Successful Broadway designer, Principal Consultant in Sound and Communication Systems at Artec, father, husband: Tom Clark’s life in sound spans the country and the industry. His Broadway design credits begin in the early 1990s, including plays and musicals such asSide Show, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars and The Full Monty. In 2000 Tom formed Acme Sound Partners with Mark Menard and Nevin Steinberg, and the threesome designed award winning shows including Avenue Q, Ragtime, Spamalot and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels while taking countless shows on tour. The latest Acme incarnation– Consulting & Design/Build firm Acme Professional Inc has recently design and/or installed Concert sound systems at The Apollo Theater, Kings Theatre and NJPAC, and sound, video and communication systems for the 5-Star Saxony Hotel Cabaret & 4k Digital Cinema Screening Room in Miami Beach. Tom took a moment from his busy schedule to answer our questions below!
What are you working on at the moment?
We’re (Acme Professional Inc) finishing up installation of a 4K Digital Cinema Screening Room and high-end Cabaret sound, video & communication system at The FAENA Saxony Hotel in Miami Beach, FL. Next we move across the street to outfit the OMA-designed FAENA Forum Art Exhibition and Event Space. We’re also completing design documents for the new Multi-Form Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando, and just beginning design of a big upgrade of the SVC Systems for the Corbett Center at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Happy to be working with Jeremy Lee on that one.
What is the most exciting thing happening this season that you are not working on?
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
Born and raised in Bergen County, NJ, about halfway between, and 9 miles west of, the Tappan Zee & GWB.
Living since 2001 in South Norwalk, CT in a funny little enclave that time forgot called Harborview. Superstorm Sandy knocked us around pretty good– 16″ of seawater on the Main Floor led to elevating our house 6-1/2′ to get out of harm’s way, but 999 days out a thousand Harborview is a really beautiful place overlooking the Long Island Sound. It’s a fantastic place to bring up kids– a real community. And quiet.
Describe one of your most successful collaborations in the theater. How or why was it successful?
The original SideShow was a magical experience. Everyone was on the same page from day 1– creators, designers, cast, orchestra, crew. Every day was marked by forward movement towards a communal goal. Plus there was a harp in the Pit!
How is it different working with a team such as Acme sound designers versus being the solo sound designer on a show?
Acme Sound Partners proved the adage that three heads are better than one for a long time.
What led to you forming Acme Sound Partners?
I had “given up” the theater in 1995 to become a consultant. During my interview with Artec Consultants, Russell Johnson (Artec’s founder and genius acoustician) said he’d only hire me if I kept designing shows because he believed that good sound system designs usually came from people who actually used and depended on them every day. Once I began work at Artec and had a steady paycheck, the quality of my sound design work mysteriously improved and I eventually found myself with several great opportunities that completely overlapped: The Radio City Christmas Show and Broadway productions of The Full Monty, Jane Eyre, & The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe would all be in production in New York between August and December of 2000. I asked Mark Menard & Nevin Steinberg if they were interested in forming a loose confederation of sound designers with me.
Has working at Artec Consultants affected your theatre (production) work?
Russell was right, I think. My goal is to provide sound system designs and installations that exceed expectations. Venue-specific system designs should out-perform touring rigs. There is no evidence that this is generally the case in North America.
What is your favorite piece of music at the moment?
I’m a techie at heart. I listen to a lot of music and am drawn to beautiful engineering. Chris Jones – Roadhouses & Automobiles, produced by Stockfisch Records in Germany is a pretty spectacular recording.
Name a pet production peeve.
Production Intercom in all its soul-crushing forms.
What is your favorite meal during or before tech?
How about after? Veal Parm & Penne Broccoli at Tony’s DiNapoli at Midnight.
How old were you when you knew you wanted to be involved in theatrical sound?
18, upon meeting Bruce Odland at The Denver Center Theatre Co., and hearing what he was able to do with sound and music in the theater.
Does your family understand what you do?
Complicated question. They know that I love what I do and support me unreservedly on that basis. Giving up production 10 years ago so I could experience my kid’s formative years in person got me a lot of brownie points. Having dinner with my wife and kids and sleeping in my own bed most nights leaves me with no regrets whatsoever.
Did you have a sound design or composition mentor? If so, how did they help or guide you?
Bruce Odland & David Budries, through example.
Was there a show or experience that drew you to sound design or composition?
Bruce Odland’s work in Denver in 1981-83, working with Francesca Zambello on the opera Oedipus in Santa Fe, and the general creative chaos at the Yale School of Drama/Yale Repertory Theater in the late ’80s under David Budries’ wing.
What programs are we likely to find open on your computer?
Pretty boring– Evernote, Audirvana, AutoCad, Excel, Word & QuickBooks.
Was there a piece or type of gear or program that revolutionized how you work?
I probably spent 2,000 hours editing 1/4″ and 1/2″ reel-to-reel analog tape with a razor blade in the early 1980s. Samplers followed by DAWs changed everything. In the current millenium, the value of a 96k signal path with no superfluous conversions is edging us ever closer to analog… without the noise.
If you couldn’t have a career in a field related to this one, what would you want to do?
Write successful literary crime fiction.