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THEATER INSIDER: In our series on Broadway’s unsung insiders, Carla Duval meets foley artist Mike Dobson.
Mike Dobson supplies every pop, bang, and squeak in SpongeBob SquarePants, The Broadway Musical as a foley artist. He previously worked with the show’s director, Tina Landau, on Old Hats at Signature Theatre. During his down time, you’ll find him at the Brooklyn-based physical theater company Parallel Exit, of which he’s been a company member for the past 10 years.
I play live sound effects that accompany the actions happening on stage, sounds like footsteps, punches, or giant boulders rolling. The sounds are sometimes real instruments like a cowbell or a drum. Sometimes it’s a squeaky toy or a slide whistle. And sometimes they are recorded sounds that I play from a computer, like Spongebob’s squeaky feet.
I grew up playing drums and percussion and went to classical conservatory. During school, I took a summer job touring with a small circus in Vermont. It was there that I was first exposed to the technique of the drummer punctuating the action onstage. After that, I worked with as many physical actors, clowns, dancers, and acrobats as I could to explore live foley.
I’M A LONGTIME SPONGEBOB SUPERFAN
And Nickelodeon was great in getting us the actual sounds from the cartoon. We use the most iconic ones, like Spongebob’s footsteps, throughout the show. In keeping with the DIY spirit of the production, a lot of the instruments I play are found objects that have been repurposed, like a trash can, frying pan, and lots of little toys.
IT’S ALL IN THE TIMING
We are all working with Tina’s Viewpoints technique, which puts an emphasis on heightening awareness and really connects everyone in the room. Starting there, it’s about getting to know the actors and the way they move. It helps that Ethan Slater (who plays SpongeBob) and I have been doing workshops together for over five years.
I got very very lucky with this show. I’ve been a fan of SpongeBob since it first aired and it’s such an amazing group of people bringing him to Broadway. The creative team is full of the most crazy-talented insane geniuses, the cast is supernatural with their abilities and heart, and I get to play with the best band in town.
IF I WERE A SPONGEBOB CHARACTER …
I’d definitely be SpongeBob. I share his naïve optimism and I get very excited about going to work.
This article originally appeared in Issue 37 of W42ST magazine in January 2018.