Sound Design: ‘Children Of The Black Skirt’

The introduction cue from ‘Children Of The Black Skirt’, played in blackout.
The final part of the is the iconic footsteps and keys of the titular character.


‘Children Of The Black Skirt’ is one-act play, an Australian gothic fairytale in which three lost children discover an abandoned orphanage in the bush. As they encounter various artifacts (a black dress, a suitcase, a wash basket) the spirits of the past occupants of the orphanage manifest, and share their stories.

The script indicates where sound effects were required, but otherwise I was given free reign to concieve the sound design aesthetic before submitting for approval to the directors, Angela Gould & Venera Walsh from Trinity Bay State High School’s Performing Arts Department.

Whilst the sound design was originally created for a ‘Drama Night’ presentation involving students from the school’s Performing Arts Excellence Program, the school also uses the designs as part of their regular drama curriculum when students study and present the play in class.


I created sound design in a quadraphonic (L,R,Ls,Rs) format, supplementing the existing Front Of House system with a pair of rear surround speakers. The surround setup was utilised for various effects, including:

  • During the introduction (played during a blackout), the sounds of the Australian bush can be heard, included the characteristic cry of curlews in the distance, and at the end of the cue a train arrives, which ‘pulled in’ to the stage after travelling around the audience.
  • At various points in the production, the spirits of the past are ‘released’ out into the audience, and so accompanying sounds were created which travelled out from the stage through the audience to towards the rear of the theatre.
  • There are also references to the whispers of the spirits ‘surrounding’ and ‘closing in’ on characters in the play, so this was reflected in the sound design.
  • More simple effects (a mission bell, distant didgeridoos, etc) were made more immersive by the use of surround reverbs, providing program material from the rear

Sound was designed in Apple Logic in the Hirogari studio, and constructed from my own field recordings, vocalising, and various library effects. Various elements, particularly ‘spot’ effects and ‘atmosphere’ effects were created as separate stems so as to allow for a degree of flexibility in editing the timing during technical rehearsals. Playback was handled by QLab running through a multichannel card, which facilitated the real-time triggered of more complex sound cues made up from various stems.

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