Wooden O Memories from Robertson Witmer

Rob Witmer is the composer and sound designer for The Tempest this summer, but he has also been around Wooden O since the very beginning. Although we could not find photographic evidence in our archives, we know that Rob was part of the first Wooden O production when he played the accordion for Much Ado About Nothing.

We asked Rob to take a few minutes to answer some questions about his history and stories he remembers from the life of Wooden O.

Much Ado About Nothing rehearsal
Sound designer Robertson Witmer at rehearsal for Much Ado About Nothing (2017).

SSC: What and when was your first show with Wooden O?

RW: I was a musician in Much Ado About Nothing. This was the first year of Wooden O, and all of the music was played live. There was no sound system or even really a set. During one of Benedick’s monologues, I slowly crossed the stage, serenading him on accordion!

Kelly Kitchens (Kate) and David Quicksall (Petruchio) in Taming of the Shrew (2009)

SSC: Is there a specific show(s) that stands out in your mind?

RW: There have been so many great shows, but Taming of the Shrew, directed by Aimee Bruneau in 2009 was an example of a perfect park show, with all of the elements coming together effortlessly. Julius Caesar in 2004 was also a standout, with an amazing cast and some incredible design elements.

SSC: What roles have you filled on the cast/crew of Wooden O through the years?

RW: Musician, composer, sound designer, and videographer

SSC: What has changed about Wooden O in the years since? What is the same?

The crowd at Comedy of Errors in Klahanie Park in 2001

RW: The addition of a sound system after several of the early years made a big difference, providing accessibility for larger audiences, as well as allowing musicians and designers to create a more detailed and nuanced soundscape. I guess the thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that the sun eventually goes down, which means the shows need to run under two hours in order for everything to get packed up before dark!

SSC: What is your favorite thing about working on a Wooden O show?

RW: My favorite thing is rehearsing and doing our tech rehearsals outdoors in a park. Theater artists spend so many hours of the year indoors in darkened theaters. It is always invigorating to do our work outside on a sunny day.

SSC: Do you have any fond/funny memories from your experiences with Wooden O?

RW: The Comedy of Errors was one of the first shows back after the closures during the pandemic. We were setting up at a park on the Issaquah plateau, and the performance drew such a big crowd that we had to keep pulling the stage management further back to accommodate everybody! I think that show broke some attendance records.

Don’t miss Rob’s work in The Tempest at a park near you this summer. Find the full schedule here.