Hills on Fire
By Joe Stevens & Keaton Wooden
Director: Ryan Hope Travis
Scenic Designer: Samantha Lewis
Lighting Designer: Jordan Lindquist
Costume Designer: Lotti Vandergoot
Photographer: Suzanna Mars
June 2019 - UF School of Theatre + Dance
My design first introduced standard Appalachian life – nature and church bells. Very quickly, the fire is introduced to the soundscape. This becomes a theme that haunts the production at varying intensities and timbers. I placed small speakers under the stage so that fire sound effects would originate from the stage itself. I established early on that the ringing church bell (introduced at the top of show as a tradition when someone in town died) was connected to Mark’s ability to see the dead. This both emphasized his “gift” and made it possible to clearly delineate when Mark sensed or saw dead people. Towards the end of the production, I built the fire’s intensity and raised its lower frequencies to mirror the climbing dramatic action. After the climax, the scene abruptly shifts to a river – the sound of the water almost competing for dominance over Mark’s voice as he prepares to drown himself. Kelsey saves him, and the water, too, fades away.
Bell tolls open the show, signaling the death of Ed Stray. The sound of a bell comes to signify someone's death, while the reverberation of the toll warns Mark that someone's death is imminent.
I played with levels for the rain, letting it fill emptier moments of the song, while bringing it back during fuller musical moments. I also played with layering and musicality.
Throughout the production, I used different combinations of base recordings to create fires with different timbers and intensities. A variation of this also serves as the intermission soundscape.
A sinkhole caused by the fire swallows a character alive.