Using local and international talent, Sight & Sound Theatres brings crowds from all over into the heart of Branson.
To say Sight & Sound Theatres is a thing of wonder is an understatement. Based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the Wrap around theatre opened a second location in Branson in 2008 and performs massive productions 10 times a week. Each show takes three and a half years to produce and more than 650 people to produce it, premiering first in Lancaster before moving to Branson, all showcasing stories from the Bible. Once ready to perform, the show premieres throughout the following year.
With over 40 years of storytelling under its belt, Sight & Sound Theatres is a massive business. But like any success story, it wasn’t always a powerhouse. The theatre began as a small, family-owned business now run by the third generation, including Katie Miller, corporate communications manager. Growing up immersed in the family business, Miller developed a foundational love for the company she continues to work for as a professional adult.
“When I was a kid everyone a part of the organization was family,” Miller says. “Before the show I would hand out programs, then right before I would change into my costume and act and then afterward I would be cleaning the bathrooms.” Since Miller’s years as a child actor, Sight & Sound Theatres has turned itself into an organized business offering a range of unique and sometimes peculiar employment options in Branson. Job opportunities range from animal handlers, 3D artists and lighting technicians to customer service representatives and ushers. “We’re not your average workplace because every day is different,” Miller says. “You could go outside and run into a camel and then go upstairs and people are in biblical costumes.”
One such person who has taken advantage of these opportunities is animal supervisor Ty Harwell. In his 22 years of working for Sight & Sound, Harwell oversees between 40 and 50 animals at a time including donkeys, llamas, pigs, horses, pigeons, camels, alpacas, sheep and goats and accustoms them to unusual situations. “Before we ever get to the first day of rehearsal, there must be so much preparation and planning,” Harwell says. “One animal may be affected by lights, so we work with the lighting department to practice on our own and get them used to it.”
Harwell’s efforts are not wasted. According to director, writer and producer Jeff Bender, the theater’s biggest draw is the opportunities the expansive stage offers to directors and the audience. “The canvas is huge,” Bender says. “We have a 300-foot wraparound stage and a typical Broadway stage is 40 feet, so we have enormous sets and huge casts.”
The latest show to premiere at Branson’s location is Samson, a story about a man given superhuman strength to carry out God’s work but who falls victim to pleasure and lack of self-control. The show first debuted at the Lancaster location, but Bender says the production has proved more successful in Branson. Working as a writer and director for Sight & Sound Theatres for the past 15 years and as an actor for five years before that, Bender helped put together the shows using storylines directly from the Bible. Part of his job is finding a healthy balance to accurately describe events in a family-friendly way. “We design all of our shows to be family-friendly and the story of Samson has a lot of violence and has a sensual side, so that was the biggest challenge right off the bat: how to stay true to the principles of the story but keep it family-friendly.”
Buy tickets to Samson and other shows online at sight-sound.com.