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rain-cylla-von-tiedmann Rain. Photo by Cylla von Tiedmann

Live Design Award Winner: Abe Jacob

Rain. Photo by Cylla von Tiedmann.

For a second year, Live Design recognizes outstanding individual designers and teams for excellence in design achievement. This year, six winners are honored: Abe Jacob, for a legendary career in sound design; Beowulf Boritt, for innovation in scenic design on and Off-Broadway; Laura Frank, for technical excellence in media technology for television, special events, theatre, concerts, film, and corporate; Full Flood, for the best in live broadcast lighting for awards shows and special events; Natasha Katz, for sustained achievement in theatrical lighting design; and Seven Design Works (LeRoy Bennett, Cory FitzGerald, and Tobias Rylander), for creativity in collaboration for concert tours, film, and television. The awards will be presented Monday, June 13, 2016 at Upper Story by Charlie Palmer in New York City.

Abe Jacob

We have used the phrase “The Godfather of Broadway Sound Design” to describe Abe Jacob so many times, but it is so very fitting. Not only did his early career include mixing for none other than Jimi Hendrix, but he has designed sound for Broadway every decade since. Of course, he hasn’t gotten a Tony Award (yet), but that’s hardly his fault. His theatrical sound design credits include Jesus Christ Superstar, A Chorus Line, Dancin’, and the original production of Evita, but the list goes on, and there are too many to list. And he was the creative consultant for Live Design’s Broadway Sound Master Classes for a dozen years. An award is to be presented annually in his name in future years.

His achievements can best be summed up by his colleagues: Nevin Steinberg, one of the few sound designers to ever receive a Tony nomination (for Rodgers And Hammerstein’s Cinderella), currently represented on Broadway by Hamilton and Bright Star; and the extraordinary Chita Rivera, two-time Tony Award winner for The Rink and Kiss Of The Spider Woman.

I have known Abe since I was six years old. Well, not exactly.

I grew up in Westchester, and my parents were frequent theatregoers. In 1972, my folks returned from a trip to the city and a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. They were raving about the show, but the thing that stuck with me was a detailed description of a specific moment of stagecraft. The one thing they couldn’t stop talking about was a number in which the principle characters were surrounded by a writhing ensemble of dancers who, using highly choreographed and stylized gestures delivered handheld, wired microphones to the singers, each one receiving the mic just before the solo. And adding to this bit of theatre magic, the microphone cables were dressed to resemble the vegetation and vines on the set. This vivid memory—the impression it made on my parents, and subsequently on me—is how I first “met” Abe. 

Rain. Photo by Cylla von Tiedmann.

Superstar was just one of the many shows that benefitted from Abe’s innovations, but I think it illustrates how his great mind brought expertise and experience to bear on a changing art form at just the right moment. This kind of work requires curiosity and candor, humility and hubris, empathy and ethics, all of which Abe has shared with literally four decades of protégés, all of whom owe our careers to him in some way.  

I have been lucky enough to count him not just as a mentor but as a friend. I continue to look to him for guidance, occasional solace, and always a good laugh. And I congratulate him on this well‐deserved award.

—Nevin Steinberg, Sound Designer

I have known Abe Jacob for over 40 years, allowing me to be aware, for the rest of my career, of the brilliance and importance of clear, creative sound. I never realized just how truly complicated and sensitive the art of sound design is. And Abe has been successfully designing and changing as the theatre and theatres change. My first knowledge of sound design was foot mics. Then, through the pioneering brilliance of Abe Jacob, it has been transformed into what it is today, and Abe is still doing what he loves and is dedicated to do.

—Chita Rivera, Actress

For more, download the May issue of Live Design for free onto your iPad or iPhone from the Apple App Store, and onto your Android smartphone and tablet from Google Play.

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