Professional Sound - October 2017 - Page 20

PROFILE Bobby Smale By Andrew King B obby Smale has worked on a wide variety of productions in a wide variety of venues, from some of Canada’s best-known theatres to challenging remote environments. And in fact, the accomplished sound and lighting designer says that it’s working to overcome such unique challenges that keeps him passion- ate about his career. Born, raised, and still based in Ed- monton, AB, Smale’s path to a career in theatre would seem natural considering his upbringing. “I was very much exposed to the arts growing up,” he begins. “My grandmother was a music teacher and a company member for the Edmonton Op- era and even an orchestra musician when she was younger.” Smale attended Edmonton’s presti- gious Victoria School of the Arts during his secondary years and tried his hand at various creative disciplines. In the 10 th grade, he volunteered to work backstage for a visiting theatre production – which became the norm for the remainder of his stint there. “I really didn’t think it would lead to anything like this [at the time],” he admits, “but that was my first exposure, and while I was working at the theatre there – it’s a 700-seat theatre right in the school – we worked on all kinds of things and started to experiment with wireless microphones and cool tech.” After high school, he took a year away from the stage but, during that time, the itch crept back. Ultimately, he decided to enroll in the theatre production program at Edmonton’s Grant MacEwan College (now University) and immersed himself into his craft, making contacts and bolstering his technical know-how. Out of school, he took jobs as a house audio technician at different theatres and venues in and around Edmonton and also began touring with various acts and pro- ductions, from bands to folk dance groups to musical theatre troupes and beyond. His first foray into sound design came in 2004. At the time, he says, productions would hire musicians or musical directors to compose and record music; sound de- sign as a career wasn’t nearly as common, so he would more often be credited as an audio technician or consultant. 20 PROFESSIONAL SOUND “The first time I was formally credited as a sound designer was going back to MacEwan as a freelancer to design shows and mentor students in operating them,” he recalls, and that was something of a springboard into his current career. He began working in a similar capac- ity at his other alma mater, Victoria School, which had grown into productions using 24 channels of wireless and eight- to 12-piece bands with students behind the consoles. His résumé grew quickly in the subse- quent years. In 2005, for Alberta’s Centennial celebrations, he was the assistant technical director at Commonwealth Stadium for the Queen’s visit. He toured with a cultural mis- sion funded by the provincial government that brought musical artists from diverse genres to places all over the province. A career highlight was designing sound for a Vancouver and subsequent touring production of The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets – the “musical fable” created by original director Robert Wilson, musician Tom Waits, and writer William S. Burroughs. Following that, he also began collaborating with Edmonton’s high-art Catalyst Theatre and then the Edmonton Opera, designing sound for operettas that combined musical theatre and opera sing- ers in unique hybrid performances. Most recently, he’s taken on produc- tions at Edmonton’s iconic Citadel Theatre, including a 2016 production of Bitter Girl, The Musical and spring 2017 production of Peter and the Starcatcher. This summer, as part of the robust nationwide Canada 150 celebrations, he designed sound for one of two original productions of The Dream Catchers. One was staged outdoors at Charlottetown's Confederation Centre of the Arts, facing the historic Province House, and the other toured the country until, partway through the summer, they switched, all as part of the Charlottetown Festival’s 2017 program. Smale says that, throughout his career, one ongoing challenge has been balanc- ing timelines with expectations. “That’s always the thing,” he shares candidly – “managing a production’s expectations and using whatever the allotted time may be to deliver the best possible results.” He’ll be straddling that line on some exciting upcoming projects, including the comic opera H.M.S. Pinafore at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in February 2018, featuring a full orchestra uniquely posi- tioned underneath an onstage balcony. His hurdle will be designing a PA solution that avoids a potential bandshell effect onstage. Then, he’ll be working in the audio depart- ment on the Citadel Theatre production of Anaïs Mitchell’s heralded Hadestown. Having recently attended a weeklong seminar with Merlijn Van Veen on sound system and speaker design, h ͡ձ)ɕɕ͡ɕ٥ɅѕѼх)Ս̸)ݡ͕ɕєɽ)ѡɔݽɬѽѡȰM)ѥ́ɅѡȁչՔ聉ե)ѽȁեх́ѡ)յ̸q$݅́ݥѠ䁙)ݡͼݡЁхѕ́ȁեх)́ɽѡɔt͡ɕ̸)ѥձɱ䁍ɥѡٕ(éեЁѡ́Qѡɕɥq͡д)ո̳tՉAɅɥQչȰݥѠ)Յ͡ѝոɕ́́ɕ)͕́͡ȁɽ̸)ѕȁ䁉ЁՍ͙հܰ)Ḿ݅ɐѼݡЀ)ѽɔɕѼ́ѥ͔Ѽ)ɥɽՍѥ́ɕЁ)ɕЁٕՕ̸]ѕٕȁ䁉)ѽɔé፥ѕȁѡ)݅́Ѽ܁͡)Ѽٕ́ȵɽݥЁɕ̸)ɕ܁-́ѡѽȵ )AɽͥMչ