Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association

Paul Peterson has shepherded many many productions as Sound Director for San Diego’s Old Globe Theater, collaborating with various TSDCA designers including Jonathan Deans, Sten Severson, and Ken Travis. Among many other duties,  Paul oversees the sound shop’s build, installation and crewing of three venues within the Balboa Park Old Globe Complex, including an outdoor 615-seat Festival Theater. Paul was recently inducted into the Who-Ville Hall of Fame for his twenty-one-year design stint on The Globe’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! In 2018 Paul led a conversation with a pantheon of Sound Directors at the TSDCA Annual Meeting; you can watch the video on the Member’s Side of this website. Read on to discover his feelings about his San Diego crews, how to work best with his team, and for music recommendations from someone who came up thru the rave scene. Caveat: despite what his mom says, we don’t think he does the lighting.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on a few shows for the Winter/Spring Season at The Old Globe.  Familiar designed by Robert Milburn, Tiny Beautiful Things designed by Melanie Chen Cole and Life After designed by Ken Travis. I’m also working on putting together our new RF rack:  32 channels of Shure ADX1M micro-transmitters with ShowLink and Spectrum Manager support infrastructure.

What is the most exciting thing happening this season that you are not working on?

Oh man, I want to be part of Hadestown so bad.

Where were you born? Where do you live now? 

I’m born and raised in San Diego.  I grew up in Point Loma and Coronado.

Describe one of your most successful collaborations in the theater. How or why was it successful?

My work with Sledgehammer Theatre, hands down.  I was an Associate Artist for this scrappy group of San Diego artists that championed experimental theatre.  I can’t do this kind of work at the LORT level, so it will always hold a special place in my (black) heart.

You’ve had a long relationship with the Old Globe. Can you describe some of the challenges, heartaches, and fantastic parts of your job?

We hold ourselves to a high standard here and every member of the Production staff is aware of it and consistently strives to perform.   Challenges:  upholding a demanding production calendar. Heartaches: working my crew to death on a show that is ultimately bad. That’s no fun.  Fantastic Parts of my Job:  I love what I do.  I don’t work in a cubicle. I get to work with some truly incredible people.

What advice do you have for a new designer coming to the Old Globe? How can designers best help you do your job?
Trust the staff there.  That is all we ask.

Who or what makes up your support structure?

I have some very talented staff who are dedicated to creating theatre.  They care about their craft and they can fucking mix.  Jeremy Nelson is the Master Sound Technician for the Old Globe, and has mixed for the likes of Jonathan Deans, Ken Travis, Dan Moses Schrier, and John Shivers.  RJ Givens keeps the Festival Theatre locked down and has thrown faders for the likes of Sten Severson, Jonathan Deans, and Leon Rothenberg.

The Old Globe also maintains a pre-apprenticeship program with IATSE 122.  Through this program, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the development of many upcoming theatre sound techs in San Diego.

What is your favorite piece of music at the moment?

So, I came up through the rave scene, my musical sensibilities are highly tuned to electronica.  Basically, anything by Coldcut or Boards of Canada are in heavy rotation in my car.  This club in London called Fabric has a really amazing series of curated DJ mixes.  Right now I’m loving FabricLive 61 by Pinch.  An outstanding mix of electro and dub-techno music.  I’m also abusing the Hamilton Mix Tape on my media player.

Name a pet production peeve.

Holding for sound; LD’s who put instruments in front of speakers.

What is your favorite meal during or before tech?

Carne Asada Burrito.

Do you play an instrument?

No.  I ski.

How old were you when you knew you wanted to be involved in theatrical sound?

Probably around 13/14 years old

Does your family understand what you do? 

Well, for about 10 years after I became the Sound Director here, my mom would put in her Holiday cards that I was doing the lighting at the Globe! After I gave her and her husband a tour of the new White theatre and talked about all of the planning that went into the Sound infrastructure, I think it finally sunk in.

Did you have a sound design or composition mentor? If so, how did they help or guide you?

Jeff Ladman.  I’d like to say he taught me how to pick music for shows, but the reality is we just drank a lot.

Where do you find inspiration?

When our audiences are happy, and my crews are happy.

Was there a show or experience that drew you to sound design or composition?

So, I didn’t really have an understanding of Sound Design until I got into the industry.  I’d say some shows that drew me in were:  Demonology, Floyd Collins, Rent….

What programs are we likely to find open on your computer?

Omnigraffle, ProTools, Excel, Filemaker, Vectorworks.

Was there a piece or type of gear or program that revolutionized how you work?

So, I learned how to edit and create SFX on a Tascam Reel to Reel.  My first introduction to a DAW was on this Amiga based program called Sunrise Industries, Studio 16 somewhere around 1992.  The whole concept of non-linear editing changed my life.  I can still cut tape better than you.

If you couldn’t have a career in a field related to this one, what would you want to do?

I’d probably end up in the skiing industry.  Either as an instructor or as a guide.

What do you hope TSDCA can accomplish?

I hope we can encourage and develop the next generation of Theatrical Sound Professionals

Ask and answer your own question.

You don’t want to go there.


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