When the curtain rose on comedian Rita Rudner’s off-Broadway show Two’s a Crowd at the 59E59 Theaters, Masque Sound was backstage to provide a custom audio equipment package to sound designer Jonathan Burke for the funny lady’s laugh-out-loud musical comedy.
Two’s a Crowd tells the story of strangers Tom and Wendy, who are forced together by a computer error, and do their best to ruin each other’s vacations. However, the bright lights of Las Vegas might just convince them to take a chance on the happiness they both gave up on long ago.
Burke’s goal in designing the sound for the show was to get good, even coverage throughout the theater, which can be tricky due to its layout. “59E59 is a bit of a difficult space because the stage is so close to the front row and then it rakes up pretty fast, so each seat is dramatically different in terms of perspective to the stage and perspective to the speakers,” says Burke. “Given the layout of the theater, it was very important to me that every seat had good, natural sound. It’s easy to make it loud, but it’s much harder to provide even coverage for the entire theater. In addition, having a band on-stage is both wonderful, because you see them and get to feel the energy of them, but also a challenge because again, that front row is very close to them. Balancing the audio out throughout the entire auditorium was my main goal.”
In order to achieve his goal, Burke reached out to Masque Sound with his very specific requests. “The team at Masque Sound gets what I do and understands how one little piece of equipment is so important,” adds Burke. “The key with Masque Sound was getting a full system, including the console and infrastructure, and also supplement the house equipment, while making it all work together. I’ve done two other shows at 59E59 so I had a pretty good sense of what would work. Even though it’s a smaller theater, Masque Sound understood what I was looking to accomplish and was incredibly good about accommodating my requests.”
At the heart of Burke’s custom audio equipment package is a Yamaha QL1 digital mixing console, provided by Masque Sound. “I wanted to go with a Dante infrastructure for everything,” says Burke. “The QL1 has the ability to do pre-amp gain from the console to all of the wireless mics over Dante. The wireless mics and band mics are routed through a Rio Dante stagebox, all the QLab inputs are landing in Dante and although there are minimal sound effects, I wanted them to come in via Dante as well. Another reason I went for the QL1 was that it fit the front of house position pretty well and was very easy to control from my MacBook Pro laptop.”
In keeping with the all Dante infrastructure, Burke used a Shure Axient digital wireless system for his wireless mics. “With the Shure Axient, when you plug in a Dante line and Shure control, instead of a pre-amp control, you are actually controlling the output gain of the receiver,” adds Burke. “The other great thing about doing that is right on your console in front of you, you can see the battery life, antenna configuration and all of the telemetry from the Shure wireless. In addition, the tuning bandwidth of the Shure Axient is remarkable. Tuning range was definitely a consideration, although when you rent from Masque Sound, they figure all of that out for you. You don’t have to worry about it because they get it all set up and tuned. Masque Sound has the best people in the world to get your wireless package set up. The Shure wireless software and sound quality are wonderful, and I am thrilled that Masque Sound was able to provide such a high technology piece of equipment for this off-Broadway show.”
Another interesting aspect of the sound design was Burke’s decision to include a wireless handheld mic that was not live in the original production. According to Burke, “I requested that we get a Shure Axient digital handheld for that moment in the show when it gets pulled out as a prop so we can actually use it and it worked pretty well. That was an add-on that the Masque Sound team was very helpful in providing. Masque Sound was also incredibly helpful in providing a TC Electronic M3000 reverb unit. It works great and I used that as my reverb instead of going internally on my QL1.”
For the actors mics, Masque Sound provided Burke with DPA d:fine 4066 Omnidirectional headset mics. “With having the band on stage, I knew I would have to get gain and clarity, and the d:fine 4066 gave us the best possible sound,” says Burke. “In addition to their great sound, the DPA mics are elegant and beautiful, and even physically putting them on feels good. They are well balanced and don’t pull in a weird way.”
For his speaker selection, Burke picked a speaker based on coverage. He used the house equipment for the main left and right, and supplemented a Meyer UPJ for center, which added some power and coverage for the lower part of the auditorium nearest the stage. EAW JF80’s were used to fill left/right and EAW JFX200’s were used on the main left/main right to match the house system for front of house fill speaker and overhead monitors. In addition, Masque Sound also provided a CCTV camera and screens for the musical director to see FOH, and the stage manager to see infrared for scene change completions.
“Working with Masque Sound was a pleasure,” adds Burke. “Scott Kalata, who took the original call and provided the quote, is the best. He will give you realistic answers and is very helpful, as was Leslie Stong at Masque Sound as well. The time in the shop is a treat. They give you what you need. You walk in and everything is prepped and ready to go. In addition, my A1 Becca Stoll was amazing. She has a great ear, takes notes incredibly well and is running the show remarkably well now. Erik Cereghino who joined us at load-in up to previews was also an incredible asset. The show looks and sounds great.”
Two’s a Crowd is slated to run through August 25, 2019 at the 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, New York, NY).