The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

UI alum Katharine Horowitz, creates sonic storytelling within the alphabetic storyline of ‘Babble Lab’

In the Children’s Theatre Company’s newest production, ‘Babble Lab,’ UI alum Katharine Horowitz, brings UI-discovered passion to the Minneapolis stage.
Photo contributed by Katharine Horowitz

Katharine Horowitz, a professional freelance sound designer and composer, relishes her job; there is never a quiet moment in her line of work, even when she’s off the clock.

“[Sound is] always there, but you don’t always notice it,” Horowitz said.

Horowitz is a University of Iowa alum who received her Bachelor of Arts in theatre arts with a minor in journalism. She discovered her passion for sound design in her final year at the UI.

She said she enrolled in a sound design course out of curiosity and quickly realized this was a niche she wanted to pursue.

“I wound up loving it and just kept doing it,” Horowitz said.

In the summer of 2000, she moved to Minneapolis and began working freelance in sound design while holding down a regular 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job. After 24 years of working as a sound designer, Horowitz said she finds new things about her job that excite her every day.

Horowitz said audience appeal is a larger part of the process post-COVID-19 pandemic, specifically the desire to create new, diverse stories that take risks for younger audiences.

“The theaters around the country and the twin cities are still struggling to figure out who they are or who they want to be,” Horowitz said.

For Horowitz, sounds are impactful whether they are consciously noticed or not. Her mission is to paint the air between the script.

“It’s a part of our everyday life, even if you’re hard of hearing,” Horowitz said of sound. “It affects everything.”

Horowitz began working with the Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis in 2014. She has worked in previous roles as a crew member and an associate designer but debuted as the company’s sound designer last April for its production of “An American Tail the Musical.”

Her current project with the Children’s Theatre Company is a production called “Babble Lab.”

Open from March 5 until April 12, the production engages with the art form of Dada, which embraces the nonsensical. In “Babble Lab’s” case, there is no dialogue.

“This is such a unique production,” Horowitz said. “It is like nothing I have ever worked on before.”

Horowitz shared that in her line of work, understanding her audience is essential, even if that audience is comprised mostly of young children.

“Just because they’re two years old and can’t verbalize what they think doesn’t mean they don’t pick up on subtleties and important things; they’re smart kids,” Horowitz said.

For each production Horowitz works on, she does a cold reading of the script and looks for features that engage her creatively.

From there, she sits down with the show’s director and narrows down their big-picture vision for the production before she even discusses audio. She will then commence sound and music research alongside the cast.

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“I like to experiment along with the actors, to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks, figure out the timing, figure out the subtleties,” she said.

In lieu of dialogue, Horowitz is tasked with replicating the sound of our alphabet in “Babble Lab.” But this process is more complex than just silly sound effects.

“At first, you think, ‘Oh, we’ll just add in cartoon sounds,’ but that’s way too easy — those panders to our younger audience,” she said. “This show has stretched me creatively in a great way. My brain is tired, but it’s going to be great.”

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