Category Archives: Audio Theatre

Finding Sense

Up in the middle of the night.  I’m watching Robin William’s clips.  I’ve been watching or listening to him since I was 12 or 13.  I had his first vinyl record and as a proper adolescent would listen to it in secret and with glee.  As a youth, I memorized his skits.

Currently, thanks to the wonders of the 21st Century, I’m in the dead of the night watching him on talk shows.  I’m watching how he interacted with the hosts, how focused and silly he could be.  I’m seeing how much joy he carried for their own jokes and how, on a dime, he could be honest, serious, heartfelt and wise.

Still trying to make sense of things a few days ago, I wrote a blog post about it and, like the tears on the news of his passing, the words just kept coming out and made quite a mess. That blog post ended up not making much sense so, like kleenex, I tossed it.

In that tangle of emotion and words, however, there was one idea that did make sense. So, I wrote another one. This one.

Did we lose a light in the world? Yes. Yes, we did. However to say that and just move on with your life is no way to honor his part in it. “Thanks for coming to the party and for the laughs, Mr. Williams. Take care. Have a safe drive. Mind the traffic on your way home…”

No. I don’t think that’s what his life was about, what he came here to do.

The only way to truly honor his gifts is to make a conscious effort to keep the damned torch burning. It’s about stopping and making a decision to carry intelligent foolishness, to not take this life so damned serious. Be funny to one another, carry joy. To represent not HIS style of humor and caring, but YOUR OWN. More importantly, it is about having the courage to share it with others. Passing it on and lifting someone else up with a laugh or a smile or a joke who may be having a harder time than you.

I suppose THAT’s the only sense I’ve been able to make of it. It’s my sense. It’s time to keep it burning, share it. I can’t believe I’m the only one having trouble sleeping and processing the past few days. Maybe this has helped, maybe not. Ultimately you’re going to have to find your own in all of it and maybe this will help.

God speed, Mr. Williams. Thank you for the laughs, the wisdom and the Light. We’ll do our best to take it from here.





Firehouse Follies : Radio Sounds

Follies_RadioSoundsIt’s the morning after the show and I’m beat!  During the cast pizza party afterwards I turned to my wife and said, “Man, I’m glad it’s Memorial Day tomorrow.”  She agreed.  It’s odd how some shows can take it out of you.  You have no way of really knowing how much mental energy your expending in rehearsals and going over lines.  I guess the better way to say all of the above is you have no way of knowing when your brain is sweating.  You’re just suddenly drained and tired.

The show, from this side of the microphone, seemed solid.  The overall word used by the cast I talked to afterwards was “consistent.”  I would have to agree.  It just flowed along, from music, to skit, to special guest and then back to a skit.  Joel Mabius was fantastic.  His song called “Touch the Wall” about Vietnam and the memorial was extremely powerful.  On the other side of things, “Poison in the glass” was hilarious.  When checking in with my teenage girl after the show (she had stayed home with her brother to watch Oberon) she was practically begging me to buy the album to have that particular track.

Every one from the actors to the musicians came out with their best stuff.  This show in particular, due to the demands of our sound effects Genius Tony Brewer, was a bit more demanding.  What I noticed though was that this crew is becoming so fluid we didn’t even realize it was a challenge!  Like I said, consistent.

My wife and I were able to be in a skit together where we played Bonnie and Clyde.  It could have been called “Bonnie and Clyde: The Elder Years.”  I LOVE being able to act with my wife on stage and her version of an older Bonnie was spot on.  The only problem I had with the skit was that I was having so much fun it was over before I knew it.

My other large part was a purposeful over-the-top rendition of  Shakespeare.  It was part of the river boat vacation skit.  I think I worked on it harder than I did the Bonnie and Clyde skit.  The most memorable part for me regarding it was audio theatre guru Richard Fish, the director, coming up to me after I’d performed it for the cue-to-cue.

“It’s good.  Just remember though, we’re going down a river in a boat and we’re expecting YOU to go overboard.”

I wrote it on my script so I wouldn’t forget.  I underlined “overboard.”

Speaking of forgetting something.  I took several pics of the rehearsal before the show but I forgot the SD card.  So, since I don’t seem to have a working data cord to retrieve them, the pics are stuck in the camera’s internal memory.  If I manage to find some sort of digital lever to get them out out, I’ll post them up.  It’s frustrating too because there are some good ones in there.

In case you missed the show, the link for the full show will be up sometime in the near future.  I’ll make sure to post it here so you can have the chance to download it and listen to it.

The next show will be on September 8th so save the date!

Back to the Radio

I mentioned this nearly a year ago in the post “Old Dreams Uncovered” where I wrote about my long standing love with audio theatre.  Though I’ve not mentioned it here I’ve been quite fortunate to be able to keep that love alive by working every three months or so with an amazing group of people here in my home town of Bloomington, Indiana.

Today, after doing the typical Oberon morning routine and then dealing with two extra adolescent girls who are sleeping over with my daughter as part of an end-of-school/birthday celebration, the wife and I are off to the radio studio.  How ever unwise the decision may have been on the part of the director and writers, we have been asked, once again, to be a part of the Unusual Suspects radio acting troupe which performs live as part of the Firehouse Follies on the community radio station WFHB. 

We’re headed in for our second script reading and “fine tuning” before the day of tech rehearsal and then performance which is tomorrow.  We were handed the scripts for the first time on Wednesday night and did our initial read.  We’ll put some retouches on the script today and then tomorrow we hammer it home before doors open at 3:30 P.M. for our live audience.  This time around I’m double excited as my wife and I are in a skit together as a couple.  Oh, the typecasting!  That’s all I can say for now as I wouldn’t want to throw out any spoilers.

If possible I’ll post some behind the scenes pics and a wrap up after the show.

Speaking of the show, as long as you have internet it doesn’t matter where you are in the world if you would like to give it a listen.  Just go to the WFHB link and click “Live Stream”  (Choose whether you want High or Low.)  Our show goes on live at 4:00 PM EDT or 11:00 GMT if you want to be fancy.  The show lasts 2 hours and features great live musical guests, storytelling, and, of course, the audio theatre skits.  I’ve been told that if you’re a fan of the Prairie Home Companion or old time radio shows in general then you’ll have a good time.

If nothing else, click on that link and give one of the best community radio stations in the country a listen.  You might just like what you hear!

More Videos and Heat

It’s been a week or so since the NATF but I took the time to edit together two more vids of my experience during the week.  The first one is just a hodge-podge of silliness and fun, little pieces I did here and there.  The second is the hiking trip I was able to take to Greer Springs on the final day of my visit there.  I may have one more vid of the trip home which I’ll subject you to once I get the time to piece it together and upload it.

Here at home, the heat wave continues.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen these kind of temperatures this early in the season.  There’s been heatwaves that crest 100 degrees but its typically been in August, definitely never in late June and early July.  I’ve been setting out small trays of water on the edge of the treeline for the birds and critters.  Most mornings I wake up to empty trays so something is drinking from it.

A story on NPR’s Weekend Edition put things in perspective for me this morning.  It features interviews with survivors of the great Texas drought where it did not rain for seven years.  SEVEN years!  1950- 1957.  Trying to picture going without rain for seven years makes my brain lock-up.  Around here this will be the third year of a dry and hot summer and even though the grass crackles under your feet we can still, hopefully, look forward to rain sometime down the road.  The stories from the feature are well worth reading about and if you get the chance listen to the story as well.

We’ve been told the heat is supposed to break starting tomorrow and we should see high 80’s in a few days.  Pop-up thunderstorms have been breaking out all around the county but we’ve yet to see anything on our front porch.  Since I’m a cold weather person I can’t believe I’m actually excited about temperatures in the high 80’s!   At this point, I’ll take whatever we can get and a few inches of rain.

I’ll believe it when I feel it.

Anyway, here are those vids.  Enjoy!

Video Enhancement

As a side effect of the fun-filled week last week, I put together a few videos I shot as a sort of roving vlog of my experience.  I figured I paid a good $40 for my camera so I’d best put it to good use!  (On top of that, my Canon XT went belly up the night before I was supposed to leave so I decided to resort to “movin’ pitchers” instead.)

My intention is that the Youtube channel this video is attached to will become a spot for me to plop down the occasional video clip or commentary.  Just consider this the first offering on the shelf.  I promise to provide insipid commentary, mic noise, poor video quality and the occasional rant.

This should give you a good idea of the fun that went on for me during last week.  The Last Broadcast was an audio production put together and presented during the final performance of the NATF event along with three other awesome productions.  It features zombies.  In concert with this, the video also involves zombies and screaming.  Don’t watch at work and use headphones with caution.  I suppose you could watch at work but use headphones carefully.  You wouldn’t want to disturb your co-workers at lunch with the sound of zombies having THEIR lunch.

Old Dreams Uncovered

(I wrote this last week and am just getting around to getting it on here.  Enjoy.)

It was midnight and I was around 14 years old.  I’m pretty sure it was a Thursday night but I can’t be too sure.  I say this because the bedroom door was closed, the lights were off and I was pretending to be asleep.  I was up past my bedtime and buried under my covers with a small transistor radio.  In my ear was a large, white mono earpiece.  The radio  was tuned to the local public radio station and there was a particular something coming from the radio.

In my childhood, I had heard the classic recordings of The Shadow, The Lone Ranger and a cassette tape version of the famous “Who’s on First?” by Abbott and Costello.  (I think I wore the tape out on that last one trying to memorize it.)  In my adolescent brain all of that was all just old stuff.  Artifacts from an age gone by where people gathered around a cathedral radio and let audio movies wash over them.  Oh, I enjoyed them but nobody really did that anymore, did they?

What I was listening to was something new.  Something from MY time period and it had me hooked.  It was the BBC radio version of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”  I ‘d read the books and been blown away by the humor, the wit, and the outlandish story.  (The deeper messages and commentary wouldn’t sink in until much later.)  What I had stumbled onto while scanning the radio dial way past my bedtime involved a voice I had never heard before but was still familiar.  “What the hell is this?” I thought to myself.

It was Marvin the robot.   I had heard his voice in my head while I read the book.  In a few seconds I realized I was listening to a radio theatre production of one of my favorite books.  I listened in stunned happiness to the last five minutes of the broadcast only to find out I would have to wait another WEEK to hear it again.

The week passed.  There was no internet to do a rapid search, no googling back then.  I could not find anything that could help me understand what I had just heard.  So, I waited as patiently as possible, told my friends and the next Thursday night I was bunkered down in my bed, earpiece firmly in place and waiting.  When the show came on I sank into the words, the music and the movie in my head.  I was enthralled.  To this day, the opening music for that show lifts a wave of happiness over me.

The next day I had out my cassette recorder, recording my voice through the crappy little on-board microphone.  Doing voices and talking to myself while I read through a nearby dog-eared copy of a Conan book by Robert E. Howard.   It was my first adaptation and it was horrendous.  I wish I still had that tape!  It would be good comedy.

And that is how I started with audio theatre.

As I write this it’s a lovely Wednesday morning in West Plains, Missouri and I’m sitting on the porch of the Yellow House.  It’s a cool little victorian house on the campus of the University here.  You can guess it’s color.  It’s directly across from the dorms in which I am staying and it’s the third day of the annual, week long National Audio Theatre Festival Workshop and a gathering place for attendees after a long day of work and fun.  During the morning it’s quiet, peaceful.  The morning breeze is cool, I’ve got a mockingbird nearby sending out the morning mix, I’m exhausted and I’m in my happy place.

For the past three days I have been working, learning and laughing among some of the leaders of audio theatre.  I’ve spent those days flowing back and forth between an ecstatic trance and a brutal self-condemnation for not being here, every year for the past ten or even twenty years.  I’m talking with members of Fireside Theatre.  I’ve been coached by professionals in my delivery and in my accents. The kicker?  The kicker was finding out that Simon Jones, the voice of Arthur Dent from the audio piece that started this all for me has come to these events several times in the past and that Hitchhikers was originally an audio drama, not a book.

And the wheel goes around.

How I arrived here is another tale all together but let’s just say it was on a wing and a prayer, powered by a alchemical mix of synchronity, friendship, love, trust and more than a little good ol’ fashioned sweat.  What matters now is that I am here now and learning how to go on.  I started the week walking among giants and then something changed.  Though giants they’re just people with the same passion, the same love and I, as just a person, am also a giant.

I’m just coming a little late to the party.

I feel as if I’ve gone up into the attic and pulled off an old, dust covered moving blanket which covered a chest in the corner.  You know the one?  The chest which holds a part of you that you forgot was important? For me it also holds old comic book art partially inked and a crappy video tape made during a High School production class.   I’m sure yours holds something different but I’m pretty sure you understand.  We should all understand.  How that chest gets in the attic of your Life is usually unknown.  If you’re blessed it never gets stored away.  If you’re lucky, you’re given another shot to find it.

It really doesn’t matter what has happened since I put the chest away, doesn’t matter what victories or losses I have suffered over the last odd thirty years.  What matters is that I have arrived.  I’ve uncovered the chest.  I’ve looked inside and found something that makes my heart sing.

I’m here and I’m falling in love all over again.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I’ve needed to be.”  –Douglas Adams