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Inside Scott Lehrer’s Sound Design for To Kill a Mockingbird

When Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, it became an instant American classic: Her tale of a small-town lawyer called upon to defend an innocent black man accused of a horrific crime won the Pulitzer Prize, has been translated into 40 languages, and was immortalized in a 1962 film that earned Gregory Peck an Oscar.

Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway adaptation, directed by Bartlett Sher and starring Jeff Daniels as the heroic figure Atticus Finch, opened at the Schubert Theatre on December 13. For this revival, Tony and Drama Desk award-winning sound designer and producer/engineer Scott Lehrer (Carousel, Chicago, The King and I, The Front Page, Fiddler on the Roof) strived for a natural aesthetic, crafting a palette of organic sounds that evoke the hazy summer days and nights of Depression-era Alabama, as experienced through the perspective of children.

Click through the slideshow to learn about the sound design!

Sidebar: Scott Lehrer on the To Kill a Mockingbird Audio Team

“David Stollings, who's mixing the show, is an excellent Broadway play mixer. This was a real stretch for even him because it was a lot of microphones, 24 actors on radio mics. In a play, it's all words, all the time, and you can't leave microphones up when actors aren’t speaking, so you're constantly running microphones.

Charles Coes, my associate with the show, did a lot of great work setting up the system and especially the control software that he created for the DS 100. He actually created a Max/MSP patch that allowed me to go around the theatre with an iPad and manage control over the DS 100 matrix.

Janet Smith, my backstage audio person, did a really great job working with the actors and the costumes, wigs, and makeup to hide the microphones as much as possible. I sat down in the third row of the audience and watched the show, and I was hardly ever aware of seeing the microphones on actors.”

Sarah Jones is a writer, editor, and content producer with more than 20 years' experience in pro audio, including as editor-in-chief of three leading audio magazines: MixEQ, and Electronic Musician. She is a lifelong musician and committed to arts advocacy and learning, including acting as education chair of the San Francisco chapter of the Recording Academy, where she helps develop event programming that cultivates the careers of Bay Area music makers.

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