Vintage radio dramas to be recorded live in Cloak

Ceilidh Mar

Ready to see what’s new over the wavelengths here at Lawrence? “See” can be taken literally. Opening next week, “Theatre of the Air: Live Taping Sessions” offers students an opportunity to see old time radio in action. This production, like the name indicates, is an actual taping session of four classic pieces from the golden radio era. Each vintage radio drama has been painstakingly transcribed form the original recording for the purpose of re-production by the group. These dramas will be taped live before an audience, and will be aired on pubic radio.

The idea for these dramas came from director Timothy X. Troy. His long-term interest in the subject sparked a research project and earned a curriculum development grant from the dean of faculty for the purpose of studying the history of radio dramas. “I just though it would be a good way to have actors focus on their voices as instruments,” said Troy. “We do a lot of others things too when acting, but somehow when you are just using the ears it’s a nice way to focus in on how we make character through all the auditory elements. Plus there’s all the great cultural history of that time period.”

The history of radio broadcast dramas started in the early part of the twenty-first century and remained a part of the culture up into the 1970s. But because of the antiquated recording methods many of the earlier broadcasts were lost or were of low quality. The golden era of radio broadcast was primarily from the 1930s until the mid 1950s, after which television began the takeover of America’s attention. Yet radio remained in the background and today one can still find large interest in old time radio.

The four pieces being used for this session are each an episode from serials run during the golden era of radio. They range from detective to sci-fi, and all contain aspects of the suspense-mystery genre.

Dimension X—The Man On the Moon is the first of the four episodes. Based on the concept of renegade moon dwellers planning an attack on Earth, this episode was first aired on July 14, 1950. During this time period many science fiction stories focused on moon landings.

The second episode, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar—the Robert W. Perry Case tells the tale of an insurance detective known for his dry sense of humor and large expense account. First aired in 1949, it deals with a curious office murder story.

The next episode,The Amazing Nero Wolfe—Shakespeare, is a humorous detective story involving the absence of an original Shakespeare folio.

The final episode, The Shadow—House of Fun, is a Clark Kent-type story with a twist. This episode was first aired in 1939, but the series itself is older. Recordings of the episode can be found from the mid-1930s and continuing up until the mid-1950s, and although the show premiered even earlier, most episodes were lost. The Shadow was also serialized and made into a running set of action comic books.

Acting in these sessions are eleven students who were involved in the “styles of acting: radio drama” class that was offered here this year, and if all goes as planned the class will be put on rotation in the Drama department. In total, thirteen Lawrence students are involved with “Theatre of the Air: Live Taping Sessions,” including the two students who will be working with technical aspects and live sound effects. Taping will be held on May 31 and June 1 at 8:30 p.m. in Cloak Theatre. Ticket prices: Adults $10, Senior Citizens and Non LU Students $5, LU students and faculty free. Contact the Lawrence University Box office to reserve tickets, 920-832-6749.