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Posted on Monday, August 31, 2009

The Tony Award-winning San Francisco Mime Troupe discovered that using Sennheiser ew 100 ENG G2 body-pack transmitters and receivers made their performance stronger and more effective.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 2009: The San Francisco Mime Troupe made a purchase that most Americans would never expect from a group of silent performers - six Sennheiser wireless microphone systems. When most hear the word "mime," they immediately think of a white-faced Marcel Marceau tipping an imaginary hat, lighting an imaginary cigarette, and patting an imaginary wall - all without saying a word. However, mimes aren't always mute.


"The word mime comes from the ancient Greek word mimesis," explained San Francisco Mime Troupe collective member and audio engineer Will McCandless.

"It simply means 'to imitate,' and throughout the world, the art form centers on physical forms of theatre - with and without words. In our case, we have loud mimes!"


Celebrating fifty years of local, regional, national, and international performances that fuse political satire with musical comedy, the San Francisco Mime Troupe is internationally recognized for the excellence of its playwrights, actors, and productions - and they have a Tony Award to prove it.


Originally, the audiences were small enough and sound reinforcement technology was inaccessible enough that the performance used little more than the actors and their wardrobe. The actors simply shouted into the wind.

As audiences grew, intelligibility began to suffer, until the troupe began porting a modest sound system with three condenser mics at the foot of the stage.


"Instead of shouting into the wind, they shouted towards a mic," McCandless said. "This made the actors more audible, but the sound quality suffered from the hollowness of three condenser mics pushed to the feedback threshold. Since we also needed stage monitors, I was forever reassessing why I ever signed up for the gig in the first place!"


The fixed microphone positions had a tremendous - and constraining - effect on blocking. "Every movement depended on those mics," McCandless said. "It hindered movement, choreography, stage picture... everything. And even with the most careful planning, we still had some actors right up on a mic and others farther away. The sound was inconsistent at best."


The crowds that gathered for the performances continued to grow, until intelligibility was insufficient for the size of the audience. A local carpenter, who liked to watch performances from the BACK of Dolores Park, donated a modest sum to the troupe for the express purpose of purchasing wireless microphone systems. The troupe purchased six Sennheiser ew 100 ENG

G2 body-pack transmitters and receivers, paired with Countryman head-worn mics. The new mics merged with an existing "workhorse" Ramsa console, QSC and Crown amplification, and Meyer MSL2A loudspeakers with Meyer processing.


"We've had them for a month now, and they've worked flawlessly," McCandless said. "The wireless reliability has been one hundred percent all through rehearsals, preview performances, and our opening show in Dolores Park, which drew 1,000-plus people. The performances are now much more nuanced - we used to miss so many of the small things. Even more, the actors are free to be dynamic. They used to have to shout lines that might have been more effective in a softer voice. And for me, it's very nice not to be perpetually teetering on the edge of feedback!"


The San Francisco Mime Troupe produces a new play every year that satirizes current political and cultural events and trends. After dramatic cuts in the NEA eviscerated its budget earlier this decade, the troupe's national focus shifted to a more regional and local one. As has been its hallmark since forming in 1959, the San Francisco Mime Troupe performs free shows in the beautiful parks of the Bay Area, passing the hat for donations when the show is over.



Sennheiser is a world-leading manufacturer of microphones, headphones and wireless transmission systems. Established in 1945 in Wedemark, Germany, Sennheiser is now a global brand represented in 60 countries around the world with U.S. headquarters in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Sennheiser's pioneering excellence in technology has rewarded the company with numerous awards and accolades including an Emmy, a Grammy, and the Scientific and Engineering Award of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.