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Stage goes high tech at HCC

February 09, 2000|By BRUCE HAMILTON

The supernatural sounds of "Dracula" may surprise audience members this weekend at Hagerstown Community College.

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The Kepler Theater is using surround sound equipment that will make the play's audio effects seem to reach listeners from all sides, according to Technical Director Joe Marschner.

"It's going to add to the environment and atmosphere of the show," said Robinwood Encore Players President David Dull, who is directing the production. "It's really phenomenal."

Last month, Dull's friend, JMS Productions sound engineer Mike Focol, contacted Dolby Laboratories and 360 Systems. The two companies agreed to loan about $11,000 worth of equipment.

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According to Dull, Dolby representatives said this is the first time a live stage production has used this particular technology.

"They realized that something like this has never been done before for a theater, using sound effects in a surround-sound environment," said Dull. "Dolby is testing it through us."

Dolby develops audio signal processing systems and manufactures equipment for the motion picture, broadcasting, and music recording industries. 360 Systems also makes digital audio equipment.

Typically, plays at the Kepler Theater relied on two speakers placed at the front of the stage. Sound or music came to the audience from one direction. "With surround sound, it encircles you," said Dull.

The equipment was installed last week. "We keep turning it on, setting it on loop mode and walking around. It's pretty neat," said Marschner.

The show begins at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $5. The play is not recommended for children under the age of 13.

For more information, call 301-790-2800, extension 309.

The play uses wolf howls, doors slamming, church bells tolling, thunder, eerie hisses and sinister laughter, according to Dull. He is hoping Dolby will give a reduced rate on the equipment and make Kepler a permanent test site for it.

"We have a lot of applications for it," he said.

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