Wireless microphones are a huge part of outdoor theater… really the only way we can operate. They cost, on average, about $700-1,000 per unit. They are also somewhat fragile. Please handle them carefully. We have a limited number available due to the high cost and if one is damaged, we might have lost it for the duration of the show. They are highly susceptible to shock, dirt and moisture and if the cable from the headset to the belt pack gets kinked, over-twisted or wound too tight, it could be goodbye to that mic.
If you are assigned a microphone, chances are high that you will be sharing it with someone else in the cast. It’s critical that exchanges be made accurately and on a timely basis. Never, ever turn your mic off, it is solely the responsibility of the sound crew that your mic is live when you’re on stage and off after you leave. Unless it’s a special scene, don’t start speaking until you are on stage in view of the audience or your first line may be missed by the sound crew.
Even though you have a mic, you must speak loudly and project to the audience at all times as if you didn’t have a mic. If your mic seems to not be working during a scene, you will need to project even more, hopefully talking into the face of someone else in the scene who has a working mic. If the audience can’t hear you, you’re wasting everybody’s time by being on stage because they (the audience) don’t even know why you’re there. Theater takes projection! Low voices and quiet expression are for TV and movies… it won’t work on stage… especially outdoors. We have cars, birds, horses, cattle, airplanes, rodeo arena announcers, ultra-light aircraft, sirens, the national guard, teenagers with powerful car steros out in the parking lot and especially wind and rain. This is not to mention wedding receptions, conventions, meetings, reunions and people running up and down on aluminum bleachers just over the fence! Sound is affected by temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, nearby clothing, facial hair and underwire bras.
Feedback, in very crude terms, is the squeal that happens when you step in front of a speaker or get too close with a microphone. It is the sound from the speaker going through your microphone, which comes back through the speaker and again enters your mic, etc… a constant loop. It’s not good. Be aware of where you are in relation to speakers. If you are getting too close, feedback is likely. If the sound crew can catch it on time, they’ll reduce your mic volume or cut it out completely… or they may be able to fade you to the other side of the set and avoid the feedback. If feedback seems to be a common problem, work with the sound crew to figure out a way to mitigate it.
The sound crew has one goal… to help the audience hear every word you say without blasting people in the ears. They know every line of dialogue and every note of every song. They will do anything in their power to make you loud enough and clear enough and sound as good as they possibly can. But if you don’t project, if you don’t enunciate, if you are not clear and understandable without a microphone, making it louder with a mic and large sound system will not help. The best compliment you can get from the theater sound crew is “you don’t even need a mic!”
We rehearse for weeks without microphones. Often, when we do finally inject mics into the process, actors/singers suddenly hear themselves coming through the speakers and then totally change how they have been speaking and singing. Think about that ahead of time… don’t ever change how you are speaking or singing unless the director instructs you to do so, even if you can hear yourself through the speakers. Always be aware that what you are hearing on stage may have nothing whatsoever to do with what the audience is hearing… the audience is more important in this case. We will gladly do whatever we can to help you on stage… to make sure you’re hearing just the right amount of yourself and just the right amount of music, but our #1 is to mix it just right for the audience.