The BYU-Idaho’s Theatre Department is putting on The Cherry Orchard — the story of an aristocratic Russian landowner trying to keep her family’s orchard while in financial distress. The show will run from March 18 to 21 and 24 to 28 in the Black Box Theatre.
Richard Clifford, the college dean in the Theatre Department, said the production has been a very collaborative experience. This includes the sound, the set and the costume design, as well as the work of the actors involved.
James Beltran, a senior majoring in theatre studies, is the creative force of sound in The Cherry Orchard. As his last semester, this project is the capstone of his work. He started by doing projects for different productions; the first production he ever worked on was in collaboration with the audio master for Northanger Abbey.
“She taught me everything, and I was enthralled in it,” Beltran said. “So I went and asked the teachers if I could have an assignment on the next semester’s show, so they gave me the soundboard operator for Anna Locasta. After that, I liked it enough that I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Beltran’s job includes making sure the audience can hear the actors. One of his roles is using sound to immerse the audience in the world the actors are trying to create, similar to the soundtrack in film. He is a support to the actors’ depiction to make the production believable and relatable.
“For example, Cherry Orchard takes place in the house of the lead character,” Beltran said. “It’s a big orchard area, so there are trees everywhere and animals. So we would hear those types of things that would make it more realistic for the actors and the audience. Birds singing in the trees (and) dogs running in the yard.”
Since he started working on the show a year ago, he has been collaborating with the director by deciding what sounds need to be in the show to accomplish the director’s vision. He collects all of the sounds by either finding them online and purchasing them or recording his own. In this show, he has recorded the actors making different noises and saying their lines so that the audience believes that they are outside of the house or in a different room.
“I like that I have the liberty to create a world for the actors to be able to throw themselves in,” Beltran said. I enjoy coming up with different ideas of what things sound like. If you talk to different people who do sound design, the way they hear something in a play is not necessarily going to be that same for you or for me. That takes it to a whole new level in some cases. You can go see the same play, but the sound design may be completely different.”
For more information about the play, check the Performing and Visual Arts Event page.