Meet The Staff
Lucas Clopton, Audio/Visual Supervisor
By Theresa M. MacNaughton, Community Engagement Associate
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up primarily on the East Coast, specifically Washington DC and the surrounding area. My dad was in the Air Force, so we moved around a lot. I think the list ended up being five states and two countries by the time he retired. I completed a two year technical apprenticeship at the Omaha Community Playhouse, after which I attended the University of South Dakota, where I received a BFA in Sound Design. After graduating, I traveled around the country following work, spent some time on tour, and eventually met my wife Nicole (who is a totally amazing person and a very talented stage manager).
What most interested you in pursuing this line of work? What appealed to you about the opportunity of working at Hartford Stage?
I’ve always enjoyed watching live theatre but was never much of an actor. So, in high school when the tech apprenticeship opportunity through the Omaha Community Playhouse came up, I jumped at the chance to work backstage. I have a strong music background, so I think that informed my focus on sound pretty heavily.
I had been working full time at a performing arts center (shout out to the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts!) for several years but, while I had a great time there, I felt that I needed to be back with a producing theatre company. Hartford Stage is, without a doubt, one of the top regional theatres in the country. So, when the position became available, I had to apply. Contributing to such high quality live theatre has been a very rewarding experience.
I’m sure there are many ways to answer this question but, the way I see it, sound design is creating the audio concept for a show; and sound mixing is using audio technology to produce that concept in a live environment. The sound designer is responsible for creating sound effects, sometimes composing and recording music, and often designing the sound system itself. The main goal, I think, of a sound designer is to elicit a response from the audience using sound. The mixer is, essentially, an extension of the design in that the person at the console allows the audience to experience the sound design. This person has a lot of responsibility and must have a great depth of knowledge in order to excel. I’m very lucky to work with Darren Alley, the other half of the HSC audio department, who you’ll find at the mixing console for most Hartford Stage shows.
Take us through a day in the life of an Audio-Visual Supervisor.
Well, the day starts and ends with coffee. In between, I find myself communicating with designers, researching equipment, reading user manuals, discussing show details with the other departments, and prepping equipment for the next show. Equipment maintenance is a big part of the job, as well. During technical rehearsals, I spend most of my time in the theatre so I can be available to the sound and video designers. I also find myself driving to and from New York City fairly often to pick up and drop off equipment.
In creating a scene, how do you know how it sounds? Do you conduct specific research beforehand or keep stocks of sound?
While my job here at Hartford Stage doesn’t include any designing, I do freelance design with other companies. Often, the text informs many of the sound elements of a particular scene. The script may state that the year is 1927, and our main character is on a busy city street. In these instances, I will research period or region specific details. Sometimes all a playwright gives you is dialog, and it’s up to you to decide how that scene sounds based on how that dialog feels. Those are the shows that I like to design. I have several libraries of sound recordings that I’ll pull from, but I also do a lot of field recording as well.
You’ve worked both musical theatre and live concerts; what’s the difference for you?
With live concerts you’ll load in, sound check, and run the show. It’s a fast-paced process because the band is back on the road at the end of the night heading to the next gig. With musical theatre you have more prep time, which is great because the shows are often far more complex than a concert. Concerts typically require much less prior communication than musical theatre. For a concert, I would exchange a few emails and maybe a phone call with a tour manager, arrange for any rental gear necessary, and then do the show. With musical theatre, hours are spent speaking with designers before anything is finalized because there isn’t a default tech rider that comes with the script.
What special challenges will you face with a large-scale new musical such as Anastasia?
The sheer amount of equipment in use for Anastasia will be a challenge. There are hundreds of individual LED panels and a large projector that make up the video displays, a room full of racks for audio and video processing equipment, and thousands of feet of cable to connect it all. Coordinating heavily with the other departments is a big deal on this show, as well, since every department has a lot going on. Anastasia is the biggest show that I’ve ever been involved with, so I think every aspect of it is challenging but, come opening night, it will be more than worth it.
Do you think sound design should be a recognized award at the Tony Awards?
Absolutely. It’s a sad thing to see so much beautiful work go unrecognized.
Do you have other talents or passions outside of working in theatre?
I’m an avid musician and spend quite a bit of time tweaking my home studio. My wife and I own a retired show horse named Sparkles, and we spend a lot of our free time at the stables taking care of her. I’m also a Netflix expert and a couch enthusiast.
What is your personal motto in life?
Just do it -Nike