Seven Questions with Tony-Nominated Sound Designer Justin Ellington

We sit down and chat before the first preview of Ohio State Murders

by Maia Glasman

This week, I got the change to do a Q&A with Ohio State Murders Tony nominated sound designer, Justin Ellington (For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When The Rainbow Is Enuf) and here’s what he had to say:

Q: What drew you to this play?

A: Adrienne Kennedy, Kenny Leon and Audra McDonald for starters. I have been a fan of Ms. Kennedy’s writing and had the opportunity to compose and sound design for her most recent play, He Brought Her Heart Back In A Box (2018). Her writing, rich imagination and particular construction of story is intriguing, bold and delicate and offers a welcomed challenge for me. 

Q: What is the most exciting part about working with Audra McDonald? 

A: First time working with Mrs. McDonald actually. I am excited to tell this story with a truly superb group of people. Having the pleasure to share space and collaborate with Audra McDonald, Kenny Leon and this creative team will forever be cherished.

Q: What is your process like?

A: Before I start making any sound, I do a lot of listening. I listen to the cast and their collective rhythm, I listen to the descriptive words and phrases used by my director and collaborators. I take all of that information along with my own life experiences and start building the sonic world of the play. I tend to make more than enough material so that my director can have options to choose from. Once we find “it”, the work because implementing these ideas into storytelling. It should be stated that most theaters DO NOT have a sound system in house, so a huge part of the process is designing a speaker system that can support the sonic storytelling needs.  

Q: Who in the theater world has been an inspiration to you?

A: Freddie Hendricks, Kenny Leon, Kent Gash, Dwight Andrews. I can name so many others because I am inspired by each new group of people I work with, but these four gentleman have showed me some of the possibilities this theater world has to offer and how my talents can work within this arena.

Q: What’s your favorite restaurant in the Theater District? 

A: Ohh this is not an easy question, but if I had to pick one, I am a big fan of Hummus Kitchen on 9th Ave between 51st and 52nd.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not at the theater?

A: I have really fallen in love with photography over the years and when I am not in tech or preparing for a show, I like to get out of the city and access some of the amazing offerings mother nature has for my camera to capture. Also, I am always writing music and spending time in the music industry working with various artist and producers.

Q: What other projects are you working on this season? 

A: Soon after Ohio State Murders opens, I will be in La Jolla working on a premiere production of The Outsiders which has been made into a musical.

Congratulations to the cast and crew who go into their first preview on Friday 11/10! 

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