Why We Like Them
Tom Clark, Mark Menard, and Nevin Steinberg have been fixtures in the field of theatre sound for many years, Clark and Menard as designers and Steinberg as an operator and technician. Ever since the Broadway production of Side Show, the trio had all worked together in one capacity or another over the years, with Clark usually serving as lead sound designer. Indeed, Clark had an amazing year on his own in 2001, designing such shows as Jane Eyre and The Full Monty. That streak continued when he formed Acme Sound Partners with Menard and Steinberg, creating subtle but effective sound for A Class Act and Bells Are Ringing on Broadway, and the star-studded version of The Seagull in Central Park last summer. (As if he's not busy enough in the theatre, Clark continues to serve as director of ACI Sound Solutions, a division of Artec Corporation.) In eight short months, they've taken the concept of a sound design firm — a staple in the UK, with such companies as Autograph Sound and Orbital, but a relatively new idea in the States — and hit the ground running.
"There is nothing rote or cynical or wearied about how they approach the work."
Left to right: Mark Menard, Tom Clark, and Nevin Steinberg
Photo: Ilona Lieberman
What Their Peers Say About Their Work:
“What I like about them is that their instinct is to make the sound as unobtrusive and natural as possible, so you're unaware of all the complicated electronic equipment that's making the play audible,” says David Loud, the Broadway musical director who worked with the trio on A Class Act. “At the same time, they're very willing to collaborate with my needs as a music director, or with the director's needs; that's the hardest thing, I think, about sound design, is melding your taste with the taste of your collaborators, and that seems to be where they're really strong.”
Says director Tina Landau, who worked with them on Bells Are Ringing, “These guys are so good at what they do that I found myself free from thinking about sound at all — I simply knew they were there, on top of everything before I could even hear it or articulate it. There is nothing rote or cynical or wearied about how they approach the work. Rather, they're like the cool guys you want to hang out with, playing, laughing, dreaming up new and better ways to make theatre.
“All three of them are so responsible and concerned and conscious about this dynamic [of three sound designers] that they work hard to pay extra attention, to make their collaborators feel support and consistency,” she adds. “They know it might not come easy to first-timers experiencing this trinity, and so they approach the collaboration with real sensitivity and care.”
In Their Own Words:
“As with any new team, the past eight months have provided us the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with a new working style,” says Menard. “The vocabulary that we have come up with is a melding of our different working methods.”
“When working alone, you have to shoulder all the responsibility, and experimentation can sometimes get you into trouble,” adds Clark. “With partners at your side, you get instant feedback. We give each other the confidence to play more — comfortable in the knowledge that at least one of us is bound to recognize a really bad idea when they hear it, and pull the plug before we humiliate ourselves.”
“Having three minds working on the same problem is a substantial advantage, as our combined experiences affords us a wide range of solutions,” concludes Steinberg. “It is also more fun and significantly less stressful than going solo.”
What They're Doing Next:
The Broadway transfer of the La Jolla production of Dracula: The Musical, At Liberty starring Elaine Stritch at the Joseph Papp Public Theatre, and “a slew of irons in the fire.”