The Rasmuson Individual Artist Award

Lucy Peckham, Sound Designer

“Bringing It Home”

Project Grant Report #3 - QLab 4 Training

March 2019

in the—eek!—midwinter

I hope I’m not the only one who feels that receiving a Rasmuson Grant is comparable to hearing the order “Warp 9, Mr. Scott!” From the engine room the answer comes: “Ah canna give ya any morrrre, Cap’tin!”.

Still, December was a hiatus of sorts from the grant project thanks to A Christmas Carol and myriad seasonal gigs. You know the expression “Make hay while the sun shines?” That is what the darkest month of the year is like for me!

The hectic pace continued in January with the Anchorage opening of Franklin, followed immediately by the thirtieth annual Anchorage Folk Festival. I’ve been their sound manager and front-of-house (FOH) mixer for twenty-four of those years. The ANC FF celebrated this milestone anniversary with five guest artist groups instead of the usual two, and concerts at four venues instead of three. The twelve-day schedule was filled out by 140+ local groups and individuals. It’s the best way to spend midwinter!

but where there’s a will…

I was also preparing for the heart of this project, the QLab 4 class. I am the only person doing what I do as a vocation in Alaska. For professional theatre to be sustainable here, we need more resident skilled sound designers. Understanding and utilizing QLab 4 is critical to professional development, since it is nearly ubiquitous in theaters internationally. As the website states, QLab is “everything you need to put on a great show.” ”

I’ve been using QLab since late 2008, but I was not current on what it is capable of doing. With the grant, I could travel to a Qclass somewhere with all the associated expenses, or I could pay Figure 53 trainers to come here, and invite Alaskans from all over the state—technicians, designers, and composers—to take the class with me. The choice was obvious. With a barrage of emails, and cross-posting to social media by the Alaska State Council on the Arts, Last Frontier Theatre Conference, the Rasmuson Foundation, and others, the word spread.

My invaluable partner in this endeavor was lighting designer Dan Anteau, a professor from the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Theatre Department. Thanks to him, the class was held in the UAA Fine Arts Building, in a large room with three projectors, four speakers, and multiple LED stage lighting instruments. There were tables with outlets sufficient for over 25 students with computers, and access to a faculty lounge and kitchenette.

UAA theatre students could attend for free, but to cover the costs that went beyond my grant budget I asked $100 each from all other students. Those costs included rental of VRBO housing in Anchorage for our instructors, a rental van for students from out of town, and a three-day menu of beverages, snacks, and lunch for the class.

…there IS a way!

In the end, there were six students from UAA and eighteen others (including Rasmuson recipients/composers Dolores Catherino and Yngvil vatn Guttu) in attendance. There were students from Juneau, Kodiak, Homer, Valdez, Ketchikan, and Seattle, representing A Perseverance Theatre, Cyrano’s Theatre Company, Anchorage Community Theatre, First City Players, Glenn Massey Theater, Toss Pot Productions, Blue Chair Productions, TBA Theatre, Kodiak High School, Valdez Civic Center, IATSE Local #918, Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, and the Alaska Independent Musicians Initiative (AKIMI).

After the class, reactions were universally positive! Each “graduate” has the means to bring QLab 4 to their companies and communities, to be the seeds of future professional theatre design in Alaska.

A word on our instructors… At the last minute, Sam Kusnetz, who had been my advocate with Figure 53, was not able to make the trip. Instead, Christopher Cahoon came, bursting with enthusiasm for his sudden opportunity to visit Alaska to teach. He and Allison Clendaniel made the most of their short visit, seeing Anchorage’s urban moose, an auroral display, and eating lots of fresh raw Alaskan oysters before they flew home.

They also made the most of our three days of training. They kept things MOVING with the huge amount of material they had to cover. Teaching the class revealed occasional software concerns to Chris and Allison. They took copious notes…and Figure 53 has since released two more software updates addressing some of those issues!

With my new understanding of the software, my workflow in sound design should be a lot more efficient, and I plan to build presentations for another venture, the MV Tustumena Oral History Project, incorporating audio and video—all triggered by QLab 4.

THANK YOU to Allison, Chris, and all of the folks at Figure 53.

looking ahead

Looking ahead… On March 9, I leave Alaska for the final portion of the project. It begins in Atlanta where for a week I’ll shadow sound engineer Dave Bath with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, all thanks to BJ Brooks. That will be followed by a week in Louisville at the USITT Conference & Stage Expo, including a three-day Immersive Sound Installation class. Next I’ll visit the Ivy Hall Studio in East Nashville, where, among their gear, they have a true classic analog console, the Neve VR 24 channel. I’ll be a guest of Eric Loomis, Ivy Hall’s studio manager. He just visited Alaska as the touring engineer for Dan Tyminski, thanks to the Anchorage Folk Festival.

That was to be the end of my trip…but then a Whitman College classmate, Frank Lott, emailed me after reading my second Rasmuson Report. Frank has been busy indeed since our Whitman days and is now the company manager for Cirque du Soleil’s show Corteo (and will be the company manager for their show Volta later this year). Among many other things, he's been an Associate Producer at Seattle's Fifth Avenue Theatre and general or company manager for over a dozen Broadway and national/international-tour productions such as Wicked, The Lion King, Cats, Master Class (with Faye Dunaway), Blood Brothers (with David Cassidy and Petula Clark), and My Fair Lady (with Richard Chamberlain).

In Frank’s capacity as Company Manager of the Corteo tour, he spoke with his Head of Sound, Christian Peterson. The production sound of Corteo uses Ableton Live and QLab 4 together in a very unique way…and, thanks to Frank’s request, I’ll be able to spend four days with the company at The Forum in Inglewood, California, observing the sound team in action!

It doesn’t get any better: to have the two biggest elements of my year of study, QLab 4 and Ableton Live, all wrapped up in a package of the artistic and technical excellence of Corteo from Cirque du Soleil.

In the Booth at Perseverance Theatre · September 2018

I’ll wrap up the year with a final report to the Rasmuson Foundation and you. Until then, may theatre, art, music, and joy fill your springtime!


Lucy Peckham