Sound designer Palmer Hefferan is part of Broadway’s first all-female design team, for the play The Lifespan Of A Fact. The team also includes set designer Mimi Lien, lighting designer Jen Schriever, projection designer Lucy McKinnon, and costume designer Linda Cho. Live Design chats with Hefferan, as part of a series on all the designers, from their take on being part of this groundbreaking team to their work on the show. Read about the lighting, projections, and costumes here.
Live Design: What does it mean to you to be part of Broadway's first all-female design team?
Palmer Hefferan: Theatre has been produced in New York City since the 18th century, so it was shocking to realize we were Broadway’s first all-female design team. Women make up less than 5% of the sound designers on Broadway. Being a part of a team that takes a crack at boosting that percentage makes me proud to be working in this era. This being Broadway’s first all-female design team has brought greater visibility to women working in the industry and the disparity of hiring practices. It’s important to be seen (and heard) for us to no longer be an anomaly.
LD: What comprises the sound system, from speakers to playback, and the use of wireless mics?
PH: We rented the house sound system in Studio 54, which has Meyer Sound speakers that include two MINA arrays and an M1D array at the top of the proscenium, UPQs and UPM-1Ps for the sides of the proscenium, and UPQs and UPJs that cover the mezzanine. There are surrounds throughout the house that are Meyer UP-4XP speakers. The console at Studio 54 is a DiGiCo SD10 that connects to SD-Mini Racks onstage and a Dante network that connects to QLab 3.
The play is incredibly intimate with its three-person cast. It was essential to have body mics on the cast to feel close to the action no matter where you are sitting in the house. I used the house Sennheiser SK 5212-II transmitters coupled with Sennheiser MKE 2 lavalier microphones.
LD: Your challenges to get perfect sound to every seat?
PH: Studio 54 is a large, open venue and our production added seats to the large seating plot. Front fill speakers were essential to give a balanced perspective to the added first two rows in the orchestra. The side fill speakers and surrounds were important in honing a focused sound that negated the natural reverberance of Studio 54.
LD: Use of music/sound effects?
PH: The first half of the play takes place between an editor’s office and an intern’s cubicle. During these scenes, there are constant interruptions from phones and a tablet. Each character has its own tones, rings, and beeps that evolved from their character development. These technological interruptions also fed into the music I composed, giving urgency to the editorial deadline. The rhythm of the dialogue and the pace of transitions in the first scenes are rapid, and there are repeated references to time. This led me to compose the transition music and underscore with layers of percussion instruments that propel us forward. We’re relying heavily on percussion to mark that rhythm, as well as drawing on the beeps and whooshes of the technology we use every day, from SMS to email.
Selected Sound Gear (In-house Studio 54)
- 1 DiGiCo SD10
Speakers and Amps
- 4 Meyer Sound Mina Array Loudspeaker with GuideALinks & rigging pins
- 2 Meyer Sound UPQ-1P Loudspeaker Mains
- 6 Meyer Sound UPM-1P Ultra Compact Loudspeaker Near-Field Mains/Overheads
- 4 Meyer Sound MM4 Miniature Loudspeaker Onstage EFX
- 2 Meyer Sound MM4 CEU Processor MM4
- 2 QSC CX502 Stereo Amplifier MM4
- 2 Meyer Sound UPQ Vertical Yoke with clamp
- 6 Meyer Sound MUB-UPM U-Bracket UPM Horizontal rigging
- 2 Meyer Sound UPM Hardware
Hardware to Mount UPM under UPQ
- 4 Meyer Sound UPM Horizontal Yoke with C-Clamp
- 6 Meyer Sound MM4 Yoke with C-Clamp
- 8 K&M KM240/5 Mic Holder Shotgun
- 1 Sennheiser EM 3732-II RF Receiver
- 2 Sennheiser SK 5212-II RF Transmitter
- 4 Sennheiser EK 2000 IEM Receiver for wireless speakers
- 2 Sennheiser SR 2050 IEM Twin Transmitter for wireless speakers
- 4 Sennheiser A2003-UHF UHF Antenna
- 1 12-CH Antenna Distro 12 Channels
Computers & Accessories
- 1 Any 19’ LCD Monitor HDMI INPUT (FOH Monitor)
- 1 MIDI Solutions Power Adapter
- 2 MIDI Solutions Quad Merge 4x1 MIDI Merger
- 2 MIDI Solutions Quad Thru 1x4 MIDI Splitter
- 2 JLCooper MLA-XLR MIDI Line Amplifier Projections
- 1 Apple Airport Extreme WiFi Router Stagecaller
- 1 Apple Airport Express WiFi extender stagecaller
- 2 Clear-Com RM-704 4-CH Main Station SM/LX Tech
- 2 Clear-Com RM-702 2-CH Remote Station Designer Tech
- 4 Clear-Com RS-701 1-CH Beltpack Tech
- 6 Clear-Com RS-702 2-CH Beltpack Tech
- 3 Clear-Com HS-6 Handset Tech
- 6 Clear-Com CC-26 Lightweight Headset Tech
- 8 Sennheiser HMD-46 Deal-Ear Headset Tech
Stay tuned for more from Broadway's first all-female design team!