Sound ready… Welcome to “In the Heights”

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Hey Readers,

LEHMAN COLLEGE, BRONX, NY- During my internship with the multimedia center in Lehman College, I never thought I would ever do live sound for a live theater production. An even bigger surprise was that it was for the Lehman College production of one of my favorite musicals “In the Heights”. For those of you who are not familiar with the musical, “In the heights” is the three day story of Latinos/ Latinas living in Washington Heights. Although the characters are away from their home countries, they want to find their own place in the heights.

The actors are really talented and were really patient with me and my sound crew when it came to making the show sound as best as possible. With my supervisor and another audio intern, we created the sound effects for this musical using Avid Pro Tools 10.  Now here is the thing; I am a DJ and have gotten used to working with a mixer, turntable, headphones, and controllers, and i know how to record and mix a session in a studio. Using a sound board was completely new to me. It wasn’t so difficult to figure out the individual channels, turn on the house monitors in the Lovinger theater, and what microphones to use for the band. I learned to to match frequencies on wireless mics, mic a band, send signals through an amp so it can be heard through the monitors, how to mic actors, and the EQ/ gain levels of individual voices.

The soundboard (photo by me)
The soundboard (photo by me)

Not everything was all fun and games. Tech rehearsals were really long, and one show night, the audio was just terrible. I learned from my mistakes and with the help of some audio experts, I learned how to fix those issues like feedback and how to work with the acoustics of the theater.  Along with the audio experience, I also learned all the hard work that goes into producing a musical. Production meeting had all of the departments together to discuss what needed to be done each week.

As opening day got closer, I kept reviewing all the audio techniques I learned at Hostos and with my supervisor. I made friends with the cast and crew, who are amazing individuals and each have great talents to offer this world. The posters were all over campus, and even though my name was backwards on the poster, it felt nice to see it there. It was hard to imagine that I was a part of something big, and that had me a little nervous. I had to do live sound in front of a lot of people. Being a DJ has gotten me used to handling music with big crowds, but there are moments when I get cold feet. Opening night was definitely one of them. The seats filled up and had to remind myself that I couldn’t get nervous. The cast was counting on me, and  can’t let them down. I took a few deep breaths and convinced myself that this was sort of like DJing, only instead of mixing tracks, I was mixing actors and a band. The lights dimmed. I looked at my audio assistant (Vanessa), and said “let’s do this!”

The sign is bright opening day (photo by me)
The sign is bright opening day (photo by me)

The musical was a big success the five nights it ran. The seats in the Lovinger filled up and the audience was entertained, whether they had seen the show on Broadway, or if it was their first time. Rosairo’s Car Service, Usnavi’s Bodega, Daniela’s Salon, Abuela Claudia’s Stoop; each piece of the set had a story to tell and the actors brought out the best in each character and themselves.It felt great seeing everything come together. Lin-Manuel Miranda would have been proud of the work that was done. The audience laughed with Sonny and Graffiti Pete, paid attention to Abuela Claudia’s and Usnavi’s “hundreds of stories”, enjoyed the gossip at the salon from Daniela, Carla, and Vanessa, and related to the situation with the Rosario family and Benny. They raised their flags (in spirit) and got to find the true definition of home. From where I was standing, Piraguero always came in at the right moments. He was that one character that in some way captured the hearts of many (sadly the weather was too cold to actually have a piragua).

I am really thankful for all I have learned, the friends I made, and just for the experience in general. Will I ever do this again? Probably not. I prefer a studio any day, but through the tough things I have learned one thing… “No pare, sigue, sigue!”

The cast of "In the Heights" (photo by Kailah S. King)
The cast of “In the Heights” (photo by Kailah S. King)
Me and my sound crew
Me and my sound crew
The grate on the bodega (photo by me)
The grate on the bodega (photo by me)
Piraguero's Cart
Piraguero’s Cart
Nina, Kevin, and Camila (photo by Vanessa Villalobos)
Nina, Kevin, and Camila (photo by Vanessa Villalobos)
Abuela Claudia
Abuela Claudia (photo by Vanessa Villalobos)
96,000!
“96,000!” (photo by Vanessa Villalobos)
Usnavi (photo by Kailah S. King)
Usnavi (photo by Kailah S. King)
"No Me Diga!" (photo by Kailah S.King)
“No Me Diga!” (photo by Kailah S.King)
"Would Bert ever abandon Ernie?" (Kailah S. King)
“Would Bert ever abandon Ernie?” (Kailah S. King)
"champagne" (photo by Kailah S. King)
“champagne” (photo by Kailah S. King)
In the Heights (photo by Kailah S. King)
In the Heights (photo by Kailah S. King)
"I'm home!" (photo by Kailah S. King)
“I’m home!” (photo by Kailah S. King)
With Abuela Claudia!
With Abuela Claudia!
Sonny!
Sonny!
Piragua!
Piragua!
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