Entering Professional Theatre
Chapter 3: Advanced Walking and Diet
By John Bent Jr. (MSW)
Advanced Sound Walking
It is a well documented fact, that almost all the sound effects used in theatre in the 1950s were chickens. Chickens clucking, chickens pecking, chickens flying (science would later discover that chickens can not in fact fly), and chickens cooking. In fact Sound Walking wasn’t even called Sound Walking in the 1950’s. It was known as “Dodging the Chicken”.
Jack Apogee would have only have dealt with chicken sounds, and as a result, his repertoire of walking techniques was small. But today there are many sound effects, like thunder, automobiles, and flatulence.
This chapter shall deal with the advances in walking sound, and the many strides modern sound walking has taken.
Jack Apogee dodging the chickens
Designer – Walker Communication
Many aspects of technical theatre were borrowed from other sources, and one of these sources is the navy. Knot tying, rigging, wigs, and the underwear parade, are deep, rich naval traditions.
So when Sound Walkers found it difficult to take instructions from their designers, it was a naval technique that saved the day. Semaphore.
A Sound Designer on leave from HMS Sussex
Although the semaphore used in modern sound walking has it’s roots in the navy, it was updated to suit the sound designer and sound walker’s needs. Naval Semaphore is nothing but an alphabet, but because most Sound Walkers can’t read, let alone spell, the Navy’s semaphore just wouldn’t do. Here are some examples of Semaphore for Sound Levels or “Flagging the Walker”.
A Sound Walker Pretending to know how to read.
Examples of Flagging the Walker
Due to the rising cost of gaff tape, modern day theatres are reducing the set up time for shows. Where crews used to have weeks to set up a show, now they only have days. In the future, sound levels will be set during the closing performance of the previous show.
Crews have had to learn to multitask in order to utilise the time given. It’s not enough to just be a sound walker any more. While walking sound, you may be asked to sew buttons on a costume, paint a piece of scenery, or choreograph the 2nd act. You must evolve to keep up with the times.
The Multitasking Sound Booth
Many new products on the market will help with this new “Time Crunch” that is infecting modern theatre. Here are some examples…
Why set levels on only 1 cue at a time when you can do 2?
This machine produces ideas on how to save overtime.
It costs 19 million dollars.
Sound Walking And Choreography
Try and ignore the distractions
Sound Walkers Diet
A lot of pressure has been put on sound walkers in recent years to slim down. High frequency sound waves are better represented on stage through thinner sound walkers.
Many of the sound walkers of the past were very large people who would trade their shiny beads in for greasy breakfasts in the theatre’s cafeteria.
The 1956 “Sound walker Special” at the Lincoln Center
This new “Thinner Sound walker” movement has created a lot of controversy. “How thin is too thin” and “Respect the large walker” and “Give me back my fucking bacon” have been the cries heard from the N.A.S.W.A. in recent years.
Not only has the health of the sound walker come into question, but this new “Walk the thin line” call from producers has cost many sound walkers their sponsorships. “No more beads for you thin bastards” is the reply from long time sponsors McDonalds, Burger King, and Uncle Deans Deep Fried Pork Skins.
Eating to be thin has cost many a sound walker their sponsorships.
The next chapter will deal with instructions for certification through a correspondence course, including all forms necessary to complete your sound walker accreditation.
For more information on Sound Walking visit your local library or call the Apogee Sound Walking Institute at 1-800-Loudwalk.
Sound Walker Student During Examination at the
Apogee Sound Walking Institute in south-western Greenland
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