Schools Training

Are There Sound Design Jobs in the Theatre?

20 FEB 2012
Career Path : Audio Engineering

In the past, graduates from music production school who worked in theatre as sound designers or sound engineers could reasonably expect to spend as much time concealing their work as pursuing it. It was standard practice, for example, to surgically tape microphones to performers to hide them from audience view. Some theatre purists maintained that theatre should have no use at all for the techniques taught in music production school.


Not so anymore. In 2008, the Guardian theatre blog referred to the unfettered, obvious-to-the-audience use of such audio engineering school techniques as recorded voice and dubbing as “the new kitchen sink” – a sign of the times, a music-production-school inspired theatrical Zeitgeist for the aughts. By 2009, the same blog was questioning whether the same audio engineering school techniques had become a cliché.

Here are a few trends that could increase the demand for house engineers, sound effect technicians and other graduates of music production school in the world of theatre.


1. Lipsynching

Move over Wagner, Quebec City-born playwright Robert Lepage is beginning to catch up with you. His epic play, Lipsynch, is not yet as long as Wagner’s 15-hour The Ring of the Nibelung, but that may change. The play, which debuted in 2007 as a five-hour-long production, has since stretched into a nine-hour show, with many opportunities for graduates of sound engineer school to strut their stuff. The show explores the theme of voice via such music production school techniques as:

  • voice-over
  • radio mics
  • dubbing

The play even pays homage to graduates of music production school in the form of a story about a character named Sebastian, who is a sound technician.

Part of the challenge for the audience is trying to distinguish between live and recorded sound. Talk about a dream job for anyone with an audio engineering school degree!


2. Headphones for the Audience

Another trend that has surfaced over the past decade is the use of audience headphones in live theatre productions. These devices transmit recorded or live sounds to the audiences as the play unfolds. This is one audio engineering school technique that has met with some opposition, with some critics expressing a fear that the use of pre-recorded sound could rob live productions of their magic.


3. Foley Technique

The Foley technique is an audio engineering school technique traditionally used in film to reproduce such real-life sounds as footsteps or clothing swishing together. Increasingly, graduates of music production school are applying this cinematic sound technique to live productions.


The trend towards more “produced” sounds in theatrical productions around the world could spell exciting new opportunities for graduates of music production school.