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At the bar with Jesse Freedman

Jesse Freedman in rehearsal for DRUNKEN WITH WHAT. Photo by Gaia Squarci.

Jesse Freedman in rehearsal for DRUNKEN WITH WHAT. Photo by Gaia Squarci.

Jesse Freedman (Sound Demon) Director and collaborator. As TMT’s Sound Demon: Uriel Acosta: I Want That Man!, Reread Another. Director: Outside in (Worry Noise Dirt Heat), Karaoke Bacchae (Meta-Phys Ed. / New Ohio Theater) Paisieu (Target Margin Stein Labs), Vilna’s Got a Golem (Sarah Lawrence College), Chalom: Dream Opera (Meta-Phys. Ed.) MFA, Sarah Lawrence College.

TMT: You’ve worked consistency with Target Margin for the past few years. Tell us about your experience and what keeps you coming back?

JF: My first show with Target Margin was Uriel Acosta: I Want That Man!. I had been working with a Yiddish company on stuff in Yiddish so I felt really involved and invested in this larger exploration of the season even thought I was coming in half way through. On that project I was very involved in the development of the show in rehearsals, beyond the sound. Like everyone in the cast I was contributing ideas, text, etc. I was on stage and had schtick with the other actors. For Reread Another I was even more involved in the show. I get up from behind my sound rig and do a little dance, eat noodles, more shtick. David once gave me an “actor note” during rehearsal, which was something like “You know of course, you are secretly in love with so and so”, and that had as much to do with my little dance as it does with my sound cueing.

This project my role is mostly sound, although that doesn’t mean I’m not involved. I’m up in the balcony and not on the stage, which is for me like Athena in Olympus, as opposed to Athena on earth. The process is very actor and script focused and the script is centered. I’ve been doing a lot of sitting back and listening and watching. For the other projects I worked on, I also brought a lot of sound, in addition to the CD’s David gave me. For this project, for reasons I can’t explain, I haven’t been using any of my own research. I’ve only been working with the tracks David suggested.

What keeps me coming back is the people, the work and what I learn. The people are fantastic. David, the actors, the producers, the production team, the interns, the lab artists. I love meeting and being connected to this community of artists… and then poaching them for my own projects. Continuously, I am also learning about how the work comes together and how the company develops and grows.

TMT: What is the sound demon? What is your contribution to the performance?

JF: Lets say during a performance I am running a fade. The scrips reads:

(ACTOR sits)_______________________FADE “DOWN MURMURING DEEP”

A sound operator runs the fades on the sound because the actor sits down. For a Sound Demon, the actor sits down because I fade sound.

A Sound Demon’s role also to be understood through their contribution to the rehearsal process. The world of the play and its movement doesn’t exist for the director without the sound. Therefore, the sound demon must be in rehearsals developing the sound with the director.

TMT: One of the directing choices is to use sound in place of physical objects. For instance, instead of a door slamming, a sound would replace it. In what sense does the sound transcend the physical environment of a play or the psyche of the characters?

JF: We actually decided that not all physical objects would have sounds. In this play, doors closing have a sound, and the memory of a door closing has a sound, but doors opening do not. Also, all the doors in the house have the same sound. Why? I think the meaning of a “door closing” in a damaged family with secrets drama is pretty expansive and clear, but we really don’t talk about sound that way. We make decisions about sound closer by throwing suff in and listening to how it changes our listening to the scene.

Also, in the Sound Demon’s world, the physical world is epiphenomenal of the sound. A more interesting question is, why isn’t there a door?

TMT: Your work demands a lot of synchronization with the actors. What are the challenges of this? and do you get any chance to improvise?

JF: My mind has amassed a lot of frequent flyer miles. It wanders a lot, so this is a big challenge for me, which is why I do it I think. I like that challenge. Another challenge is that I have a lot of buttons and switches to press along with the actors doings things, so my mind toggles back and forth.

Once the sound is discovered, it all about precision and execution. The process of setting the sound is somewhat improvisational, in the sense that we are trying to make the sound work just like the actors are trying to make the scene make sense.

The first two weeks of rehearsal was overwhelming the actors investigating the O’Neil script and stage directions. Very little sound, so my process was sitting with headphones and listening to the actors run scenes and listening to music. Which was a real luxury because usually I make all that stuff at my desk. Making loops and whatnot in rehearsal with the actors working in the background made certain tracks I was investigating make sense in ways that didn’t make sense at my desk.

TMT: How much of your work is technical and how much is creative?

JF: It’s very creative. Running a show is being a part of the show, just like an actor, or maybe a puppeteer or conductor. I have to get the scene, what it is and what it is becoming and create it. There is a technical element to all of that because the more facile I am with the technology, the more expressive I can be with cue.

TMT: What’s next?

JF: This is just the begining for this project which is excited. I have personal project for me and my company I am developing. An investigation of Christopher Marlow’s The Jew of Malta (with some Brecht, Kanye West and the Gospels thrown in there). I am also working on some plays written by a 17th century Kabbalist. I also want to paint my bathroom.

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