Inside A LIE OF THE MIND Part Two: Sound Design and The Country Duo Inside A LIE OF THE MIND Part Two: Sound Design and The Country Duo
In this 3-part series, PerformInk takes you inside Kansas City Actors Theatre’s production of A LIE OF THE MIND through blog posts written by... Inside A LIE OF THE MIND Part Two: Sound Design and The Country Duo

Pictured: Kasey Rausch of The Country Duo 

In this 3-part series, PerformInk takes you inside Kansas City Actors Theatre’s production of A LIE OF THE MIND through blog posts written by the people behind the scenes. To read past “Inside” articles click here


By Jonathan Robertson

In the script of A LIE OF THE MIND, Sam Shepard includes a music note, where he states that he has “no doubt that this play needs music […] Music with and American backbone. […] All I ask is that there be music and that the music serves to support the emotional values discovered by the actors in the course of rehearsal.”

So, I knew immediately my primary task as sound designer was to choose the right music. I have a background in recording studios, so I opted to hire and record music specific to this production, rather than pull music off a CD.

I came up with a short list of Kansas City musicians who play in a style that I felt would be appropriate – folk, country, bluegrass. We were able to contract The Country Duo (my first choice) to provide all of the music for this production, which includes pre-show, intermission, curtain call music, also scene transition music and internal scene underscoring.

Pictured: Marco Pascolini of The Country Duo

This is a play that deals with difficult themes, like dysfunctional relationships and abuse. The director Cinnamon Schultz and I poured over the script to find scenes we want to underscore, being sensitive to the subject matter. Cinnamon did a great job of finding metaphors for each underscored moment, that I can then translate into musical direction for the duo. We met with the duo and gave them the scene list and underscoring list, with metaphorical and specific musical directions, like confusion/fear translating to repetitive/slow, for example.

Taking The Country Duo into the studio was a real treat. We were well-prepared and had a clear goal for each underscoring and transition moment. The session was so smooth, they nailed everything on the first or second take. I set up the recording to sound intimate, so that eventually when I mix the music in the theatre, it will have a touch of a live sound, not like a fully mastered studio recording. I put both musicians in the large studio room, set up a room mic and a few close mics and let them roll. It sounds intimate and real.

We haven’t started tech rehearsals yet, but I’ve listened to the tracks in the theatre, and everything sounds great. It sounds like The Country Duo is right there in the theatre. With all of the preparations and planning Cinnamon and I made, and how smooth the recording session
went, I have no doubt that tech rehearsals will be extraordinarily smooth and successful. One of my favourite parts of designing sound is mixing the music in the house. I’ll be able to mix each instrument individually, so sometimes the guitar might sound small, like it’s coming from
upstage left, other moments I’ll fill the house with the duo’s music and envelope the audience
in their sound.

Pictured: Marco Pascolini, Jon Robertson, and Kasey Rausch.

We are excited to announce that The Country Duo will perform live, one night only, on opening night. You can enjoy a pre-show concert on opening night and get to hear some of the music used in the play, and even meet the band.

Kansas City Actors Theatre will present Sam Shepard’s A LIE OF THE MIND from September 13th to October 1st at the H&R Block City Stage in Union Station. Tickets are available at kcactors.org

Jonathan Robertson

Jonathan Robertson is a composer, sound designer, and adjunct instructor in the Music Technology and Theatre departments at Missouri Western State University.

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