I have designed sound and composed original music for productions by companies including 1st Stage, Olney Theatre Center, Studio Theater, Everyman Theater, Theater J, Forum Theatre, Mosaic Theater of DC, Nu Sass, Rep Stage, Chesapeake Shakespeare, and Brave Spirits. I am comfortable composing in a variety of styles, directors have called upon me to create abstract textures and evolving drones, musique concrète inspired soundscapes, songs, beats, instrumental music and more. Upcoming productions include Dinner with Friends (Everyman Theatre) and The 39 Steps (Rep Stage). I was recently nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Sound Design — Helen for my work on Swimming with Whales at 1st Stage.
Below you will find some samples of my work. Please contact me for a resume.
Cry It Out
Molly Smith Metzler’s Cry it Out at Studio Theatre was a wonderful opportunity to work with an all-female design team led by Joanie Schultz.
The transition music grew from the idea of lullabies and other songs mothers sing to their babies. I combined these vocal melodies with beats and processed them in various ways to expand the musical and emotional palette.
Swimming With Whales
Bob Bartlett’s Swimming With Whales at 1st Stage was exactly the kind of challenge I enjoy most. It mixes naturalism with magical elements. It tells the story of a terminally ill boy who returns to the island where he was born for difficult reunion with his recently bereaved father. A young whale lingers off the shore, threatening to beach itself. And both father and son have a complex imaginative relationship with the whale. We used a 5.1 system to create a versatile, immersive environment.
I created a magical underwater environment to support the moments when the whale and the boy interacted in dreamlike interludes.
When composing the transition music I imagined that their music had been played by the character whose funeral we witness at the start of the play. I imagined him sitting on the deck of his seaside cottage playing guitar while listening to the ocean. Each melody is derived from transcriptions of the whale song used in the underwater environments.
For the preshow and intermission we wanted to keep the audience in the world of the play. So I created long installation like pieces combining sounds of the sea (above and below the surface), sounds of sea birds, whale songs and calls, and music.
The production was nominated for Outstanding Sound Design — Helen and Outstanding Production in a Play — Helen in the 2019 Helen Hayes Awards.
DC Metro Theatre Arts: “The lighting design by Robbie Hayes and sound design by Sarah O’Halloran land us on the beach, submerge us underwater, and shift our reality to communicate with a talking whale.”
The Washington Post: “Sarah O’Halloran’s sound design, rich in waves and whale song, is telling and atmospheric.”
Nat Turner in Jerusalem
I was extremely honored to be asked to work with director José Carasquillo on Nathan Alan Davis’s Nat Turner In Jerusalem at Forum Theatre. The play is dark, moving and extremely poetic. The sound design combined sounds of fire, water, whale song, and violence with traditional African American work songs, spirituals, and hymns. Through research I learned that there are some hymns associated with Nat Turner (some people attribute the song Go in the Wilderness to him and it is believed that he sang Steal Away to Jesus to encourage his followers to rebel). We had the good fortune that our Nat Turner, Jon Hudson Odom has a beautiful baritone voice and was willing to record the songs for us. We used these to convey his faith, sorrow and his memories of his former days as a preacher.
DC Metro Theater Arts: “Sarah O’Halloran’s moving sound design projected Negro Spirituals and spiritual vibrations that captured the visions in Nat Turner’s mind.”
Broadway World: When you first enter the Silver Spring Black Box Theater for Forum Theatre's stunning, unforgettable Nat Turner in Jerusalem... The rumble of an angry mob envelops you, creating a sense of foreboding
Aaron Posner's interpretation of Our Town at Olney Theatre Center, was my first encounter with this American classic. Everything about this production was deceptively simple, from raw wood set to the live foley, and the overall effect was a very unified and touching production. While I have used every day objects and extended techniques in my compositions, this was my first opportunity to do something similar in the theatre. I arrived at the first rehearsal with a box of toys for the cast including plastic cups and string to represent chickens. The cast really embraced the task of performing live sound effects, it was such a pleasure to work with them. The final design included live singing, hummed underscores, a modified egg beater to create a lawn mower sound and some recorded music and effects.
DC Metro Theater Arts: " Posner’s sound designer for this production, Sarah O’Halloran, brilliantly uses on-stage Foley effects, which also wonderfully echoes Wilder’s minimalist wishes."
Washington Post: "In a sprightly metatheatrical touch, the town’s sounds, such as train whistles, are produced by the actors, Foley-style."
MD Theatre Guide: "All of this was complimented by Sarah O’Halloran’s sound design, which used percussions and other items to fill the bare stage with the audience’s imagination. For example, as Mrs. Gibbs (Megan Anderson) and Mrs. Webb (Andrea Harris Smith) mimed feeding chickens, other actors pulled strings through plastic cups, and the theatre was filled with the sound of clucking."
My first project with Mosaic Theater Company was a new play by Hanna Eady & Edward Mast. This intense two-hander was staged alley style, so I used a 6.2 configuration to create an immersive effect. We chose to use no sound within the scenes and to create dramatic sound and light compositions between the scenes to evoke the ever present surveillance and violence of the police state
Broadway World: “Like the acting and the words, the set by Colin K. Bills is a fine representation of the situation at large, with the audience split on both sides of the performance space on risers - which side are you on? - and the repair shop entrance with its overhead fencing, bars on windows emblematic of the brutal intractable barriers that been erected all around the region. His lights and Sarah O'Halloran's sound emphasize the sirens that can go off at any time.”
DC Theatre Scene: “Mosaic has elected to use a light touch on its production values, to good effect. We are in an auto shop in the seaside town of Herzliya, but we could be in any city in a high-security state. Colin K. Bills’ minimalist set does the job, and Bills (lighting) and Sarah O’Halloran (sound) keep us in mind of the threat and tension surrounding us.”
The Hill is Home: “The set and lighting, both designed by Colin K. Bills (a Woolly Mammoth company member) is the third cast member in this lean drama. The elegant audio track, designed by Sarah O’Halloran, takes the viewer on an aural journey from the congested streets of a city to a traffic stop. Throughout, the soundtrack immersed us completely in the drama and wordlessly filled in parts of the story. Thanks to a lighting design that is seamlessly intertwined with the audio, the actors appear as if by magic.”
What Every Girl Should Know
Monica Byrne's What Every Girl Should Know at Forum Theatre in Silver Spring was a real pleasure. The text was both relatable and strange and the all female production team, led by Jenna Duncan was an honor to be part of. The piece is set in the 1910s and the text calls for several dance sequences and we decided to go bold with music by Tanya Tagaq, Cris Derksen, A Tribe Called Red, and a remix of a Roomful of Teeth recording. This music was paired with exuberant, quirky, visceral choreography by Paige Hernandez. We used a quad system with two subs to give equal power to both sides of the set's alley configuration.
Broadway World "Ms. Duncan's stellar direction is accompanied by emotional choreography by Paige Hernandez, accompanied by Sarah O'Halloran's disturbingly awesome anachronistic sound design.”
Washington Post “Both sophistication and innocence seem to figure in the ecstatic dances that Joan, Anne, Lucy and Theresa break into periodically. Part Dionysian trance, part “Lord of the Flies”-style release, the dances — choreographed by Paige Hernandez, to wonderfully unnerving music — are among the eerie phenomena apparently triggered by the characters’ veneration of Sanger.”
My first show of 2017 was Trevor by Nick Jones at 1st Stage in Tysons Corner. This production was a fun challenge which required me to create mysterious transition music, a cheesy tv theme song, and the sound of a chimp attempting to drive a corvette. We used a 7.1 system (with an additional wireless speaker) to place sounds outside the house, to create an immersive effect when Trevor performs for a live studio audience, and for a believable onstage television and crying baby.
DC Metro Theater Arts "equal parts emotional and thought-provoking".
DC Metro Theater Arts "A technical aspect of Trevor’ that beguiled me was the sound design by Sarah O’Halloran which was mood-setting from my first hearing the pre-show music with melancholy banjo tunes from Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck."
The Connection “Trevor’s” sound design by Sarah O’Halloran is mood-setting beginning with preshow music with melancholy banjo tunes from Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck.
Anne of the Thousand Days
In the fall of 2016, I had the opportunity to join another all female production team on Anne of the Thousand Days at Chesapeake Shakespeare. We were led by director, Kasi Campbell. The play tells the, fairly fictionalized, story of the tumultuous relationship of Anne Boleyn and Henry VII. This was quite an involved project for me as the text referred to real music by Henry VII, which I had to source and arrange for the available musicians, and required original music that would be attributed to Henry. Since Henry's music looms large in the story, I decided to make it a big part of the rest of the sound design. I used recordings of his pieces for most of the transitions, occasionally branching out to the work of composers associated with his court. I also used material from his compositions to create more abstract electronic music for underscoring.
Baltimore Sun: “Kristina Lambdin's costumes aren't the only things evoking time and place — sound designer Sarah O'Halloran makes great use of music composed by, or attributed to, Henry VIII.
DC Metro Theater Arts: “Singling out just a few of these artists, I have to point to the excellent work done by Costume Designer Kristina Lambdin, Set Designer Kathryn Kawecki, and Sound Designer Sarah O’Halloran…O’Halloran utilizes music written by real-life King Henry VIII, as well as her own original compositions and arrangements, throughout the play. The result of O’Halloran and Music Director Grace Srinivasan’s musical choices is an engaging, period-appropriate soundscape.”
DC Theatre Scene: a trio of musicians (Matthew Ancarrow, James Jager, Kate Forton) do lovely work not only with their varied comic and dramatic scenes, but also with the arrangements and compositions of sound designer Sarah O’Halloran..."
Listed as one of the DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2016 #4: Best Plays in Professional Theaters in DC/MD/VA
When the Rain Stops Falling
In February 2016 I worked with director, Michael Dove, on Andrew Bovell's When the Rain Stops Falling at 1st Stage. When the Rain Stops Falling is the kind of play I particularly love working on. It's a very literary piece that blends realism and fantasy in a complex structure. This allows designers to make intriguing connections between themes and characters. The sound design was created for a 4.1 set up. The sound of rain is very important in this piece and having the option of surround sound allowed me to create indoor and outdoor effects in a pretty natural way.
Connection Newspapers called the production designs "seamlessly top-notch".
DC Metro Theater Arts called the sound design " subtle and lovely".
Broadway World called the production "truly compelling and extraordinary."
Listed as one of the DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2016 #4: Best Plays in Professional Theaters in DC/MD/VA
Nominated for Best Play in Broadwayworld.com's Washington DC Awards.
Henry IV, i & ii
In November 2015 I created music and sound designs for Brave Spirits' regendered production of Shakespeare's Henry IV, parts i and ii. The productions were directed by Kevin Finkelstein.
This production featured a great deal of music, each play had several popular songs incorporated into the performance. The music I created was intended to tap into themes of monarchy and power, conflict, and grief. To create a sense of unity between the two plays much of the music I composed was based on three themes, the Queen's melody, Princess Hallie's melody, and Hotspur's melody. Each of these could be used alone, but they were also stackable for moments when we wished to reference all three characters. In addition to composing music for underscoring I also created textures, and sound effects (I've included some of these below).
"Hotspur, War is Inevitable" This theme is related to the character Hotspur and the war that is brewing in the early part of part i.
"Hotspur Dies" A texture depicting the intensity and sadness of Hotspur's Death.
This sound design was created for the play "September '82". It's a creative take on the radio commentary for the 1982 All Ireland Football Final when Seamus Darby's lucky goal cost Kerry their fifth championship victory in a row.
Sea Cave Song - this piece of music/sound design was dramatizes the song that a magical sea creature used to echolocate through underwater caves. I used constantly changing delays and reverbs to create the effect. Sea Cave Song was created for my piece "Ciúnas agus Dúil".