Chautauqua and Machines

On Wednesday I spent part of the afternoon with a sound system expert diagnosing the audio difficulties that have arisen at one of our Chautauqua venues.  On Tuesday I wrote about the importance of “words” for the Chautauqua performance; well, bad mics, poor vocal projection or mic technique, and “untuned acoustics” in a room can rob members of an audience of the full value of the Chautauqua event.

This summer (while assisting as stage director) I twice had to interrupt a Chautauquan in performance for a mic adjustment and then mic replacement.  And this followed the relocation of outdoor speakers systems prior to the forays on stage.  At an outdoor venue our volunteers reported that significant numbers of around a thousand people just couldn’t make out what our scholar was saying!  Luckily the rearrangement and mic exchange fixed the problm and the event was a resounding success, but oh, the importance of the machines.

By the way, when an audience is enjoying the burr of a Scotch accent and has been transported to the wilds of Yosemite a hundred years ago, how does a guy of the 21st c. intrude in a minimally invasive way?  First I brought our performer a glass of water very matter-of-factly, swiftly adjusted the lavalier mic, and beat a hasty retreat.  For the subsequent mic exchange, I paused stage left, crossed to him center stage, handed him a more powerful, handheld mic without comment, and exited.

The professional Chautauquan immediately realized why the interruption was happening.  He did not comment on it.  He remained in character and smoothly shifted into the necessary changes of blocking and gesture necessitated by a larger mic that not occupied one hand.  Within moments it was as if nothing had happened.  The magic of the performance quickly took hold, and all was well.