Talking tech

Talking tech

Watsonville: Some Place Not Here

A conversation with Watsonville Sound Designer

Phillip Johnson


Phillip Johnson, Sound DesignerHow did your relationship with Milagro begin?
I’ve been working with Milagro for 3 seasons, and my first show was Contigo Pan y Cebolla, directed by Nelda Reyes. I loved that process because it was the first time I had ever designed a show that was completely in another language, which made me have to really brush up on my Spanish. I also really enjoyed diving into Cuban history looking for sound bytes, music, and telenovelas, I really learned a lot.

Can you talk about your process for creating sound for a show?
When designing a show I always start with music. Music is the soul of a show. It is the thing the audience connects to before and after a show that really brings back the experience of the play. That’s why it must always be good (and memorable).

What challenges has Watsonville presented?
The hardest part about Watsonville was figuring out how to keep the play in context without placing it in the time period of the actual events. You learn so much about the Earthquake and the Watsonville strike its hard to not want to use that stuff in the play. However, I think the creative team and I found a lot of enjoyment placing it in the late 90’s as well so ultimately it worked out.

You are the technical director for Confrontation Theatre, who will be collaborating with Milagro to put on a show next year, Jump by Charly Evon Simpson. Can you tell us a bit about how that collaboration began?
The collaboration for Jump happened fairly recently and to my knowledge, it was Jose who reached out to collaborate with Confrontation Theatre. I think that we both are working to do so much good in the communities of color here in Portland that a collaboration between the two companies was not only inevitable it was necessary.

What excites you about this world premiere co-production?
I am really excited to see the energy that Confrontation Theatre will bring to Milagro. We work really hard to create a unique experience with each of our shows and this will be no different. We are also really excited to tackle the themes in Jump such as mental health, so I think we are all really looking forward to this Co-production.


Watsonville: Some Place Not Here runs through May 26.

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