R + J: The Vineyard
Adapted from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet by Janette Bauer and Aaron Sawyer
Directed by Aaron Sawyer
Red Theater, fall 2015
In fall 2015, I was asked by Red Theater Chicago if I'd be interested in designing sound for an adaptation of Romeo & Juliet. I was being asked at the last minute because this adaptation moved the action to a thriving Deaf community on Martha's Vineyard circa 1890 and would, therefore, incorporate American Sign Language. They hadn't anticipated needing sound.
The challenge, then, was to find a balance, to find just enough of a soundscape while also respecting the sounds of silence. And in short order.
The music cues became thematic signposts: simple leitmotifs deployed sparingly at crucial junctures.
As I learned, Deaf people can actually hear some things, but only select and usually extreme parts of the spectrum of comprehensible human sound. So, these extremes — piercing highs and rumbling lows — made their way in, too.
For this, I got my favorite pull quote, courtesy of SPORK! Magazine: "[The sound adds] an additional disorienting layer to confusion and anxiety.."
That's what I do best.