Victoria Deiorio describes sound design as either prescriptive or creative, depending on the director. “You’re either told what to do — ‘I want this kind of music, this exact piece of music, I want this here’ — or you’re allowed to do it on your own. It depends on who wants to drive the sound journey.” Toy, as she’s known by in less formal moments, is Chair of Design and Technology and the Head of Sound Design at Syracuse University.

(If the technical aspect of theatre is what draws you in, check out the International Thespian Festival (ITF). There will be dozens of workshops, including many with a focus on theatre tech, for you to attend!)

female smiling in red shirt and black jacket

Victoria Deiorio. Photo by Jenn Udoni.

As something “hitting the audience on an emotional level,” Deiorio said that “sound is very directorially influenced.” When she recruits student assistants at DePaul, she seeks storytellers who appreciate the emotional impact of audio. “If [students] have done anything in sound that’s affected an audience and realized they did that, that’s a big part of what I look for. I can teach the [technical] skills.”


The sound designer must understand both the director’s overall creative vision and the minute details of each scene. Communication is key; talking with the director about the world of the play and understanding what should be there and what shouldn’t helps to create a moving sound backdrop. 

One way to think about the process of sound design  is to consider how a costume designer might gather swatches of fabric as they work. They compare cotton to silk; consider drape and flow as they choose the fabrics that are right for each character’s costume. The same is true with sound. “Swatching” together melodies, sounds, and tones lets the right audio come together. 

Beyond their theatrical craft, sound designers often dabble in other sound-related fields, thanks to the versatility of their skill set. They may work in education, a sound studio, score short films or videos, or even write marketing jingles. There is a world of sound storytelling to be had by those who hear that which is not seen.  ♦  

Martha Wade Steketee is a Michigan girl who loved movies and theater, studied literature at Harvard and social science and social welfare at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Michigan, and spent 20 years as a court researcher and domestic policy analyst in university research offices and nonprofit research settings in several cities. She returned to theater in her 40s.

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