BWW Interview: Sound Designer Gilly Moon Sounds Off on Her LOVE OF ROLLER DERBY
FOR THE LOVE OF (OR, THE ROLLER DERBY PLAY), the first of the three productions Center Theatre Group remounts at the Kirk Douglas Theatre as part of their BLOCK PARTY 2019, opens March 9, 2019. Originally produced by Theatre of NOTE, written by playwright Gina Femia and directed by Rhonda Kohl; FOR THE LOVE OF illustrates the dilemma Joy encounters having to juggle her long-time relationship with Michelle with her recent time-consuming activities as the new member of the roller derby team Brooklyn Scallywags. As cosmic forces would have it, sound designer Gilly Moon also skates in the San Fernando Valley Roller Derby. Gilly took a breather between her sound and skating pursuits to chat with me.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Gilly!
Now that you're reprising FOR THE LOVE OF at the Kirk Douglas as part of BLOCK PARTY 2019, have you added or tweaked any of your sound elements?
Yes! We fine-tuned a lot of music choices. Also, thanks to a bigger sound system, I am able to really immerse the audience in the sounds of a roller derby game, as well as, have a dynamic sound design with both intimate and big moments.
What was your reaction when you found out this production was picked for BLOCK PARTY 2019?
I was ecstatic for a chance to take this show to a whole new level!
How did you originally become a part of FOR THE LOVE? Sound designers don't audition like performers do. Or do they?
Getting a design gig is much more about previous relationships, and word of mouth. In this case, I was recommended to Theater of NOTE by another sound designer (the incomparable Cricket Myers), because she knew that at the time I was skating with San Fernando Valley Roller Derby. I met with Rhonda to see how we vibed and to discuss the show, and then we went for it!
Since the actresses weren't using actual skates, was one of your initial sound tasks at the Theatre of NOTE production to replicate the sounds of roller skates?
Yes, but more for atmosphere than to create the sounds of them skating. It would be pretty hard and sometimes impossible to sync up recorded skate sounds to the live action! They are there to build the atmosphere of a roller derby game.
How cool is it that you're doing the sound for a show involving another love of yours - roller derbying?
Not going to lie - SO cool!
What influenced your choices of punk rock music? Your own time on the skating rink?
Many things! Playing roller derby definitely influenced those choices. The culture itself has a DIY and gritty feel. Games are set up and run by the host league and its volunteers, and roller derby venues are often places that leagues will turn into a practice space. The grit and the feminism -- there are male leagues, but roller derby is a female-dominated sport -- mean you encounter many participants who are into riot grrl music, which influenced the pre-show and intermission music. The script really wants different music for the dance numbers though. (The playwright Gina Femia refers to the play as a "Dance-ical.") From the beginning, Rhonda and I talked about creating the feeling of a runner's high through the sound design and music. Rhonda had described that the play needed a ballet rock feel. It took a lot of searching on both our parts to figure out the right music and a ton of trial and error! Understanding the urgency and adrenaline from playing the sport did help make choices that drive the show.
You're credited in the Theatre of NOTE program as "Gillian 'DeciBelle' Moon." What is your roller derby moniker? And what inspired you to chose it?
My derby name is deciBelle! It's a play on the "decibel," which is the unit used to measure the intensity of sound. The scientific abbreviation is dB, which is why the 'D' is lowercase and the 'B' is uppercase.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but do you find that, unless sound effects are involved, or insufficient miking occurs; the sound designer's contributions get ignored? It's like, if the sound designer does his or her job well, you go unnoticed. How do you feel about that?
I feel like any sound designer could go on about this for HOURS! But really, I think for the most part times are changing. People are beginning to appreciate us more, especially as audiences are developing and more excited by immersive and/or detailed environments. It does mean that sound design is a lot more work now, so I'll be interested in seeing if and how the production process changes.
Do you prefer taking on projects (such as, Halloween Horror Nights you did at Universal Studios) where sound is definitely an overt factor in the piece's success, as opposed to a straight drama that requires only that all the dialogue is heard?
I do tend to be drawn to really big sound design projects! I mean, it's a balance right? You always have to consider the story first, and what it truly needs. But I love world building. I love being abstract when I can. I love creating moments of awe and discovery through sound. I love setting up the audience with a false sense of security, and then totally surprising them. My thought is, we are surrounded by sound in everyday life, so why not try to replicate that, and also make it magical where appropriate. Okay, it doesn't mean every sound effect or ambience I make might be right, but it means I try!
When you, yourself, go see theatre; is the sound the first thing that you notice before sitting back and enjoying the show as a civilian?
Actually, no! It might be what I hone in to, after a bit. But mostly I lose myself in the story. With really good shows I have to actively remind myself to ask questions about sonic choices being made, so it's still research and a learning experience. Maybe those are the best shows and the ones I get the most from; they are so successful that I have to pay extra attention.
What feelings would you like the Kirk Douglas audience to leave with after the FOR THE LOVE curtain call?
I hope the audience leaves with the message that you are in charge of your own destiny. I hope they realize what kind for a show an all-female design team and cast (a diverse one at that!) can put on. I also hope they go support their local girl gang and see a game or two, or even join a roller derby league!
Thank you again, deciBelle! I look forward to hearing what you do at the Kirk Douglas.
For ticket availability and show schedule through March 17, 2019; log onto www.centertheatregroup.org