In the months leading up to our 2009 Main Stage season, we’ll be profiling the creative minds behind the season’s productions—Romeo and Juliet, Private Lives, Happy Days, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream—in our e-newsletters. For the inaugural installment, we are introducing newsletter subscribers to sound artist Andre Pleuss, an Artistic Associate at Lookingglass Theatre (Chicago) who designed sound for our 2008 production of Twelfth Night, as well as Berkeley Rep’s current production of Arabian Nights. What follows is the full transcript of my email interview with Mr. Pleuss. To sign up for our email newsletter, click here.
If you could have composed music and/or designed sound for any production(s)—historical or modern—what would it be?
I would love to have composed/designed JoAnne Akalaitis' production of Iphigenia, Tina Landau's Space, and most things I've ever seen produced by SITI Company and recently Elevator Repair Service. I love the Greeks and I always want to design any House of Atreus plays (or adaptations) that come along. I'd also love to write/design for the Japanese multi-media theatre-arts/dance collective Dumb Type. They blow my mind.
Who are your favorite composers (theatrical and nontheatrical)?
My favorite theatrical composer these days is ... hmm that's tough. I guess I'd say Richard Woodbury in Chicago, and Willy Shwarz in Germany. I also like Michael Keck's music a lot, and Victor Zupanc in Minneapolis I think does great work. I loved the music for Les Waters' production of To the Lighthouse at Berkeley Rep a few seasons back, written by Paul Drescher.
My favorite nontheatrical composer is Frank Zappa (unrivaled prolific genius IMHO). I'm a big fan also of Jon Brion (as both a composer and producer). His music for Punch Drunk Love is always on heavy rotation on my iPod. I'd also add Rufus Wainwright to that list.
What's your favorite band? Or bands?
I'm going through a huge roots music phase right now. (I can't stop listening to the Alison Krauss/Robert Plant album Raising Sand. Gillian Welch, Jolie Holland and the Be Good Tanyas are also in heavy iPod rotation these days.) Unrelated, I find Postal Service endlessly fascinating—not just musically, but in terms of their process (i.e., rarely being in the same room, but rather sharing files across the country via the internet, passing them back and forth layering tracks gradually over time).
Oh yeah, and I'm a sound designer so it's like a prerequisite to be a Radiohead fan. And I am, proudly.
You recently did Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare Santa Cruz; I know it's a bit early to be thinking too much about our upcoming production, but can you provide any insight at all into how that production, with its Hungarian Gypsy feel, may inform how you approach the Cal Shakes '09 one?
I wish I could. It's still quite early and Jon and I have only had one conversation. I will say that it is great having the play still very resonant in my mind. I don't think I've ever worked on the same play (with different production aesthetics, et cetera) so closely on top of one another before. I'm really thrilled that it's this play. I've always thought I could work on Romeo and Juliet once every few years for the rest of my career and not be bored. There is so much going on in that world emotionally, dramatically. It's sexy, romantic, violent and lyrical, joyous and profoundly sad all in the same breath. If any one play can kick-start a designer's imagination in a wide variety of different directions, it's this one.