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Sounds like imagination

Stowe Nelson ('08) has an ear for what theatregoers hear.

By Cherin C. Poovey (P '08) Wake Forest Magazine

There’s a pivotal scene in the University Theatre’s production of “Eurydice” where the director’s notes call for a sound that resembles “water running through rusty pipes.”

Hmmmm, thought sound designer Stowe Nelson (’08), that’s a challenging one. He could easily download a train whistle or bang a gong, but how was he going to create the sound of water in rusty pipes?

Then Nelson, an English major and theatre minor who honed his technical skills as sound designer for the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Ky., remembered that back in his freelance studio he had an instrument called a waterphone. By bowing the waterphone back and forth, he created a sound that’s just what the director, Associate Professor of Theatre Brook Davis (’90), had in mind.

Eurydice,” a play by Pulitzer Prize nominee Sarah Ruhl, reexamines the myth of Orpheus, who journeys to the Underworld to bring back to the living his deceased wife, Eurydice, through whose eyes Ruhl’s version of the story is told. It opens April 15 in the Ring Theatre and runs through April 23.

“Sound design is choosing music and sound effects, but it’s much more about blending in with the lighting, sets and costumes to create the world of the play,” said Nelson, who is originally from Gastonia, N.C. (His grandfather is a WFU grad as are his parents, Linda Stowe Nelson (’80, MAEd ’91) and Thomas P. Nelson (’80, MBA ’02). His sister Holley graduates in May from the BS/MS in Accountancy program.)

As a student Nelson had the opportunity to wear many hats in the theatre department — including actor. His favorite role? A scrappy surfer in “Psycho Beach Party,” directed by one of his mentors, Professor of Theatre Cindy Gendrich. “I was good at playing myself,” he says.

Returning to campus as sound designer for “Eurydice” is “like I never left,” says Nelson, who will conduct a sound design workshop for students on April 16. Next year he plans to take the next step in his personal and professional journey and move to New York City, but he knows he’ll return to Wake Forest. “This is the place where people’s hearts are.”

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