For a recent production of playwright Robert Ingham’s Custer—a fictional account of General George Armstrong Custer’s Battle of Little Big Horn—career theatre professional Fred Strickland helped guide students at St. Bonaventure High School through the acting challenges of war on stage.
Fortunately for the director and cast, he brought the right equipment: eighteen E6 Omni Earset microphones from Menlo Park, CA-based Countryman Associates.
Strickland, sole proprietor of Ventura-based Strickland Consulting, a firm that specializes in sound design /reinforcement for professional and community theatre as well as the corporate special events market, discussed the challenges of the project.
“Custer is part spoken word drama and part musical,” Strickland explained. “Because of this, the dynamic range for the show’s dialog spanned from very soft-spoken, almost whispering lines all the way to full blown yelling during the heat of battle. As a result, the ability to deliver the lines through the sound reinforcement system in such a way that the audience could clearly understand what was being said required special attention. This is where the Countryman E6 earset mics made a huge impact. We had eighteen E6’s in a variety of sensitivity levels available and, with careful placement on the talent, these mics made all the difference.”
One of the lead actors in the show—a seventeen year old boy possessing what Strickland described as a ‘very breathy’ vocal quality—was a particular challenge. “This young man has a real gift for the theatre,” said Strickland, “but because of his vocal quality, being able to achieve enough gain before feedback in order to raise the mic level where it needed to be required a lot of experimentation. I tried countless microphones on him and absolutely nothing came close to the Countryman E6. With the E6 positioned properly along the edge of the jaw line, audio performance was really impressive. Speech articulation was really excellent and the audience was able to catch every word, no matter where they were seated.”
Strickland was equally emphatic about the E6’s ability to sit securely and comfortably on the talent, “The last thing any performer needs is an earset mic that doesn’t fit properly. If the mic is uncomfortable or doesn’t stay firmly in place, it ends up being distracting, which only hinders one’s performance. I find the E6 is both easy to position and, once in place, very secure. In some cases, I helped secure the mic with a small piece of clear surgical tape on the side of the face, but this was primarily to help maintain placement through what seemed like a never-ending series of costume changes. I also love the fact that the E6’s appearance is almost invisible. From an audience perspective, you can barely see the mic.”
“The Countryman team is an absolute pleasure to deal with,” Strickland said. “Whenever I have questions, need parts, or anything else, I get right through to people who understand what I’m looking to accomplish and get fast, courteous help. Countryman’s support services are superior to any audio company I have ever worked with.”