Spotlight on Eric Backus: Sound Designer

We are so proud of the cast of Apartment 3a for putting on such a strong run so far! However, their performances were only half the battle. There was a team of dedicated designers working behind the scenes with Director Ron OJ Parson, creating the environment that you see in the performance. We had the opportunity to talk to Sound Designer Eric Backus about his process for the show, beginning with how different it was from past experiences:

“The rehearsal period was fairly short, so a lot of my work got done during tech. Ron’s approach to staging the play felt really organic, so finding the world of the play and shaping what that sounded like was very exciting. It was also the first time that I’ve composed music specifically for actors to dance to. That was definitely an exhilarating challenge.”

If you have seen Apartment 3a, you will notice that there are three waltz numbers, and Eric composed the music for all of them! After a long tech process and many conversations with the director, Eric finally found the feel he was looking for:

“With the waltzes, I wanted to express a sense of yearning and struggle, but in a way that was very hopeful. The first waltz I wrote ended up in the show as underscoring (first as played by the cellist from upstairs, and then in the Italian restaurant). Both are moments that discuss Donald’s wife, so for me the theme became tied to the idea of love as a heavenly experience. The second waltz was actually inspired by a piece of music that [Dan Smith, who plays Donald] had brought to rehearsal. The theme was arranged a few different ways – for the two waltzes in Act 2, and also as the music that starts the show. It has a more peaceful feel than the other waltz, but I also wanted it to have some excitement and uncertainty. Annie has a lot of uncertainly in her life, even at the end of the play. It’s finding hope that turns the uncertain into exciting.”

But Eric didn’t stop there! Wind City Playhouseworks to create an original experience for the audience from the minute they walk into the theater right up until they leave. This includes the creation of an artistic environment, and creating a variety of playlists for even the front lobby and the bathrooms. Eric had never been asked to do anything to this extent, but he rose to the challenge:

“I can’t say that I’ve ever created a soundscape specifically for bathrooms, but I have done many shows that utilized a soundscape during the pre-show and intermission. When Ron and I first talked about the world of the play, we were both really interested in what the world outside of the apartment sounded like. What are the neighbors doing? What’s happening across the street? The bathroom “installation” was a great place to play with those ideas. We had [Peter DeFaria, Dal in the play] ad-lib some lines as Dal, and I layered in sound effects that played off of those lines.”

Return to the Apartment 3A page here.