It takes about four years from conception to execution to realize one of the larger-scale productions of Sight & Sound Theaters.
The theater’s next work, “David,” debuts on Saturday, and the show features elements that are, literally, more than life.
The production focuses on the biblical story of David and Goliath, about how a shepherd was able to struggle with something far greater than himself because God was on his side.
“Apart from Jesus in the Bible, David is the most mentioned person,” says Katie Miller, Sight & Sound’s director of marketing.
“The timing seemed right. We prayed about it and talked to our teams about what stories they had at heart to do next. David came to the surface very quickly,” Miller says.
The COVID-19 pandemic turned out to be its own goliath, as in 2020 the theater went extinct for several months. Many employees were fired.
People at Sight & Sound were worried they would have to postpone production, Miller says.
They didn’t want to do that, Miller says, because Sight & Sound wants to contribute to the return of tourism to the county after the industry faced many problems related to the pandemic.
“It’s nothing short of a miracle that we were able to hit that deadline and be able to open this show on time,” Miller says. “We are moving towards this, overwhelmed with gratitude for where we are now.”
It took Sight & Sound four years to complete “David”, as the production is completely original.
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The process includes deciding which story to tell, writing the script, the original project, building, training the animals and six weeks of rehearsals.
“Completing this four-year process is both a relief and a holiday combined into one,” Miller says.
Glen Broderson, CTO of Sight & Sound, says it only took two years to build the scenery and props.
The theater has returned a large-scale LED screen, which was used in the staging of “Jesus” as a means of creating depth to the stage and the characters, says Broderson.
“We’re always looking for the technical elements that best support history,” Broderson says. “We don’t make scale just because it’s scale, and we don’t make effects just because they are effects. We always try to balance them with how well they can tell a story and help the guest better feel the story.”
In addition to the LED screen, the show has lighting that is different from other Sight & Sound shows that have done before, as well as animation and puppet theaters.
Most of Goliath’s brothers are puppets, and Goliath himself is a large automated puppet.
When crews created Goliath, the goal was to make him able to walk, stomp and jump. Its height is 15 feet, and at its highest (on the platform) it rises above the throw and crew by about 26 feet.
“How to make giants on stage so we could do it every day, it probably took us a year of development to just sort things out,” Broderson says.
Sight & Sound also considered options such as stilt actors or actors who fell on autumn rugs. Over time, they got on an automated doll, Broderson says.
They wanted “something that would be almost unbelievable, but something that was still achievable for David,” Broderson says.
Apart from Goliath and human actors, there are also animals on the farm that help tell the story.
To portray David’s role as a shepherd, Sight & Sound attracted more than 40 sheep to help with the show. 29 sheep and 13 backups appear on the scene in one night, says Miller.
There will also be camels, horses, donkeys, dogs, parrots, alpacas and birds flying around the theater.
Sight & Sound has an animal care team that cares for and trains these special participants. It took about two years for the handlers to train the animals for “David”.
If the animals don’t aim for a superstar on stage, they live on 40 acres of pasture next to Sight & Sound, Miller says.
“Living in the countryside has its advantages,” Miller says with a laugh.
Most of all, both Miller and Broderson say they want the audience to feel like they’re immersed in the story.
“I always hope that the audience is carried to the heart of the story, and in particular for this show, I hope they leave, knowing that as God was David’s shepherd, that God is with us all in triumph and tragedy,” says Miller.
Extras like live animals, dolls and the giant Goliath are all just ways to help tell a better story.
“We just want to highlight the story so guests can feel it through any technical effect they see on stage,” Broderson says.
“David” runs until December 31, 2022. More information about the show, as well as ticket sales can be found at sight-sound.com.