The Sea Gull
An unique take on a classic play about alienation, unrequited love, and the struggle for artistic fulfillment.
Director Zoë Wang sought to create a claustrophobic other-world. The characters were sea creatures at the bottom of a pool and the audience were the seaweed they moved through to tell their story.
We wanted a strange, acoustic soundscape. At the time, I was studying free improvisation with Tim Feeney, and exploring the sonic possibilities of various objects. Tim taught me how to play metal cups and mixing bowls with violin bows and how to make them resonate like singing bowls with mallets. He also taught me how to make a friction mallet from a superball and a scroll saw blade to rub on the head of a frame drum. I recorded a palette of sound for The Sea Gull using these techniques as well as playing various percussion instruments and cello.
The cast used objects and instruments in subtle ways throughout. Chimes, shakers, and bells replaced more literal props. What resulted was a seamless mix of live and recorded sound that was especially successful due to the spatialization of playback I could achieve in the round.
The most rewarding part of this production was collaborating directly with the cast. I had the pleasure of leading a couple of rehearsals, and using what I learned in Tim’s ensemble to train the cast on their instruments and guide their group improvisation. I used what I saw and heard to create a score for the centerpiece of the performance–an experimental sound bath that symbolized the two years that pass between Acts III & IV.
These two years hold hardships for the characters. Most notably, Nina and Trigorin’s baby dies and Trigorin leaves her. Nina carried and played an old Autoharp, which symbolized the baby. Most of the cast had various metal cups and mixing bowls, either creating rich sine waves or shrill punctuations. Konstantin and Yakov played used the friction mallets on the frame drums to make eerie and sorrowful whale-like sounds. The full cast vocalized with increasing intensity before a jump cut into the final act.
The Sea Gull
written by Anton Chekhov
translated by Jean-Claude van Itallie
Produced by CalArts School of Theater
Nina: Karolina Kwaśniak
Konstantin: Willington Liu
Irina: Erica Malachowski
Trigorin: Michael Lanham
Masha: Justine Faith Camesa
Sorin: Oscar Falcon
Dorn: Lily Rutman
Shamrayev: Clay Hollander
Polina: Madeleine Barnette
Medvedenko: Steele Howell
Yakov: Ling Chang
Director: Zoë (Duoyi) Wang
Scenic Designer: Jane Hamor
Costume Designer: Nishtha Tyagi
Lighting Designer: Jackson Funke
Composer and Sound Designer: Clare Marie Nemanich
Video Designer: Grace Hlavacek
Intimacy Coordinator: Emily Barasch
Technical Director: Ethan Geisness
Sound Engineer: Nick DePinto
Assistant Scenic Designer: Najing Cen
Assistant Costume Designer: Tara Froehlich
Assistant Lighting Designer: Max Okst
Assistant Video Designer: Wei-Fang Chang
Assistant Technical Director: Trevor Desai
Graphic Designer: Luyao Zhang
Producer: Yameng Deng
Associate Production Manager: Katherine Paez Froehlich
Stage Manager: Clara King
Assistant Stage Managers: Winky Kim, Sam Millette