Curt Miller, BFA in Lighting Design, 2016
When Curt was at VCU, a group of students took a backstage tour of Wicked at the Altria Theatre, formerly known as The Mosque and Landmark Theater. “It looked so cool and I thought ‘maybe one day’” Three years later, Curt was mixing sound on the tour of Jersey Boys at that same venue. “A cool full circle moment.”
Ironically, Curt didn’t start out planning to be into sound…or even theatre. He comes from a family ingrained in Richmond’s theatre community. His father, Bruce, is the founding Artistic Director of Virginia Rep (formerly Theatre IV) and his mother, Terrie Powers, is a scenic designer and painter. As Curt states, “Like many kids, I wanted to avoid getting into the same thing as my folks, so I was pretty resistant to theatre.”
He didn’t really “dive into theatre” until VCU. “The crazy thing is that I worked on twelve mainstage shows in a row, including sound design or mixing on eight of them.” In his senior year, Curt composed music for Frankenstein, which was written by David Toney and directed by David Leong. “Somebody trusted me to compose music for it, which seems bonkers to me, but I put a lot of work into it and had a lot of fun.”
Ironically, that was the last time he worked as a composer, because all of his professional jobs were in sound. His first summer after graduation, Curt landed an internship at Shakespeare in the Park, “and I pretty quickly saw the path of young composers or designers. It takes a tremendous amount of time to start at the bottom.” Then somebody needed an A2 who is responsible for the upkeep and use of mics, monitors and audio system for the 2017 tour of Jersey Boys. “It was a one-nighter bus and truck extravaganza…80 cities in 9 months and we slept on the bus. I learned a lot and things really blossomed.” He also worked sound on the tour of Falsettos.
When Curt returned to New York, it was as A1, the primary audio engineer, on the off-Broadway production of Clueless, the Musical. “It was flash and trash musical in down and dirty of off-Broadway. I liked that environment.” This was the first time Curt worked with sound designer Gareth Owen, who hired Curt as head sound for the tour of Summer, The Donna Summer Musical, which ended abruptly due to COVID. “Over night, I was in Toronto and unemployed. My industry didn’t exist.”
Recently, he’s been helping out at Shakespeare in Park and helping prep some shows that are returning to New York, including a possible A2 position on a Broadway gig. About his career Curt remarks, “Sound is a very transparent art form. When it’s good, nobody knows you’re there and when it’s bad, everybody knows you had something to do it.”
As for his family, “They’ve always been very supportive and have come to see everything I’ve had a hand in. I credit them with letting me make my own decisions without too much influence.”
Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the August 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.