White Guy on the Bus
By Marcus Gardley
Director: Malcolm Gets
Scenic Designer: Samantha Lewis
Lighting Designer: Mika Ahlemann
Costume Designer: Lotti Vandergoot
Sound Designer: Jesse Desrosiers
Photographer: Suzanna Mars
March 2019 - UF School of Theatre + Dance
In this production, the protagonist, Ray, is plagued by the memory of his wife's death and seeks revenge. He rides the bus frequently to befriend a Black woman whom he attempts to bribe into helping him. In my designs, I didn't worry about verisimilitude. The play is highly theatrical; sliding through time and space, often overlapping. I used these points of convergence to my advantage; sometimes marking transitions with sounds from Ray's subconscious and sometimes bleeding the two soundscapes together.
Leaning further into the dream-play concept, I placed speakers on three levels: below the audience on three sides (built into the risers), above the audience in four corners, and at the top center of the theatre pointed directly down. These placements established where scene ended and where the next began. They also guided shifts in staging within scenes and to follow the attention of the actor playing Ray.
At the top of the show, Ray is lost in his memory and experiences a sort of "emotional bus crash." Here, three speakers move the source of the sound across the stage; landing at Ray just before the crash. This sound progression was built both through pre-edits and QLab in-program fades.
For scenes on the bus, I used ambience recorded on the actual local bus mixed with various sound effects. The original recorded ambience is below.
White noise symbolized first Ray's persistent rage, then his clouded mind. Sudden shifts from the upper to lower speakers brought the sound closer to the audience; producing a fuller, more immediate feeling. I sourced and mixed of a variety of "white noises" for use, including pink noise.
During pre-show and intermission, I played commercials (emphasizing the consumerist theme of the show) one by one, each from a different speaker. This acclimated the audience to the unusual speaker placement and heightened the feeling of intimacy.