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Experiencing the Journey Through the Woods

Stages: A Theatrical Adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood

By Michael Samuels 09F

Allison Smartt “is a theatrical sound designer, but is also truly an interdisciplinary artist who is drawing from a breadth of disciplines in her ambitious Division III project,” says Talya Kingston, visiting assistant professor of theatre and a member of Smartt’s faculty committee.

The project is a theatrical adaptation of “Little Red Riding Hood” drawing on Smartt’s multiple areas of study, and on her own life. 

On the design side, “there are three main sections of my Div III that add up to make a whole,” says Smartt.

The first is that the play is site-specific, performed on the trails around the Hampshire Farm Center. The second is that the audience is divided into three groups; one stays in the grandmother’s house with the grandmother, and the other two follow the wolf or the girl. Smartt wrote a separate script for each of these characters, which she says sometimes overlap and sometimes contradict.

The third element is sound design. Each character has an FM transmitter on a different frequency, and audience members wear small FM radios with headphones, tuned in to these “walking radio stations.” They hear music, dialogue in the form of thoughts, and sound effects.

Smartt also makes this project hers through the story. “The big change is that the grandmother in this story has Alzheimer's, which is part of where the title comes from,” she explains. The play grew out of a script that Smartt wrote using conversations with and around her own grandmother, who is in the same stage of Alzheimer’s as the character. Smartt’s grandparents’ song, “Prisoner of Love” by Perry Como, is part of the sound design. 

The wolf, meanwhile, “is the hovering guilt and anger, the feeling that it's unfair, the selfish feelings that happen when a family member has Alzheimer’s,” says Smartt.

“I wanted to reflect the fear, and the hope, when you realize they're still a wonderful human being, just as deserving of love as when they were completely healthy,” she adds.

After graduating in May, Smartt will spend the summer as Barrington Stage Company’s associate sound engineer in Pittsfield, MA. “I'll be employed and housed for three months after school, and then on to the next,” she says. “The nature of engineering and sound design in general is that everything is temporary.”

Division III faculty committee
Theatre design professor Peter Kallok, Professor Kingston, and John Bruner, new media production assistant.

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