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Things Get Folksy with Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead!

By A Noise Within
October 9, 2018

If you loved the magical sound in our spring season, you will be thrilled to know that Jeff Gardner is back for more with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He dishes on his musical influence (Danish folk music, anyone?) and his personal journey in sound design.

What attracted you to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead?

I had been working on Noises Off, and [artistic director] Geoff reached out to me about designing for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. I thought this show would be a good fit – classical theatre is my wheelhouse and what I work on the most. This seemed like a great opportunity.

What are some inspirations behind your design?

I was very much intrigued by Denmark itself, so I’ve been looking at Danish folk music—the accordion, recorder, some percussion. We want something quirky, something that allows people to laugh. I’ve got a bass clarinet sound that’s really whimsical that’ll help with that. We want the audience to feel comfortable and have a good time. I’ve been playing with the idea of two instruments kind of feeding off each other, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do—I’m looking at either the accordion and the recorder or the bass clarinet and the recorder.

How does the sound design process differ from plays to musicals?

I’ve only done a couple of musicals—I usually work on classical theatre and straight plays. In musicals, you’re working with a music director, understanding what’s driving the show. I love collaboration and having a music director as another set of ears, so it’s definitely harder to be on my own.

Have you worked with A Noise Within before? What drew you to A Noise Within?

I went to the first Summer With Shakespeare in ’92 or ’93 as a teenager, so I was introduced to the company as an actor. From there, I was directed in a production of Twelfth Night at A Noise Within, and then they asked me to be a part of The Tempest. There was about a 15-year gap between working with A Noise Within as a teenager and then working as a designer. I’ve done 4 shows with A Noise Within—The Madwoman of Chaillot, A Raisin in the Sun, Noises Off, and now Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.

How did you first become interested in theatre design?

I went to LACHSA (Los Angeles County High School for the Arts), and they had a “1940s radio theatre” program where I got to learn about Foley art and sound design. It was a great opportunity to learn about an art form that you very rarely see.

How do you know in the end if your design is successful?

I love music and working in the field of sound, so if I play something and it feels right to me, that’s a big indicator. When I’m enjoying what I’m doing and enjoying what I’m working on and seeing how the actors respond to the music, that’s a success.

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