Will Maresco ‘19 is a Theater major minoring in Engineering and Digital Arts, from Syracuse, New York. He has been deeply involved in theatrical design and production, working on more than 15 productions throughout his four years at Dartmouth. He is the sound designer for the winter mainstage production of Into the Woods, February 22 through March 3. While there have been student assistants or associate designers on MainStage productions, Will is the first student to have taken on a leading creative role. He is being mentored by seasoned New York-based sound designer Emily Auciello for this role. His previous production work at Dartmouth includes The Cotton Patch Gospel, The Houses with Ramps, Trifles, Tragedy: A Tragedy, and Talk To Me Like The Rain. He also worked as the assistant lighting designer and video technician for Matilda the Musical at Northern Stage. When not in tech, Will can be found working in the scene shop, cooking, relaxing at Moosilauke Lodge, skiing or sleeping.
I met with Will to know more about his experiences in theater production:
MJ: I wanted to first ask you about your experiences with theater before you got to Dartmouth. You took a class on Technical Production in your freshman Fall! Clearly, you were already invested in the craft of theater. What motivates this passion?
WM: I have always been interested in behind-the-scenes work. I worked in tech crew all through my four years of high school, running the light board and sound. I have ended up in a few acting classes and roles as well, which while I realized was not for me, was still an invaluable experience for my actual interest in production.
A major inspiration for me is Sleep No More, Punchdrunk’s immersive exploration of Macbeth currently open in New York. It was a totally immersive experience, pushing the boundary of what theater is, and how technical elements can affect an audience. I also saw A Monster Calls while on the Theater FSP in London, and loved it. It felt organic, and the whole team seemed fully involved in the production.
MJ: What has your involvement been in the Dartmouth productions and what have you found valuable about the work?
WM: I have worked across the board, in different producing roles—lighting and sound design has been most of what I have worked on, but also scenic design and the run crew. I also work in the scene shop as a work study.
My first Dartmouth show was Cotton Patch Gospel. Looking back, it was one of the best productions I have worked on. It is originally a one-person show retelling some biblical stories. We chose to rethink the show, and set it as a rural community putting telling the stories in a backyard barbecue setting. We involved the audience in a semi-immersive experience, including serving them “home cooked lunch” at intermission. I did not realize how boundary-pushing this show was for Dartmouth, but it has been formative for my interest in immersive theater.
MJ: Do you have a favorite aspect of production?
WM: Depending on the day, I will give you a different answer. Lighting can be shockingly powerful, for something not actually physical. But sound too. One of my favorite effects I have done was for Tragedy: A Tragedy in the Fall term. The show centers around a team of newscasters who are reporting on the setting of the sun they know will never rise again, which eventually morphs into the end of the world. I snuck in a low hum over a fifteen-minute period that wasn’t noticeable while it was playing, but when I cut it out abruptly, it became deathly quiet, reinforcing the feeling that the characters were totally alone in this now dark and empty world.
MJ: What has helped you sustain this passion for theater at Dartmouth? Mentors/community of peers?
WM: There is a dichotomy between my experiences with MainStage and on the student productions. The MainStage productions push my technical skills more. I am able to hone my technical craft here. The student-driven projects are where I am able to explore my own personal interests, and my interest in theater is kindled by conversations with my peers surrounding these shows. The MainStage productions are beholden to seemingly endless numbers of requirements, from access to rights to projected ticket sales, so it can be a challenge to produce a MainStage that effectively resonates with and attracts an audience made up of a plethora of student patrons as well as Upper Valley community members. As a result, the degree of freedom of story selection and representation is often much higher for the student productions, where the departmental stakes are a little bit lower. It is in these rooms, with my fellow students, that I encounter the most interesting discussions of what theater is, what it can be, and what it can do. These stories are chosen by students for particular and specific reasons, often responding to an observed gap between the world that we live in and the way that world is often depicted on Dartmouth stages and in the theater community at large.
MJ: Not many people, including me, understand the nitty gritty of theater production. You are currently sound designing for the MainStage production of Into The Woods; what does your work look like?
WM: Broadly speaking, the sound designer is responsible for the final sounds that leave the stage and reach the audience. In a musical like Into the Woods, this responsibility is shared by a music director. Our music director, Kevin Smith, is responsible for working with the singers and musicians to literally get the lines, notes, and music into the microphones. About one third of my work is making sure that what is being said, or whatever is happening on stage, is audible to the audience, and I work closely with the audio engineer to ensure that happens. To clarify, the engineer is responsible for physically running the sound board and doing the live mix of the mics, as well as the installation and tuning of the physical equipment in the system (i.e. speakers and mics). The remaining two thirds of my work as sound designer is producing and managing the sound effects, sounds that are not generated on stage. These include momentary cues like the sound of the giant being attacked, or birds flying away, or the beanstalk falling. A smaller aspect for this particular production, is ambient sound, sounds that run continuously under scenes. I did create an ambient track of a windy and stormy night that you will hear when you walk in and ’til the show begins. The concept of this particular production is that the entire story is told within an attic, and the continual sounds of the wind and rain is meant to give a sense of the world beyond the walls of the attic.
MJ: What have you found challenging or otherwise exciting in sound designing for Into the Woods?
WM: Sound does a lot of work in this show! For example, the giant is never present, and is only suggested by dialogue, and the technical aspects of the production have to do a lot to convince the audience of the giant. It has also been amazing to be in the room with the rest of the professional design team, and to get exposure to that level of production. Emily has also been amazing to work with, and has been incredibly supportive of not only the work that I am doing but also in simply supporting my voice in a room full of professionals. I am hopefully that this is not the only time our paths cross!
MJ: What do you hope the future holds for you?
WM: Although this is a classic “end of the interview” question, it is actually a really complicated question for me, especially as I am planning to graduate this June. I am not currently sure what I am doing after graduation, which, as any senior can tell you, is terrifying and quite literally on my mind all the time. The answer to the simpler question “what’s next?” is that I am the lighting designer for Kelleen Moriarty’s thesis production of The Glass Menagerie. It’s a super complex play and we are only complicating it more, it’s gonna be amazing, Kelleen is great, and everyone should come see it this spring! However, when asking about my future, what is going to happen in six months or 10 years, I am honestly not sure what it holds for me. I do know that my central goal is to build a life surrounded by people who love and support me and whom I also love and support, and I hope that I am able to find a way to interact with theater in a way that meshes with that goal.