A small community theater in western Pennsylvania is seeing a big improvement in its productions - and even its bottom line – after a local sound production company installed BEHRINGER sound equipment.
Geyer Performing Art Center in Scottsdale, PA, southeast of Pittsburgh, was built in 1900 as an opera house that later served as a movie theater, community meeting house, and even as a high school auditorium, until it was closed in the 1970s. But it never had a professional sound system in all those years.
When Geyer acquired the building and started staging plays in the 1980s, the mangers put on a lot of musicals. Most of those had no sound amplification, but a few years ago, Geyer hired Good Sound Studio of New Stanton, PA, to occasionally bring in speakers and mixers and a control console.
Good Sound Studios dragged the gear back and forth for each production, but decided recently to donate about $8,000 worth of BEHRINGER amps and mixers. The equipment has transformed the theater experience for everyone from actors to patrons, helping the small community theater grow its audience.
“The response we got was overwhelmingly positive,” says theater manager Kristen Tunney of the reaction to the sound after the new equipment was installed.
Good Sound Studio president Dwight Brown says he installed key BEHRINGER components to make the most of the small space, primarily the EUROCOM MA4000M mixer, and the critically-acclaimed X32 mixing console.
He chose the EUROCOM mixer for its design and ease of use.
“I just liked the sleek, simple, design of it,” Brown says of the MA4000M. “It’s not going to be complicated where they were going to have to navigate a lot of different functions.”
Geyer doesn’t have an in-house sound technician, so Brown went straight for EUROCOM. “There’s not a lot of buttons. Not a lot of functions to confuse” people more interested in working on their performance than fiddling with knobs.
“There isn’t anybody when we’re not there that’s a trained sound tech,” Brown says. “So they needed something quick and easy setup-wise.”
Brown chose the X32 digital mixer to control everything. He, like other audio pros, raves about the X32.
“It has transformed the business for our musical production,” Brown says. “The intuitiveness… It’s incredibly easy to navigate right out of the box… I love the look of the board.”
Brown especially likes the X32’s Virtual FX rack. “It really gives you the idea that some sound techs were involved with the design of that board. You’re always wishing you could do stuff (with other consoles). And with the X32, you can.”
Tunney, who sometimes performs as well as managing the theater, says the gear helped the audience and the performers.
“We are a small theater, but there are issues with hearing everybody in every corner,” Tunney says.
Geyer puts on mostly musicals with a live orchestra of 10-12 musicians in a pit between the audience and the stage. One recent production of “The Music Man” added a high school band. The BEHRINGER equipment transformed the production.
“The amount of surround sound during some numbers of the show was pretty loud,” Tunney says. “Having the sound system there to amplify the actors on the stage made for a much better performance than if we didn’t have that equipment.”
It’s improved ticket sales, too. Now that people know they’ll actually hear the actors, they’re more willing to buy tickets, and not just in the front rows.
“Oh it’s tremendous. It’s incredibly better,” Tunney says. “Our ticket sales have been increasing but I would say sound and sound improvement here has certainly had an impact.”
It’s had an impact on the actors, too. They used to use a boom box for rehearsals.
“That was not adequate in our space,” Tunney says. “Being able to rehearse with our sound system has been a huge positive.”
She says the performers are also less exhausted from trying to be heard over the live music, especially for productions that hit the stage several times. “It’s a lot to ask of a performer to do it without a microphone for that much time,” Tunney says.
Brown notes that some actors in other theaters have scoffed at needing microphones or amplification. But he says there’s more to audio than projection.
“50 years ago it sounded terrible, we just didn’t have anything to compare it to,” Brown says. “Nobody wants to hear (an actor) who’s supposed to be at a conversational tone but sounding like they’re screaming at the top of their lungs.”
The sound equipment means the theater won’t be limited in the type of productions it puts on.
“It’s a given that we’ll have sound so we don’t have to worry about what shows we do, how big the pit is going to be,” Tunney says. “ So we can pick shows based on what we want to do.”