Berkeley Rep Blog

Category archive: From the booth

Chinglish pop popmuzik

posted by Karen McKevitt on Wed, Aug 29, 2012
in From the booth , Our shows

By Jacob Marx Rice 

Berkeley Rep’s production of David Henry Hwang's Chinglish opens tonight! And while the play may be about cross-cultural discord, sound designer Darron L West filled the transitions with a more harmonious cultural exchange. Darron used clips of Chinese pop music, or C-pop, a mashup of western and eastern music that's been around since the 1920s.

Li Jinui
 Li Jinui, the father of C-pop. This guy was the Elvis of China.

C-pop went through tough times under Mao because it was seen as Western, bourgeois, and even pornographic. But as China has opened up, C-pop has exploded. Top songs get tens of millions of hits on YouTube, including songs with awesome Chinglish titles like “Heart had been injured who can love,” “Just lonely lonely,” and “You still owe me a hug.”

Infusing the show with C-pop gives the audience a sense another facet of modern China. The music is a definite change from the American pop we’re used to (it’s in Chinese for one thing), but audiences at Chinglish haven’t seemed to mind. Several have been spotted dancing along during the transitions. After listening to these clips from the show, we think you'll see why.

Trans to 1.7

Trans to 1.3

Also, check out this amazing music video for one of the songs. If a picture is worth a thousand words, we’re pretty sure this video is priceless.


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Amplifying Rita Moreno

posted by Karen McKevitt on Thu, Sep 29, 2011
in From the booth , Our shows

By Elliott Ares, sound fellow

Many elements go into the sound design for Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup, but one element in particular is essential: vocal amplification. Wireless microphones are utilized so that the audience can hear the actors over the sound effects and live music.


These two RF (radio frequency) mics are assigned to each dancer, Ray Garcia and Salvatore Vassallo. The flesh-colored cable at the top left of the image is the lavalier.

The lavalier sucks up sound and puts it into the body pack transmitter. We painted some of the lavalier cables black to blend in with Ray and Salvatore's hair.


Read the entire post

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It's an American Idiot Halloween!

posted by Bert Reptile on Mon, Oct 26, 2009
in At the theatre , From the booth


There are Halloween parties, and then there's the American Idiot Halloween party.

You can get your Halloween off to a rock-and-roll start at Berkeley Rep! See Green Day’s American Idiot this Saturday, October 31, and start the party early. Come in costume and your first drink before the show is on us! Bar specials include a Bloody Mary, the St. Jimmy, the Letterbomb, and others, as well as an outstanding selection of local brews.

And here's some good news: If you’re under 30, your ticket is half-price! 

Stick around after the show, too. As soon as the curtain falls around 9:30pm, we’ll be giving away a bundle of American Idiot memorabilia for the best costume of the night. The winner will receive a Levi’s™ American Idiot tote bag containing a souvenir book, limited edition commemorative poster, the American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown albums and an American Idiot T-shirt.

Buy tickets online or call our box office at 510 647-2949.

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Coming to terms with my own limitations, or how I tried to re-head the tabla drum for Arabian Nights

posted by Heather Bradley on Sun, Dec 28, 2008
in From the booth

The percussion instruments in The Arabian Nights are really taking a beating (pun intended). We've been replacing claves, tambourines, Djembes, and egg shakers left and right. There is a lot of action on stage and a lot of live music -- it's natural that this would be happening.

One of the recent casualties was the tabla drum -- specifically, what would normally be the larger drum in a pair of Indian tablas, called the Bayan. It had a small tear in the head. It was certainly still playable, but we anticipated that the problem would only get worse.

Heather - Tabla

I decided that it shouldn't be so hard to re-head the tabla myself. It really only involved lacing some animal hide "ribbon" through the holes in the braided portion of the drum head. I found some instructional videos on You Tube -- thanks to the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael. It did look like some elbow grease was involved, but the guy did it quickly and easily. I just needed to pay close attention to how the ribbon threads through the braid -- and the loop at the bottom of the drum.

Heather - threading 

I purchased a drum head from Mrs. Khanna at Bazaar of India (on University, right around the corner from the theatre). She talked me through the process and it seemed pretty straightforward. She said I just needed to be patient. It would probably take me an hour or so. I gave myself three hours. OK -- I can do this! 

Heather- instruments 

I got the tools together and began to pull out the current ribbon of animal hide

First I soaked the hide in warm water -- directly in the sink, and also wrapping the drum in a warm wet towel.

Heather - soaking 

The threading started out OK actually, but at a certain point, things got sort of twisted and I was forced to pull it all out. I realized that things were drying a bit quickly and the cold room I was in didn't seem to be helping, so I changed to a heated room and soaked the hide again. Now it was nice and pliable, but the width had increased and it was impossible to thread it through the braiding. I began getting quite frustrated (and losing patience). By this time (three hours later) my hands were getting a bit raw, even though I was wearing gloves. I gave it one more shot. No luck.

I then proceeded to visit my friend Mrs. Khanna at Bazaar of India. She sold me a lovely new set of tablas, and assured me that I was on the right track with the work I had been doing -- but that perhaps I needed an assistant.

So. now they have a drum to play in Arabian Nights again. And Robyn and I will be attempting this crazy task again -- together. I'll let you know how it goes!

Here's a pic of the tabla as it exists right now:

Heather - unfinished 

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1,001 Instruments

posted by Robyn Bykofsky on Thu, Nov 20, 2008
in From the booth

The Arabian Nights is unique in that there are absolutely no pre-recorded sounds. All of the sound effects and music are comprised of live instruments from around the world. In order to enhance the quality of the music in the most transparent way, the sound department hung eight microphones from the catwalk and in the ceiling above the stage.

1,001 instruments are used--or, at least, it feels that way when the stage crew is meticulously and strategically pre-setting these music-making devices. The show begins with a high-energy bang rhythmic beating on djembes (a West African hand drum) that are joined a by a tambourine, then clave, followed by a cow bell, a darbuka (goblet drum), a bodrahm, shakere, and many more.  (If you do not know what these are – don’t worry – I’ll spotlight a few each week.)

Until next week…

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Back to School

posted by Heather Bradley on Mon, Oct 13, 2008
in From the booth

One of the tasks on the sound department's plate for Yellowjackets was to create a CD of pre-show music from the time of the play -- something that "hipper" high school students might be listening to. It had to include rock, hip-hop, and Latino infuences. I have a pretty large music collection, including lots of stuff from this period of time -- so I was able to make the CD entirely from my own stuff at home. How convenient!

So, with a little research help from our fabulous intern, Jocelyn, we put the following playlist together:

1. Cool LIke Dat / Digable Planets
2. Hispanic Causing Panic / Kid Frost
3. Let Me Drown / Soundgarden
4. Cut Your Hair / Pavement
5. Soul Flower (remix) / The Pharcyde
6. Violet / Hole
7. Ego Trippin' (Part Two) / De La Soul
8. Cherub Rock / Smashing Pumpkins
9. Steve Biko (Stir It Up) / A Tribe Called Quest
10. 100% / Sonic Youth
11. Dry / PJ Harvey
12. C.R.E.A.M. / Wu-Tang Clan
13. In The Morning / Built To Spill
14. Git Up, Git Out / OutKast
15. Friday I'm in Love / The Cure
16. 93 'Til Infinity / Souls of Mischief
17. So What'cha Want / Beastie Boys
18. Brother Sister / Brand New Heavies
19. Fat Cats, Bigga Fish / The Coup

What songs would make your mid-'90s playlist?

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