In today’s theater world, it’s hard to believe those who watched and heard the presentations of those early Middle Ages playwrights, such as Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Moilere, did so without sound amplification. You heard, or not heard, what the actors said on stage without the aid of a microphone.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has reallocated part of the broadcast bandwidth to be used for internet broadband services.
The reason behind the decision was to make mobile broadband services faster. The FCC then auctioned off this spectrum to a number of companies that include T-Mobile, Comcast and Dish TV.
Kudzu Playhouse, the community theater group that presents its productions at Hernando Performing Arts Center and offers theater education and summer camp programs, has upwards of 20 microphones they have used for its performances over the past several years.
Guess what radio bandwidth those wireless microphones use when they are working? You guessed correctly, it is the same frequencies the FCC sold to cellular services, in this case to T-Mobile.
What that means is that if the microphones are not replaced, you may be hearing some “girlfriend talk” or Aunt Molly relating recipes to neighbor Sally in the middle of a very dramatic presentation at future Kudzu Playhouse production.
The theater group needs to replace the microphones and get new ones with a different, higher frequency, but according to board member Daniel Mullins, these little items don’t come cheap.
“Each one of those runs about $1,600,” Mullins said. “We’ve had historically between 18-20 microphones, simply because we have casts that are very large with a lot of people that need to be mic’d. We’re looking to raise about $40,000 to replace all of our microphones.”
Mullins said Kudzu was aware of the impending problem for about four years and has been putting together a plan to raise the funds that will cover the cost.
A significant donation came to Kudzu recently through the Hernando Golf and Racquet Club, the former Hernando Hills course that last year was purchased by John and Clark Stevenson, and Drew DePriest.
During the past year, the new owners have invested significant money toward the renovation and additions to the course and related facilities. But, general manager Buck Matheny said the ownership group also is aware this is a project that needs community support.
“Our club is focused on families first and a family atmosphere, so we are all about being involved in the community and giving back to the schools,” Matheny said. “We want to give back to the community because this community has supported us so well in our first year.”
With that, the club recently presented a check for $1,000 to Kudzu Playhouse for the microphone project.
Among the people who have been active in the microphone effort is Kelly Stevenson, wife of Hernando Golf and Racquet Club owner Clark Stevenson.
“I’ve been involved with Kudzu theater for the past six years as an actor/actress on stage,” Stevenson said. “My children have also been involved in programs and summer camps. It’s just a really wonderful organization, are an important part of the community, and they give back so much and contribute so much to the arts and the culture in Hernando and DeSoto County.”
Mullins said a lot of people take part in Kudzu activities beyond performances.
“We see probably between 250-500 students come through our programs every year and these are students that come from all over DeSoto County, Memphis, and North Mississippi,” explained Mullins. “A lot of people are coming through and getting theater education on stage, backstage, behind the stage and learning how all of that works.”
A dinner theater that was held this weekend at Sweet Peas Table restaurant in Olive Branch with all proceeds going to the fundraiser. In addition, interested people may donate through their website, kudzuplayhouse.com and through text donation platforms.
Mullins added that all donations are considered tax deductible since Kudzu is a nonprofit organization and hopes the community will get behind the push, so no actor will need to stop onstage and ask the audience, “Can you hear me now?”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.