A production of William Shakespeare’s classic “King Lear” at the Bristol Riverside Theatre (BRT) in the borough of Briston in Bucks County, PA was supported by a main reinforcement system incoporating RCF loudspeakers specified by sound designer Brad Ward.
BRT was originally built in 1937 and reopened as a 300-seat performance hall in 1986. It’s noted for bringing local and national artists to the stage, producing over 200 performances annually, and earlier this year, BRT invited Eric Tucker of New York City’s Bedlam Theatre to direct the production of “King Lear” with a fresh interpretation. The show ran for several weeks, closing on February 16, 2020.
“One thing I liked about Bristol was the size; it’s a very intimate venue, you don’t need a lot of speakers to achieve the result you want,” says Ward, who’s recent work with Tucker at BRT includes productions of “The Rivals” as well as “Choir Boy,” which won a Tony Award for Best Sound in 2019. Ward also works as a systems designer with New York firm Auerbach Pollack Friedlander on renovation projects such as Huntington Theatre Company in Boston, Marymount Manhattan Theatre in New York City, and is the associate sound designer and system designer for “Take Me Out” at Second Stage Theatre on Broadway.
His challenge was to find a creative audio solution to define an aural atmosphere for the play. Following a suggestion from Mark Meding of On-The-Road Marketing, Ward turned to RCF, deploying a small rig consisting of four HDL 28-A active line array modules [two per side upstage], two TT 22-A active 2-way loudpeakers [for the catwalk], a SUB 9004 active subwoofer and an RCF HD 21EN paging horn. RCF product specialist Jim Reed also consulted on the project and helped integrate the system.
“At first I thought we could rely mainly on subs, on both sides of the stage, then we tried one SUB 9004 centered on the upstage wall — and it carried the show,” Ward says. “The HDL 28’s [line arrays] brought a nice sound quality, very clear and natural, I didn’t have trouble making it sound natural, but I was thrilled with the [SUB] 9004 because it added so much to fill the space.”
The show’s cast consisted of six actresses who put on an interactive performance, without the use of wireless microphones. “We used various mics around the stage for special effects [triggers for storm scenes or voicing effects] and I wanted to reinforce the effects with low frequencies,” Ward notes. “I wanted to push sound up through to the front of the stage, because I wanted the sound to be a part of the people ‘on’ the stage. I love working with people in live theater, the director is absolutely amazing, and he loves to experiment and try new things [sound techniques]. RCF came through — I was very impressed by the system’s performance and sound clarity.”
A future project will have Ward deploying RCF components in the main system in a new design for the Broadway production of “Take Me Out,” scheduled to be one of the first performances when Broadway reopens in April, 2021.