Q&A: Julia Warren | Sound Designer for "Othello"

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Julia Warren is a second-year Communications major. She is the sound designer for UGA Theatre's upcoming production of Shakespeare's Othello, opening April 6. 

What is a sound designer? How do you sound design a show?
A sound designer is someone who creates the soundscape or sound experience of a show. Essentially to sound design a show, you need to read the play and decide what kind of sounds are in the script, what kind of mood is set, and what kind of experience you want the audience to have. In Othello, there is so much mental anguish for all characters involved, and since they are in Venice and Cyprus, I decided to use sounds of water to heighten the moments of mental anguish for the characters.

What is your favorite thing about sound designing?
My favorite thing about sound designing is that I have a lot of creative control. Each script is a blank slate and the sounds really make more of an impact on the show than most audience members realize. It can also be as big or as minuscule as I want it to be. It’s a way to highlight moments in a show.

What is your concept behind your design?
The concept behind my design is to show the build up of emotions of the characters through sound. Kristin Kundert, the director, wanted to play a lot with the sounds of water, and I incorporated that as the building of emotions. When seeing the show, as the characters are dealing with their emotions, organic human sounds reflecting water will be heard in the background to highlight the growing emotional turmoil of the characters.

What was your inspiration for your concept?
Inspiration for this came from choirs and camps that have used snaps and feet stomping in large groups to resemble sounds of a rainstorm.

What are the challenges you see when designing for an arena stage? Will it be different from sound designing a proscenium style show?
I don’t see it so much as a challenge, but as an opportunity. For sound in particular, I have the opportunity to give the effect of surround sound with speakers facing each audience and to the side of each audience. This will create a great auditory experience for the audience member.

Why do you think this play is important to today?
I think this play is important today because humans have not changed in their emotional responses. This play really highlights the aspect of human emotional manipulation and how we respond to certain events, for example, Othello reacting to Iago’s news of Desdemona. This play is still important because we can all empathize with the characters struggles, regardless of the time period, because at our core we are all human beings that feel the same feelings as those who lived hundreds of years ago.