From Broadway to the West End with Gareth Owen and VENUE

Gareth Owen’s journey to becoming one of the most prolific young sound designers in musical theater today began—as it does for many—with a childhood curiosity. His early exposure to theater production (from his father) fueled a desire to seek out any opportunity to learn, latch on with both hands, and extract as much knowledge as possible.

A savvy networker, Owen’s beginnings in concert sound eventually led to an encounter with veteran sound engineer, Gert Sanner, who presented an opportunity for Owen to fill in on a West End production of The Blues Brothers. Always willing to seize the moment, he accepted the challenge enthusiastically and a celebrated career was born. 

Today, Gareth Owen’s ever-growing list of credits and accolades include countless A-list productions from Broadway to the UK’s West End and across Europe. He is the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Tony Award in Sound Design for his work on Trevor Nunn’s Broadway production of A Little Night Music. He is also the youngest person ever to be nominated for an Olivier Award for his work on Terry Johnson’s End of the Rainbow, for which he received his second Tony Award nomination as well.

Now fully independent and in extremely high demand, Owen continues to push himself and works tirelessly to deliver an unforgettable theater experience for his audiences night after night. And when it comes to selecting an audio console up to his standards, Owen prefers Avid VENUE systems.

“At the moment, we’ve got a VENUE Profile on both the West End and Broadway productions of End of the Rainbow, the British, Italian, and French productions of Sister Act, and the international production of The Sound of Music,” he explains. “It’s absolutely the console that we’ve chosen to use for these types of productions.”

When citing the features that bring VENUE to the top of his list every time, Owen first points to the system’s powerful automation capabilities. “VENUE allows us to dramatically simplify the whole show in ways that other desks simply can’t match. For example, in a complicated song we’ll have many cues triggering VCA and vocal mic automation. On a traditional desk, if you want to recall the band mix as you move from cue to cue, you need to have the band mix within each of those cues. As a result, every time you press the GO button, it also resets the band mix. On the VENUE, we’re able to create a separate cue and VCA group just for the band mix. As you hit GO through the course of the song to change the vocal cues, the band channels are unaltered. This is extremely powerful for theater mixing, and no other console can match the VENUE in this regard.”

Owen is equally enthusiastic about the VENUE system’s ability to access the vast Pro Tools plug-in library. “The VENUE’s plug-in system is absolutely fantastic. Being able to easily scope plug-ins within scenes and completely change or recall them whenever I feel like it is really handy. And because most musicians are also Pro Tools users, I have access to the very plug-ins they’re using in the studio. If I don’t already have it, I can quickly download it, share presets, and deliver exactly what they’re accustomed to hearing. Very cool.”

Theater sound design requires a high-degree of cooperation with both actors and musicians alike, and Owen has come to rely heavily on the Personal Q (PQ) system to achieve ideal monitor mixes to keep the team happy. “I like the PQ control a great deal and use it fairly consistently. The band members love the freedom to create their own mixes and I appreciate being able to see exactly what they’re doing. It’s especially handy on those occasions when a band member says ‘I haven’t got any drums in my headphones,’ and I can simply look down and reply, ‘well that’s because you’ve turned them off.’ I do rather enjoy those moments.”

Always one to push the boundaries of his own knowledge and creativity, It’s ultimately the VENUE system’s flexibility that keeps Owen coming back for more. “Theater sound is very dynamic, and the need for new and better workflows demands creative thinking for each production. The VENUE systems offer a level of freedom that has allowed me to explore some incredibly powerful and effective solutions.”