Another important consideration that you can address by attending rehearsals is "How close together are the cues & do they overlap?"
If you have cues that overlap or are very close together, you will have to have them on different playback machines.
Let's take an example:
EXAMPLE 1 : In a particular scene the director has asked for there to be the sound of rain outdoors throughout. Half way through the scene there is the sound effect of a telephone ringing & at the end of the scene there is pre-recorded music to take us through a scene change into the following scene.
On minidisc 1 we will record the rain sound effect to play throughout the scene. However we will need a second minidisc player to play the telephone SFX because minidisc 1 can not play two cues at once, nor can you set two different levels -one for the rain & one for the telephone - on one minidisc player.
Therefore the telephone SFX will be recorded onto minidisc player 2. There is quite a long gap between the telephone SFX & the music at the end of the scene, so we can also record the transition music onto minidisc 2 as well. At the end of the scene we can fade out the rain SFX on minidisc 1 & fade up the transition music on minidisc 2.
EXAMPLE 2 : Note: If we had another cue overlapping (or very close) to the telephone cue we would need a third minidisc recorder. Let us imagine that we still have the rain throughout the scene playing back on minidisc 1. The telephone SFX is recorded on minidisc 2, but in this example as the telephone rings an actor walks across the stage and switches the telephone to answering machine. In this example the answering machine message would have to be on minidisc 3. The cue for the answering machine message would be a visual, taken on the actor pressing the button on the telephone & the number of rings the phone made would be different every night depending on how fast the actor walked across the stage.
This raises an important difference between sound for film & theatre. In film, a sound cue happens at exactly the same time & for exactly the same duration every time you watch it. In theatre every performance is different. Each night the play's duration will be different depending on how the actors behave. This means that you can never judge the duration of a sound effect accuratley..One night it may be required for 22 seconds, the next night it may be needed for 25 seconds. Equally a sound effect might happen at 21:14 on one night but not until 21:20 another night.
This is the reason that a sound engineer has to play the cues manually each performance & the system can not be fully automated.
(NB Computer based cueing programmes such as QLab allow you to run sequences such as the one above with ease on one computer.)
THE TEAM HIERARCHY
The diagram above demonstrates the lines of communication that exist in a typical theatre production. The director is clearly the most important person in the production & you as a sound designer/sound engineer must follow their direction. How "hands on" the director is when it comes to sound will vary from director to director. Some directors may wish to control & oversee all elements of the sound pre-production while others may be happy to allow you to get on with your job uninterrupted. (The second of these is more likely to be the case if you have worked with the director before & they trust you.)
It is important to establish your role within this group because while you answer to the director ultimately, theatre is a collaborative art form & you will have to work for/with all these people to some extent.
The stage manager will very often pass on instructions to you from the director. Equally you can liase with the stage manager & they will pass on messages to the director. The stage manager has a complete overview of the production as eventually it will be their job to "call" the show. All sound, lighting & fly cues as well as the placing of props etc are given by the stage manager, who in turn may have a team of assistant stage managers (ASMs) working under them.
All cues are marked in the stage manager's "book" which is a script with all cues marked into it. The stage manager uses this to "call" the show, passing on cues to the sound operator, lighting operater, fly men & ASms.