HERE NOW, THE NEWS FROM HEAR NOW!
I have always loved audio entertainment, specifically old time radio shows. When I was a kid “The CBS Radio Mystery Theater” was on the air nightly, seven-days-a-week, and was part of my routine. I loved the show so much that I even wrote its producer-director Himan Brown a fan letter asking how I could make a career doing what he did. Mr. Brown wrote back. He appreciated that I loved the show and the art form, but told me that radio drama was not likely to provide me a career. Unperturbed, I wrote and directed radio dramas for high school state competitions, co-created a 50-episode comedy series called “Anytown USA” while in the Army, more radio dramas for “The University Radio Theater” while in college, eventually directing old-time radio recreations at conventions featuring some of the very same people who originally appeared in radio’s golden age and on “The CBS Radio Mystery Theater.” I even directed Norman Lloyd in 2011 reprising the very same role he had played live on the air in 1945! But, alas, Himan Brown was correct. Radio drama would not sustain a career for me.
For me. Not for some others, however!
In June of this year I had the privilege to travel to Hear Now! – an audio theater/entertainment festival. I was there representing Audio Cinema Entertainment (ACE), an Orange County based company run by audio producer Tim Knofler. Here in Kansas City, MO, the hotel was filled with audio artists with years of experience and credits. They have been making audio drama for decades and show no signs of stopping.
The event was a revelation to me since I had drifted away from the art form over the years that I had devoted to my own acting and filmmaking career. I stopped by the local movie theater where excerpts from contemporary artist from around the world played through its massive speakers. Acting, writing, music, sound, editing, and all sorts of artistry was there for my eye to behold. Among my favorites were “Sid Guy, Private Eye: The Case of the Mysterious Woman” – Siren Audio Studios and “The Card” – The Theater in Your Mind. I had the opportunity to meet producers Linda Coulombe Royal (Siren Audio Studios) and Jon Holland (The Theater in Your Mind) to discuss the state of the art form and possibilities for its resurgence with the listen-on-demand culture currently being created by the Internet. The challenges are real but the potential for success is also very real. We agree that “Discoverability” is key for audio entertainment’s future. People must know how to discover these great shows.
Linda also brought along actress-narrator (and comedienne) Jessica Osbourne to perform a section from the audiobook “Symptoms of Death” by Paula Paul. She brilliantly played all of the characters in a very entertaining piece. It reminded me how gifted a performer must be to work vocally. Even as I watched her face and body language change before the microphone as she shifted between characters, I noted that everything she was doing was poured into her voice. The facial expressions and posture adjustments were not for the audience’s sake, but rather for the life of the vocalization. We had the privilege of watching a voice artist at her craft and, at the same time, close our eyes and really absorb the impact of her efforts. ‘Nuff said. Jessica is good.
During that weekend in Kansas City I listened to clips featuring audio artists from Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, South Africa and the UK. Bob McGraw’s short comedy piece “Tales of the NSA” was another standout for me. Actress, narrator Robin Miles performed a reading of Maya Angelou’s poem “A Brave and Startling Truth” was commanding and moving. It reminded me at times of the power radio legend Norman Corwin could wield with words.
Also appearing at Hear Now was actress and narrator Barbara Rosenblat (Miss Rosa on “Orange is the New Black”). She was was a revelation: her comedy, drama, accents, and singing – even scatting, was one of the event’s highlights. Another highlight was the Kansas-based comedy troupe “Right Between the Ears.” Their stuff was top-notch. Good writing, performing, and pacing. Effect and music were spot-on and no one ever flubbed a line. It was recorded for broadcast over Kansas Public Radio, which they do every week. I was simply in audio geek heaven.
I firmly believe that the future of professional audio dramatic and comedic entertainment is bright. With the right platform to assemble these outstanding creative artists, with the right place to discover all of this, it will spread into our daily lives again and become part of our culture in the way that it never vanished in Britain and others places.
I’m just saying…