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The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

With a New System Comes a New Start: What WIS Can Expect From the New Sound System

The cast of “Matilda Jr.” performing in the Black Box Theater. On Saturday, May 29, the evening performance started 30 minutes late due to some difficulties with the sound system. (Courtesy of Cheryl Tanski)

Upper and middle school productions have been suffering from sound system issues in the Black Box Theater for over three years now. Facing both technological malfunctions and the resulting stress that builds up among the cast and crew, the productions have not sailed smooth seas for some time.

The sound system issues became apparent during the upper school production of “Mamma Mia!” in 2019, according to upper school vocal music teacher John Munt. During the first show, the cast sang without any microphones or performance tracks. However, in the other two shows, the cast sang with a pit and microphones.

Sophomore Maria Cristina Restrepo, who is highly involved in the tech crew of productions, explains that the main issue is a limited amount of available microphones, as the crew has only found 10 to 11 that performers can use. Additionally, the speakers are outdated and the tech crew has a limited amount, according to Munt.

As these issues have grown larger and more complex over time, the cast and crew have had to work around them. For each production, the crew has to determine which students already project their voices and don’t require microphones for them to be heard. Yet the students who do need microphones are forced to trade them whenever they go on and off stage, creating other obstacles.

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“We try not to [trade microphones] because it causes a lot of feedback and it messes with the system of how it’s programmed,” sophomore and tech crew member Galaxia Aparicio said.

Dealing with these obstacles, especially during tech week and the performances, is very stressful for both the cast and crew. “Part of it is the issue… [of] having to talk to directors and be like, ‘We can’t be switching [mics] out,’” Restrepo said. “It causes stress to us students having to tell teachers, ‘We can’t do that.’”

This matter was brought up to the administration and a plan was made to get a new sound system, including new digital wireless microphones, a new digital soundboard and a new speaker system. However, the whole thing took a long time with little communication from the administration, according to Aparicio.

“I was told that this stuff was going to be solved during the summer [2022] and then I came back and everything was the same; nothing had changed,” Aparicio said. “We’re coming up with new solutions, but this should’ve been solved already. This shouldn’t be our problem.”

The delay in securing a new sound system was largely caused by WIS’s struggle to find a reliable company, according to Audiovisual and Technology Coordinator Ramon Cuevas. “You have to make sure you have a great company that has a good reputation [and] that is good at what they do,” he said. “We had to make sure we did our research, making sure that the products that we were getting were great quality for the soundboard and also for the Black Box Theater itself.”

A temporary solution was put in place for the upper school fall 2022 musical, “Heathers The Musical: Teen Edition.” “It’s like a band-aid on our current system, just to have it sound as good as it can for [Heathers] because the students work really hard for… so many rehearsals,” Munt said at the time.

Now, months later, the highly anticipated amendments to the sound system are up and running. The new sound system was installed from Dec. 11 to Dec. 15, 2022, according to Cuevas.

The new technology wasn’t used much in the upper school spring play, “Our Town,” so the installments will make their first major debut at the middle school musical, “Matilda Jr.”

“It is a lot of pressure,” middle school theatre arts teacher and “Matilda Jr.” director Rose Webster said. “I’m hoping it goes smoothly.”

As of now, the middle school musical has not experienced any technical difficulties, but this is mainly due to them not using much of the new technology yet, according to Webster.

Both Cuevas and Munt are expecting significant improvements to the audio aspects of productions in the future, such as better sound quality since the newer microphones won’t cause as much interference. Additionally, plans are being made to hire a technical director for future productions, according to Munt.

The technical director would take over any aspects relating to the sound and lighting of productions, which would lift a large weight off of the crew’s shoulders and make preparation for productions more efficient. “We want to hire somebody that has the theatrical experience [so] that they understand the things that we’re talking about from a theatre standpoint instead of just from a technical standpoint,” Webster said.

Ultimately, the new sound system finally being installed means that the various casts’ talents will no longer be hindered by technical difficulties. With “Matilda Jr.” soon arriving at the Black Box Theater, students and faculty have high expectations and joyful emotions about the long-lasting issue finally coming to an end. “I’m so excited. Matilda’s the first show that gets to test [the system] out and try it at its full potential,” Webster said. “If it goes well, hopefully, it looks like a bright future [on] the technical side of things.”

By Selena Said

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About the Contributor
Selena Said, WIS News Editor
Hi, I’m Selena! I am currently a sophomore and this year, I am a WIS News Editor. This is now my second year being a part of Dateline and I was previously an Arts Editor. I like to cover news and fun stories that have a connection to the WIS community. Outside of Dateline, I like playing tennis and reading. 

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