Brad Berridge’s career spans dance, theater, large scale commercial work and the educational sphere. He is currently the Director of Sound Operations for Feld Entertainment, overseeing the sound for all of their properties (Disney on Ice, Disney Live, Marvel Universe, Sesame Street Live, Jurassic World Live (premiering 2019), and Feld Motorsports); in the fall of 2017 he organized a TSDCA outing to see their production system at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center. Theatrical designs include productions at Barrington Stage Company, Red Bull Theater in NYC, Capital Rep and WAM Theatre. Brad founded Push the Button, a sound art collective with fellow designer Vincent Olivieri and Davin Huston. He has been an active member of the sound design community in both USITT and TSDCA, held positions at Williams College and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, guest academic posts at Indiana University and Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and is a devoted husband and father of two. Brad wrote us about his ongoing interest in spatialization, the challenges of entering the corporate world, and his burgeoning relationship with Elmo. See below!
What are you working on at the moment?
Currently I am in production for a new Disney on Ice production “Mickey’s Search Party”, a small venue (state fairs and smaller theaters) tour version of Sesame Street Live :C is for Celebration and a new production of Sesame Street Live. Elmo and I are tight. Pre-Production work on Trolls: The Experience (opening in NYC in November) and Jurassic World Live (opening fall 2019). There are a few other things that aren’t ready to see the light of publicity yet. It is a busy time.
What is the most exciting thing happening this season that you are not working on?
Disney on Ice: Mickey’s Search Party. The sound system design is completely new as is the show structure for us here at Feld Entertainment. It is very exciting. The system is incredibly redundant, compact, and sounds amazing.
The show opens in Orlando, FL on my birthday; Sept 7!
Where were you born? Where do you live now? Where else has your career taken you?
Born in Evansville, IN. Grew up in Newburgh, IN. I currently live in Bradenton, FL. I have lived in NYC, Nashville, TN, and the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.
Describe one of your most successful collaborations in the theater. How or why was it successful?
Consistently, my best collaborations came from my work with WAM Theatre. On the productions Emilie and In Darfur, the design team/director collaboration was truly seamless and integrated into every aspect of the production (even the promo videos!). The artistic director of WAM (and director for those productions), Kristen van Gihoven was always inspiring and trusted her designers.
For the last several years you have been working for Feld Entertainment. What has been your biggest challenge moving from freelance sound design to the corporate world?
The biggest challenges are scale, for-profit economics, and future planning. I am responsible for 12 tours currently running and many more coming down the pike. Finding the right global solutions from my dept that can serve all of them is an interesting challenge. This manifests itself in policy decisions seemingly simple. For instance, FOH mix positions. Many of our productions have previously had their FOH position on the arena floor in a vom. A true FOH position, among the audience, is obviously preferred. The logistics of coordinating this with various venues that have hosted us for 50 years (in some cases), and planning for future engagements when we book sometimes years ahead, can be challenging.
Making sure the company is able to keep things profitable is a different mindset than simply making sure you come in at budget as I was used to before.
Trying to future proof shows so that maintenance and upgrade costs are low is very interesting.
The scale of arena systems was a shock at first. The system design principals are the same as a small system-you have to cover the entire audience area, however, a system that has 20 speakers versus a system that has 120 shocked me. Adapting to that scale has been the biggest challenge.
What do you think sound designers in storefront theaters can teach the world of corporate entertainment? Vice versa?
Letting the story be the guide. A show with 2 speakers and a laptop can be better than the biggest arena show out there. Personally, I’ve made just as good, if not better art with a budget of $250 vs $500,000.
Who or what makes up your support structure?
My professional support structure is currently a staff of two. Jamie McElhinney and Elliot Davoren work with me. We are a strong team with diverse points of view. I have a great boss at Feld; Scott Dickerson. He has shown confidence in me which is always a motivator. I was nervous about stepping into a cooperate structure after being a free-lancer and academic for so many years. He has made that education as painless as possible.
I have great support from other depts here at Feld as well. We all work collaboratively to make the productions as great as possible.
What is your favorite piece of music at the moment?
A few things: Anderson Pak’s new album. Kacey Musgraves newest album. Scott Mulvahill’s latest album. PRXZM, Rubblebucket. I jump around a lot. I just bought a 12 string acoustic guitar. The sounds coming out of it are really stirring some creative juices in me.
Name a pet production peeve.
What is your favourite meal during or before tech?
Before tech, I like to eat light and then have healthy snacks at the tech table (this wasn’t always the case). After-BRING ON THE TACOS!
Do you play an instrument?
My primary instrument is guitar but I noodle on drums and percussion. Earlier in life I played trombone and have touched it a few times recently. I can synth out like all designers (right!?!?).
How old were you when you knew you wanted to be involved in theatrical sound?
I was around sound nearly my whole life with a part-time musician for a father. My Dad’s band had a PA so they got booked into small festivals around the midwest as the opener. I would tag along and sit by the sound console. The VU meters made me aware that sound was a physical thing that could be controlled. I jumped into theatre full time when I got to college at the University of Southern Indiana and learned that this could be a job.
Does your family understand what you do?
My wife, Ashley comes from the theatre (performer, Stage Manager, now fundraiser) so she gets it. My immediately family took awhile but they understand now. My children love getting behind the scenes of shows and seeing them before anyone else has.
Did you have a sound design or composition mentor? If so, how did they help or guide you?
My musical mentors aren’t in the theatre directly. My influences are diverse. Pink Floyd is by far the largest. After that, Holst, jazz piano (Robert Glasper, Kronos, etc), bluegrass. Growing up, I was around gospel music a lot. The harmony structures and stripped down nature of much of the genre was a major influence. Any time I hear original music by other designers like Vinnie Oliveri or Darron West in one of their shows, it is always exciting.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find it everywhere. The sky, interior design, painting, sculpture, weathered wood… I try to stay open. I take a lot of strange photos of nature with my phone and manipulate them. These can be a good reference/inspiration down the road.
Was there a show or experience that drew you to sound design or composition?
It wasn’t one specific thing. I could do the basic system part of sound from a young age. It was a natural transition to theatre sound. I usually thought of music as underscore from my Dad playing around the house or in church, underscoring prayers. Moving into theatre just felt right. Soft skills I had never realized were there begun to be cultivated into hard skills with practice and training.
What programs are we likely to find open on your computer?
Email…email…email….email….iTunes, Excel, multiple Chrome windows, calendar. QLab and ProTools are there, but don’t get opened as much as they used to. Vectorworks, Meyer’s Mapp, Martin’s Vu-Net. Did I mention email?
Was there a piece or type of gear or program that revolutionized how you work?
ProTools. Compositionally, It made me a better sounding musician. The wealth of virtual instruments gave me possibilities that would have never been attainable.
If you couldn’t have a career in a field related to this one, what would you want to do?
Still some sort of design. Either industrial-making things that are used everyday-like shoes! Possibly a florist. There is something very meditative about arranging flowers.
What are your goals as a sound designer?
My goal is to develop spatialization on a large scale. Sourcing sound in an 270 degree arena set up has not really happened effectively in the theatrical touring market. I would like to employ technologies and artistry to attain it and be able to reproduce it for every tour stop.
What do you hope TSDCA can accomplish?
I hope it can become a unified voice for advancing and awareness about our field.