Mill on the Floss
Brigham Young University
Director: Adam Houghton
Composer: Austin Lopez
Helen Edmunson's adaptation of George Eliot's novel tells the story of Maggie Tulliver in a unique way: three actresses play Maggie at three different points in her life. It tells the very emotional story of her trying to reconcile her feelings and relationships with what society—and her family—wants her to do.
The sound design for this show revolved around heightening the on-stage emotion and helping the audience to feel as though they were in Maggie's shoes, so they could really empathize with her. It featured original music composed by Austin Lopez and relied heavily on a 5.1 surround sound system to immerse the audience in Maggie's world.
Sound Design Samples
The opening scene establishes the main metaphor that carries through the entire show: Maggie is feeling outcast and rejected by a society and family that won't accept her because she doesn't conform to their standards.
Young Maggie sits on the bank of the river outside the family mill and reads aloud a book. As she reads about the witch dunkings of the Salem Witch Trials, we see it unfold behind her. The sounds from this scene return repeatedly throughout the play, drawing parallels between the barbaric nature of what happened during the witch trials and Maggie's current personal trial.
All production photos: Michael Handley
Costumes: Rachel Bennet
Hair/Makeup: Coutney Shipley, Mary Jane Wadley
Scenic: Kayla Doyle
Lighting: Susan Kupferer
When Maggie felt particularly attacked during her childhood, she would go into manic outbursts, which the script characterized as "deaf rages." Maggie's first manic episode involved her thrusting her head into a bucket of water.
Since this episode continues with the water imagery from the first scene, I chose this sound to represent Maggie's manic outbursts throughout the play.
Maggie Runs Away
After a particularly unsavory experience with her extended family, Maggie decides she is done trying to fit in and runs away to join the gypsies, but she gets lost along the way. Eventually she runs into a strange man who offers to help her, but he turns out to not be as kind as he first appeared.
Out for a Row
Several years later, Maggie has finally found someone with whom she feels comfortable and who accepts her, but he is the boyfriend of her dear cousin Lucy. Against her better judgement, she accepts his offer to go out on the river for the afternoon.
The Final Storm
At the climax of the play, Maggie has lost everyone around her after going boating with her cousin's boyfriend, and she feels utterly heartbroken and despondent. This final sequence—lasting over 6 minutes during the production—was intended as an emotional climax to the play. A storm rolls through and breaks a dam, sending houses careening through town in a flood that ultimately capsizes and drowns Maggie.
The play takes place during three distinct periods of Maggie's life, so I wanted to use musical underscoring that would accentuate these periods while providing insight into Maggie's emotions. I worked closely with a composer, Austin Lopez, to create three main themes that were representative of each of those periods and would serve as the basis for the various moments of underscore. The orchestration guide, found below in the paperwork section, is the document I created to highlight what each cue needed to do. The guide also served as an organized way for us to appropriately discuss any needed changes.
The youngest Maggie was a volatile child, prone to flying into fits of rage when she felt particularly ostracized.
The second, slightly older, Maggie discovers and reads a book by the monk Thomas à Kempis and converts to Christianity. She chooses to believe that if she lives a good, Christian life, her problems will disappear.
The third, and still older, Maggie eventually realizes that simply being a good person won't spare her from trials in life and finally accepts that truth.