The Wilson Theatre @ Illinois State University, Normal IL
Directed by Matt Campbell
Scenic Design by Megan Lane
Costume Design by Lauren Lowell
Lighting Design by Harrison Hohnholt
Sound Design by Robert Hornbostel
Original Music by Robert Hornbostel and Kieran Pereira
Preshow Music – The Box Car Shuffle
The world of JB starts off as soon as patrons enter the building, with a wide variety of circus festivities, including clowns, jugglers, card tricks, juggling, stilt walkers, and popcorn. The entire cast is running about, welcoming the audience and setting the feel of a 50s style circus, complete with our very own windjammers, the Box Car Shuffle. BCS was a 4 part sideshow band featuring a trumpet, bass, guitar, and assembled percussion, playing original works based off our extensive research of circus marches and sideshow style jazz. BCS greets guests in the lobby with their music, then moves into the space to add live music to further our storytelling.
The Family Song
As the focal point of the traveling circus is the story told by JB and his family, which is a stylized story from the book of Job for the christian bible. In the prolog of this event, we see JB and his family come together in a sitcom like style at the dinner table to give thanks for their Thanksgiving feast. After this, they sing their family song, which is an original work by myself and my asst designer Kieran Pereira.
Since JB is essentially living the book of Job, God takes all that he holds dear away from him. This is done in the play through a series of vignette style stories of events of the family. In the audiences’ world, we can see each of the children brought into the playing area by a white, mute clown who embodies the voice of God. On the outskirts of the playing area, the chorus characters assemble around the audience, and play various foly instruments and effects, in a rhythmic, almost chant like manor, to guide the child’s spirit out of this world. The white clown leads the child to a freestanding door upstage, and they disappear through a trap in the climax of this sequence, followed by a chorus member explaining the death to Job.
God Answers Job
The Voice of God is an important, yet non cast character in this show, softly nudging the characters to follow along the story that he has laid out for them. In the beginning of the show we meet Mr Zuss and Mr Nickles, who play the parts of God and Satan in Job’s world, but who unsuspectingly receive their cues from the Voice of God. This voice starts off soft and simple, like a great being being awoken from a slumber, but shows his power as the play progresses. In this pivotal moment in A II, Job calls out to God, calling him to account for all the horrible things that have happened. The Voice strikes back with a fury of sound and light, shaking the building and scaring the entire circus, completely breaking from the acoustic conventional approach we had used for the show thus far. This cue utilized 9 different tracks spanning 12 speaker locations including subs under the audience.
Additional Design Elements
In the beginning of the show Mr Zuss and Mr Nickles talk about playing the play, and playing the parts of the play to their best ability. Zuss remarks that they cannot play such large characters in their normal faces, so they produce these 3ft tall masks from trunks, one resembling God and one resembling Satan. In these giant puppetry masks, i was able to embed wireless mics, that were used to softly alter their voices when they embody their respective roles.
The Record Player
The Record player was used to convey important musical and thematic elements in a few key locations in the show that we wanted to be special, namely the preshow announcement and the ending cue into darkness. Both of these moments are driven by the White Clown, the embodiment of the Voice of God, and thus we wanted them to seem magical. For the announcement, the Clown sets up this suitcase record player in the middle of the playing space and mimes out the action of the announcement, making a clear definition between preshow and the action of the show. In his final cue, the Clown is left to setup the Record Player in a different location, and brings the show to a close by snapping twice; first, to turn off the lights, except to illuminate himself through his umbrella, and a second time to bring up the Record Player wirelessly to play a modified version of the star spangled banner. The Record Player is a custom creation from my Wireless Audio for Theater grant project, and utilized a raspberry pi computer, a DC motor for the turntable, and Qlab 2 for programming.