Behind the scenes at any production in the Smith Black Box Theater, there are the unsung heroes. They see no stage time, but without them there wouldn't be much of a show.

At Tampa Prep, Building and Sound Engineer Chris Hughes has assisted with the audio at live productions in the Black Box for years, ensuring that shows always sounded their best. He says the latest addition to the theater's audio equipment is really taking things up a notch.

"It's hard to explain exactly what it does, but it just makes the individual vocals so clean and beautiful," he says.

What Hughes is describing is a wireless microphone system with new mics and preamps for each one, allowing Hughes to focus on mixing the performers vocals rather than fighting feedback or muddy sound.

"This helps make the vocals sound the best they can," he says. "It allows them to be heard the way they should be heard."

And when the new setup premiered at the Upper School Spring Musical, "It Shoulda Been You," the difference was clear.

"Everyone just loved the show genuinely because they heard every word, they laughed genuinely at every joke. It just made the experience for everyone so much better," cast member Alexa L. '19 said.


For Hughes, the goal is always to deliver that type of experience for the audience — and the performers.

"The kids put months of work into being ready," he says. "Then we do four shows, so they may have one scene. That essentially means only four chances to perform what they have done all that hard work for."

After a successful show, seeing the joy on the faces of the performers and audience members is the best part for Hughes, and "that's why it's got to sound right when it goes out," he says.

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