Joanna Lynne Staub is a New York City based Sound designer and Audio Engineer with over two decades of credits on Broadway, Regional Theatre, Concert, Television and Multi-Media Events. Upcoming regional designs include Mamma Mia in Seattle and Mockingbird in Tennessee. Joanna helped bring Broadway to the world of television, leading a group of experienced A2s in NBC Live’s productions of The Wiz, Peter Pan, and The Sound of Music. She is a valued associate for many Broadway designers, in particular those coming from out of town, and has helmed transfers such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. At the 2017 TSDCA Annual meeting Joanna mediated a fascinating discussion of the various Broadway paperwork styles, and she has just started gathering TSDCA folk to work with the USITT Sound Commission on a new set of standards.
What are you working on at the moment?
MAMMA MIA at the 5th Avenue in Seattle ; MOCKINGBIRD for the Nashville Children’s Theatre; Guest Artist & Lecturer at Princeton University
What is the most exciting thing happening this season that you are not working on?
ANGELS IN AMERICA on Broadway – transferring from the National Theatre in London. The sound designer, Ian Dickinson, is an amazingly talented designer and good friend who I was looking forward to working with on the project. But, Ian encouraged me to pursue my own work rather than taking a huge chunk of time to assist him. It was lovely gesture of support.
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
Born: Mechanicsburg, PA Current: New York City, NY
Describe one of your most successful collaborations in the theater. How or why was it successful?
EXIT THE KING on Broadway. it ran at the Barrymore theatre in the Spring of 2009 starring Geoffrey Rush & Susan Sarandon. I was the Associate Sound Designer to Russel Goldsmith. Jason McKenna was our production sound engineer. The production came from a Melbourne Theatre Company in Australia & it was amazing. But, almost everyone on the production was making their Broadway debuts. (The associates all had more Broadway experience than anyone).The company from Australia was lovely and open to letting all of us help them reproduce their vision. It was a wildly complicated show (for the time) that never would have happened if we all hadn’t listened to each other. Everyone’s opinions were respected taken into account – which is the key to any successful collaboration. And we got a Tony Nomination the very first year they were given out for it! (But we lost to Equus).
You have a long history as a Broadway Associate. What are the most important elements of an associate’s role?
Assessing the situation quickly & adapting to it. Some designers need a lot of technical support. Others just need you to get coffee. Knowing at what capacity you are required & sticking to it is key.
As an Associate, what information do you need from a Designer to do your job well? What often slips through the cracks?
It really depends on the designer. Some designers know exactly what they want & I’m just here to execute it. Those are the designers that almost never slip anything thru the cracks. It’s the designers who are looking for more technical support who are the problem. They like to tell me their “concepts” and expect me to execute it. That is when things get overlooked – but usually because the designer didn’t know they wanted something until it was missing. Those are the designers who are exhausting to assist. But, those are also the designers who working with them made me a better associate – though I don’t recommend trial by fire at the level I had to go thru.
Who or what makes up your support structure?
It’s definitely the “sound girls” of NYC. We are our own personal cheering section & support group all in one.
What is your favorite piece of music at the moment?
I don’t know if it’s my “favorite” piece, but I’m starting work on another production of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (my 3rd). So, I’m listening to the soundtrack a lot. For a Disney musical, it’s an incredibly complex and lavish score that I very much enjoy. If you’re goingto have to listen to the same music day after day, it’s nice when it’s beautiful music.
Name a pet production peeve.
Scenic designs who are shocked by the need for front fill speakers. Also, my name is not “Sweetheart” “Honey” “Darling” or “Babe”. You can call me “Mam” – but only South of the Mason-Dixon line because I know it’s a term of respect.
What is your favorite meal during or before tech?
Anyone who has worked with me can tell you that I have hypoglycemia issues that get worse when I’m stressed out. I eat a lot of fish & pasta to keep my blood sugar stable during tech. The people I work with know to keep bags of candy around – when they offer me some, it’s their polite way of telling me that I’m getting cranky.
Do you play an instrument?
Flute – My undergraduate degree is in Music from Ithaca College.
How old were you when you knew you wanted to be involved in theatrical sound?
My Junior year of Undergraduate school.
Does your family understand what you do?
Vaguely. They know I work with a lot of computers, I hang out with famous people from time to time and I travel a lot.
What programs are we likely to find open on your computer?
Mail Wunderlist Slack Calendar Safari Vectorworks ProTools Excel FileMaker Pro
Was there a piece or type of gear or program that revolutionized how you work?
Digital Mixers. (Yes – I’m old enough to have mixed on a Cadac). They added a level of consistency to design that we were missing before.
If you couldn’t have a career in a field related to this one, what would you want to do?
I almost went into interior design. I’m also a pretty decent photographer. Scenic designers are always shocked at how good of a visual design eye I have for a “sound girl”.