Sunday, April 17, 2016

Art Feeds the Soul

Contributed by Jeanne Travis

I was a stage manager long before I was a sound designer; a director and actor long before I was a stage manager and a flautist and composer before I can remember. I have been very fortunate enough to find or attract multifaceted people. I love to work with artists who are easily bored, take risks, make mistakes, collaborate, work hard and are generous.   

If I had known early on in my life what opportunities there were to fuse both music and theater into a career I wouldn’t have had to wage war with myself for the many years that I tried to pick one or the other. If you are born to be an artist you must pursue what you're wired to do. Living anything else is living a lie. Picking music over theater to me was like asking me which leg I could live without. I wish that I would have never tried to believe that I had to choose. Artists think on a level that cannot be measured. They invent, ponder, create, imagine, edit, summarize, synthesize, store and evaluate information with all fives senses. I once directed two horror Grand Guignol plays from their original 1890s texts. I felt amplified. “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life” an actor told me in rehearsal. It was from this experience that I started to look at art from a completely new perspective which would eventually lead me to design. I also realized from this experience that the greatest reward an artist can ever hope for is to inspire others to create.
  Most people live to create.  An artist creates
     in order to live, because art feeds the soul.

My Mom

To me, creating art is like coming home. I like to be around my kind! I was so incredibly fortunate and humbled to accept the IT Award for sound design last year for Nat Cassidy’s The Temple, or Lebensraum. I just remember that I didn’t want to let anyone down; especially Nat. Everyone involved was so incredibly multi-talented. Above all, we were all amped and called to inspire one another and I have never felt so much support on a daily basis on a show before. I love independent theater. You meet the best people. I believe that in order to be successful artist you have to be a generous, kind, and wonderful person because from this centeredness flows a spring that the soul feeds on in order to create. Off and Off-Off-Broadway attracts like minded artists that thrive in this community.

I forget how extremely exposed sound is sometimes. It takes a fearless ambition to be a sound designer. To shout an idea, literally at high volume, takes guts. It is also a sound designer’s job to seduce you into a state of total unawareness that we are ever there. This allusion intrigues me and it challenges me. I have been very fortunate to work with playwrights who know how to wield sound design to their advantage. To be able to offer a playwright the assurance that their imagination should not be hindered by any limits in sound is the ultimate reason why I do what I do.

I have just started to play the flute again. I doubt that I will ever step foot into a costume ever again or have the strength to ever direct again. However, I am easily bored, I take risks, I make mistakes, I work hard and I'm generous. It's what I'm wired to do. Who knows what will happen next?


Jeanne Travis is a composer, sound designer, stage manager and flautist. She composes daily and plays the flute at Judson Memorial Church. Sound Design credits include: Utility (The Amoralists Theater Company), The Temple, or Lebensraum (Tin Drum Productions), Woyzeck (No Win), Leave Me Green (Form Theatricals), Asymmetric (59E59), Frankenstein Upstairs, The Honeycomb Trilogy: Advance Man, Blast Radius, Sovereign (Gideon Productions), Rantoul and Die, Enter at Forrest Lawn (The Amoralists), Luft Gangster (Nylon Fusion). Stage Management credits include: Six Rounds of Vengeance, Untitled Vampire Cowboys Project, Alice in Slasherland (Vampire Cowboys), Final Analysis (Pershing Square Signature Center), Spectral Scriabin (Lincoln Center), Sir Patient Fancy, As You Like It, The Wonder (The Queen's Company). Special credits: Retro Productions Company Member since 2008. With Retro: The Tender Trap, The Desk Set, Holy Days, Dear Ruth, Benefactors, The Runner Stumbles, A Day in the Life of Joe Egg. Awards: WINNER 2015 New York Innovative Theater Award for Outstanding Sound Design: The Temple, or Lebensraum (Tin Drum Productions). Upcoming Projects: PSM: Thoa's Library (All For One) and SD: Universal Robots (Gideon Productions).

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