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The Sins of Sor Juana

Karen Zacarías

Directed by Kristine Holtvedt

Sound Design/Music by Jing

November, 2017

Carole and Gordon Mallett Theatre, Purdue University

| Highlights |

Video by Alyssa Fritz.

| The Process |

1. Research

Click to download the research book I created on The Sins of Sor Juana. This book covers the playwright, the world of the play, period music, production history, contemporary music, and script analysis. It is the starting point of my design and composition.

2. Conceptual Statement


Thematic Constructs

“JUANA: What a stupid woman I have become. Forgetting that ignorance is always the cleverest way. I have defied my Father. I have brought the Inquisition upon this House!!!! God, why instill curiosity in women, and then punish them for having it? If you can’t make me understand, then help me to be good.

They say I sin when I learn… and yet how can I reasonably stop? If it is true that I should not learn, then teach me to hate knowledge

Teach me to respect ignorance and silence. To abhor the musicality of words and the beauty of worldly ideas.

Teach me, to accept the path as it is and

To submit to the authority of the narrow mind…

And teach me, above all, to really want what I am asking for… because, Lord, in all truth, I prefer this prayer go unanswered.


What a fool I am. Cursed by Eve’s affliction. Knowledge should lead me to true union. How did I end up so alone? I thought coming here would give me some type of freedom. But I’m trapped. Trapped."

Juana’s monologue from Act 1 Scene 3 of the play really says it all. The thematic constructs of this play can be distilled to the following “chunks”.  I identified all major events in the play and scored them based on these 3 chunks and then plotted the chunks against time (shown below on the right). I've also included three events in the chart to better demonstrate how the chunks are calculated. This chunks chart plots out the thematic journey that this play goes through, and serves as the basis for my composition of the piece.

  • Chunk 1

    • Freedom

    • Desire

    • Knowledge

    • Curiosity

  • Chunk 2

    • Ignorance

    • Acceptance

    • Submission

    • Silence

  • Chunk 3

    • Inquisition

    • Punishment/Oppression

    • Affliction

The Role of the Sound

The music will follow the chunk contours and underscore the 3 main chunks throughout the play: Sor Juana’s persistence in knowledge and freedom of expression, the Vicereine’s advice to Juana to compromise and to submit to the rules, and the power and authority of the court and the church.

The color palette consists mainly of the classical guitar, harp, church organ, and the Aztec flute. The manipulations of time and space are both important in the score of this piece. Space will create the sense of the authority and power from the court and the church, which is present throughout the play, and acts as the biggest opposing force to Sor Juana. The music will also help create smooth and easy to understand transitions between the two timelines in the play - the past and the present. The diagram below shows the transitions between the two timelines. As you can see, some of the transitions happen in the middle of a scene and thus needs special care from the design team in order for the audience to better understand them.

The Sound System

The production is in the Mallett Theatre in its thrust configuration. There will be 3 PNX121’s above the tension grid on the each of the East, South and West sides for music in LCR configuration. Front fills are used on each side to bring down the sound image of the music and will playback the C channel. Surround speakers are used to playback artificially generated reverb sounds to manipulate spatiality.  Two subwoofers will be placed under the stage platform to form a  cardioid array. They will mostly create the rumbles that is part of the magical realism that the character Xochitl brings.

The music is mixed and mastered in surround configuration with 6 channels namely L C R Sub Ls Rs to work naturally with the sound system. This design is able to bring great sound localization with rich spatiality and thus create a rich and immersive audio experience.

3. Paperwork

Click to download:

System Block Diagrams

Loudspeaker Plots 

Click to download:

Sound Shop Order 

4. The Music

Click to download:

Hook Up List

Click to download:

Sound Cue Sheet

5. Production Photos

Photos by Melody Yvonne Ramey.

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