Two W. Daniel Mills apprentices at the Garden Theatre—junior Luisa Luo and senior Jackson Dowling, both students at Windermere Preparatory School—highlight how homing in on different senses has enhanced their performing arts skills.
Luo, who recently worked under the guidance of director Joseph Walsh on “Big the Musical” at the Garden Theatre, says her apprenticeship is helping sharpen her playwriting skills.
“As a playwright, you need to be able to visualize how the story will unfold through movement and sound as well as words,” Luo says.
So far, Luo has written several one act, 10 minute, and longer plays which she hopes to produce for the stage. As a first-generation Chinese immigrant, Luo says she wants to give a voice to under-represented cultures such as hers.
“I like to write fictional as well as autobiographical stories,” Luo says. “Playwriting is a unique platform that allows audiences to deeply experience the differences and similarities between cultures, periods in time, and socio-economic backgrounds.”
She’s working on three plays she’s written: “The Other Son,” about a 16-year-old Southeast Asian boy finding his identity in the 1980s; “Take Me to the Garden,” which Luo calls an Asian version of August Wilson’s play “Fences;” and “Trapped in the Cold Night Air,” a play that blurs the line between reality and the dream world in the wintery landscape of Maine.
Luo says the encouragement and sense of belonging she’s received from the community of artists at Garden Theatre has been invaluable to her.
Jackson Dowling, who has enjoyed acting in Windermere Prep plays as well as playing trombone for the orchestra for years, says he fell in love with sound design only recently. A sound engineer/designer amplifies, mixes, records, syncs, and reproduces sounds and effects to help tell a story on stage.
Part of the attraction for Dowling is being in a fast-paced environment and helping give the audience a fuller theatrical experience.
At Windermere Prep, Dowling helped work on a production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” which included running sound effects over music, which can be a challenge. Dowling says he enjoyed the work because of the challenge, not despite it.
Dowling says not that long ago, he had something of an epiphany.
“I’d been running electrical wires and crawling around under the stage for hours. My fingertips were sore from splitting wires and twisting them, but I didn’t even care. I had so much fun,” Dowling says. “I felt like what I was doing really mattered.”
Working under sound designer Anthony Narciso and audio engineer Cheyenne Dalton for the Garden Theatre’s “Big the Musical,” Dowling has started to consider a career in sound design/music production.
Recently accepted to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Dowling admits that sound engineers/designers don’t get as much attention as actors and directors. He says he sees sound engineers/designers as the unsung heroes of the performing arts.
“The thing with sound design and sound engineering is that if it’s good, you don’t notice it. But if it’s bad you do and that’s not good,” Dowling says.