Director and Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp requested popular songs of the era to transition the scenes along.

“[But] for the most part, I don’t want lyrics or the music, itself,  to get in the way of the story being told,” Branson continued. “After all, that is our main mission in theatre– to share a story with an audience.”

In addition to the prerecorded soundtrack that Branson has created for Wait Until Dark, Binns worked with Hupp on putting together a special tune for the music box onstage. Watch the video below on Binns’ process of creating this piece for the show!

Great seats are available for Wait Until Dark. Purchase yours online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405.

Behind the Curtain Q&A: Sound Designer & Engineer Allan Branson

Allan Branson, our Resident Sound Designer & Engineer, is responsible for all of the sound in production-- from actor's lines to music and singing.

Allan Branson, our Resident Sound Designer & Engineer, is responsible for all of the sound you hear in every production– from the actor’s lines to the music to the singing. Les Miserables, shown here, was one of his busiest productions.

With the start of a new MainStage season, we want to showcase the people behind the Rep stage in a series called “Behind the Curtain.” This weekly Q&A series will highlight staff members who keep the Arkansas Repertory Theatre running on a daily basis.

Someone that brings all of the sound to the stage– an actor’s lines, the ensemble or the music, etc.– is our Resident Sound Designer & Engineer Allan Branson

Here is what he has to say about his theatre experience here at The Rep:

How long have you worked at The Rep? 2 years

Education/training: Sound Technology and Live Sound Certificate at South Plains College; Advanced Sim and System Design at Meyer Sound

How’d you get into the theatre biz: A friend from high school referred me to a local (West Texas) artistic director of a theatre company. I was with them for four seasons while also working for a regional production company doing festivals and concerts. I then applied to the Rep, and here I am.

Why your job rocks: I get to mix great musicals like Because of Winn Dixie and Memphis. I believe that is the definition of rocking.

Best work day ever: Going into a show and having everything come together. The show connects with the audience, and it just seems perfect.

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and why: Avenue Q– it was a wonderfully funny show every night, no matter how many times I mixed the show, I was never tired of it.

One thing people would be surprised about your job: I mix every musical, line by line. That means that I pull up a fader everytime someone says and sings a line. In some shows, I have to plan out moments to get a drink of coffee or water. I stayed very busy during Les Miserables.

Favorite seat in the house: Center seat, front row on the 1st mezzanine. No question.

Best job perk: Being able to work with so many talented designers, actors and musicians.

Be sure to check back every week to get a glimpse at a different member of The Rep staff. Buy your tickets to Memphis here!