Atlanta Radio
Theatre Company

31 Years of ARTC: The Last Dragon to Avondale 2010

Continuing our look back at ARTC’s 31 years (thusfar!) with photos from our live performances. You can get a look at our whole history of combining adventures in sound with the thrill of live performance in our Chronology!

In this installment we bring you our appearance at the Academy Theatre in October 2010 where we performed The Last Dragon to Avondale along with The House Across the Way, featuring music by Brad Weage and Paul Mercer, and Rory Rammer, Space Marshal: The Colour of the Shadow of the Outsider Over the Mountains of Madness Out of Space. This performance was a benefit for Georgia Aquarium (it was one of our first benefit performances, in fact!) and also included special musical guest Rooke! Check out all the pictures on our Flickr album.

In 2010 we debuted our Partners in Imagination program, which strives to harness the power of multiple non-profit groups into something stronger by raising awareness amongst our various audiences and maybe even a little money as well.

Megan Tindale and Brian Troxell

Psst…there’s not a lot of money in this…at least not yet.

We had originally wanted to do this benefit for Georgia Aquarium with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, but it became apparent very quickly that the script wouldn’t be ready in time, so we switched gears to The Last Dragon to Avondale. We felt that its focus on an “endangered species” made it a great fit.

Andrew Chiang and Sonya Arundar

“You keep telling yourself that, ok?”

Plus, we’d been performing at the Academy Theatre in Avondale Estates for a while at this point and to NOT perform this piece there would have been a crime against … well, a crime against something. Dragons, maybe.

The audience for

We got a good turnout, too!

We also had the privilege of working with some amazing musicians on this piece. There was Brad Weage.

Brad Weage

The very serious Brad Weage

Paul Mercer on violin. This was Paul’s first appearance with us!

Paul Mercer

The equally serious Paul Mercer

And our special musical guest, Rooke! Rooke has been around since the late 1980s and play a kind of (in their words) acid folk. We couldn’t quite get the whole band for this show, but we were thrilled to get Steven Sams, David Cater, and Keena Graham!

Steven Sams, Keena Graham, and David Cater

The not-quite-so-serious Rooke!

Rooke actually released an album of the recordings from this performance, so go get some great music!

Tags: , , , , , ,

31 Years of ARTC: Dragon Con 2010 part 2

Continuing our look back at ARTC’s 31 years (thusfar!) with photos from our live performances. You can get a look at our whole history of combining adventures in sound with the thrill of live performance in our Chronology!

In this installment we bring you our appearance at Dragon Con 2010 (Sunday night edition) where we presented Time and Time Again by H. Beam Piper, adapted by Ron N. Butler and At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft, adapted by Thomas E. Fuller, and featuring music by The Ghosts Project. Check out all the pictures on our Flickr album.

It’s a short update this week, folks, as I am flying out to Kansas City, MO, later today to attend the HEAR Now Festival. But this was a momentous show because it marked the beginning of our long-standing relationship with The Ghosts Project, who have since gone on to play with us on several other productions, including The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Dunwich Horror, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and The Rats in the Walls!

Fiona K. Leonard

It’s completely mind-blowing

Paul Mercer and Davis Petterson

The Ghosts Project, Paul Mercer and Davis Petterson

Brian Troxell

“Don’t forget, you can own this recording of this historic performance.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

31 Years of ARTC: Blues for Johnny Raven 2009

Continuing our look back at ARTC’s 31 years (thusfar!) with photos from our live performances. You can get a look at our whole history of combining adventures in sound with the thrill of live performance in our Chronology!

In this installment we bring you our appearance at the Academy Theatre in Avondale Estates, which featured our 2009 performance of Blues for Johnny Raven by Thomas E. Fuller. Check out all the pictures on our Flickr album.

This was our 25th Anniversary performance, and so we really went all out, as they say.

Bill Kronick and Alton Leonard

Bill Kronick and Alton Leonard going “all out”.

Y’know, we talk about how surprising it is that we’ve lasted so long. But the truth is that good storytelling is and has always been valued, so it really shouldn’t be that surprising.

Mary Buchanan and Megan Tindale backstage.

Ok, maybe it’s a little surprising.

This performance featured some of our favorites, some blasts from the past, and was a ton of fun. We got to see our founder William Brown take the stage again to recite The Mountain Whippoorwill by Stephen Vincent Benet…

William Brown on stage.

You don’t often see someone playing the “air violin”.

…as well as one of our favorite Rory Rammer episodes: The Asteroid of Love.

Fiona Leonard, Megan Tindale, and Ariel Kasten sing with Ethan Hurlburt observing.

Featuring the beautiful Android Sisters!

We were also treated to Brad Strickland’s An Arkham Home Companion.

Brad Strickland

Brad Strickland, just telling a regular old story about a tentacled monster trying to steal an eldritch book.

We were also joined by our frequent musical guest Juliana Finch!

Juliana Finch

Juliana rocks harder than you.

And, lest we forget, the main attraction, Blues for Johnny Raven!

 

Fiona Leonard and Daniel Kiernan

Raven (Daniel Kiernan) listens to the case brought to him by Gloria Kinsolving (Fiona Leonard).

Brad Strickland and Daniel Kiernan

Raven (Daniel Kiernan) consults with his friend and informant, Benny the Gospel (Brad Strickland)

Mary Buchanan

Mary Buchanan takes a break from playing the sax.

Ariel Kasten and Megan Tindale

We have no idea what’s going on in this picture.

Blues for Johnny Raven is in the final stages of post-production now and will be available soon, first by download and later on CD!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

30 Years of ARTC: Dragon Con 2005 part 1

This being our 30th anniversary, we thought we’d dip back into the past and recap some of our previous performances, triumphs and tragedies, in a series of posts. And don’t forget our Chronology! It’s not as detailed, but it really shows the growth of ARTC over the years. You can see all of the photos in their full size on our Flickr album!

We’re still on a Dragon Con high (or still getting over con crud, your choice), so this week we bring you the 2005 edition! Hey, they’re our biggest audiences of the year, I think we can be forgiven for spending some extra time on these great fans!

If there’s one thing we know for sure at ARTC it’s that we’re nothing without our writers, and we’ve been very lucky to have worked with some of the best. Writing audio drama isn’t done much anymore, and finding someone who can write it well is uncommon. We have an extensive workshopping process to make sure that our scripts are their very best before we present them to our listening audience.

At this Dragon Con, we featured several of our newer writers, who have since gone on to write some really incredible stuff!

Jonathan Strickland

Jonathan Strickland

Jonathan Strickland has written a lot, but for this performance we featured an episode from his Mildly Exciting Tales of Astonishment (META) series.

Sketch MacQuinor

Sketch MacQuinor

Sketch MacQuinor seems to write all the time, although sometimes he only writes it in his head. For this performance we showcased the Brotherhood of Damn Sassy Mutants (work out that initialism on your own, kids), but he’s also created The Game is Afoot!, Blue Hannukchristmas Carol, and lots of other stuff too numerous to mention here.

We also performed Rory Rammer, Space Marshal and The Adventure of Brave Ragnar, but somehow managed not to get a picture of Ron N. Butler or Kelley S. Ceccato this year.

Brad Strickland

Brad Strickland disapproves of this egregious oversight.

And after the writing is done, it’s time for the rest of the team to swing into action!

The cast warms up for the performance.

First, warmups.

Vocal warmups are vital to a good performance. Here you can see the ‘huddle’ style.

Brad Weage and Joel Abbott go over the musical score before the show.

Music is important, too.

Music and tech work closely together to ensure everything is plugged in and functional.

Foley artists creating live sound effects.

Foley gets into the mix.

It’s not a radio show without Foley!

David Benedict and Jack Mayfield perform.

And then it’s showtime!

We still aren’t sure what Jack Mayfield is looking at in this picture.

We’ll be back next week with part 2 of Dragon Con 2005!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

30 Years of ARTC – Camp Wak-N-Hak 2002

This being our 30th anniversary, we thought we’d dip back into the past and recap some of our previous performances, triumphs and tragedies, in a series of posts. And don’t forget our Chronology! It’s not as detailed, but it really shows the growth of ARTC over the years. You can see all of the photos in their full size on our Flickr album!

In 2002 we were privileged to perform at Camp Wak-N-Hak, a summer camp for children with cystic fibrosis run by Camp Twin Lakes. This was a richly rewarding performance for us, and the kids really got into it. What did we perform? Well, that’s been lost to the sands of time, but we had a blast and that’s what’s really important.

Audience at Camp Wak-N-Hak

Our appreciative audience at Camp Wak-N-Hak

Acoustically, this spacious basketball court was challenging with its high ceilings and hard walls and floor, but once this great audience got seated they soaked up the audio extremely well!

Thomas Fuller and David Benedict look on as Colin Butler addresses the microphone.

Thomas Fuller and David Benedict look on as Colin Butler addresses the microphone.

It’s a pretty good bet that we did an episode of Rory Rammer, Space Marshal.

Phil Carter and Colin Butler perform as the rest of the cast looks on.

Phil Carter and Colin Butler perform as the rest of the cast looks on.

The stage setup was extremely nice. We perform in a wide variety of venues and often don’t get to see the actual performance space until we arrive to set up. We’ve worked around some rather interesting challenges with other people’s sets, cramped stage space, low doorways leading onto the stage itself, and a lack of any discernable stage whatsoever. But Camp Wak-N-Hak had a quality, picturesque space that it was a pleasure to perform on!

William Alan Ritch and Joel Abbott on the technical side of the show.

William Alan Ritch and Joel Abbott on the technical side of the show.

One challenge we sometimes face is placement of the tech. A lot of theatres rely on monitors or booths that are off to the side. Some are so small that they don’t have a designated place for tech at all – they do everything with vocal projection and don’t have any sound cues at all. We do as much live Foley as we can in a show, but we also run recorded SFX when necessary and our experience is that it sounds weird when you play a recorded sound to go with an unamplified voice in a radio play setting. So we always just set up the whole shebang every time and being able to be centered on the stage really helps the techs get a good mix.

Lili at the Foley table.

Lili at the Foley table.

Speaking of live Foley, here we see master Foley artist Lili showing off the tools of her trade. Foley is one of the most charismatic parts of radio theatre and we love to showcase it. We were lucky to be able to have the table up a little closer to the front for this show. Foley is awesome to see, but the space they take up and the sensitivity of the microphones we use usually make placement a bit of a strategic decision.

Ron Butler and Colin Butler in a bit of pre-show prep.

Ron Butler and Colin Butler in a bit of pre-show prep.

Big thanks to Ron Butler for helping set up this amazing show!

You can see the rest of the pictures on our Flickr album!

Tags: , , ,

30 Years of ARTC – All Hallows’ Moon, Dragon Con 2000

This being our 30th anniversary, we thought we’d dip back into the past and recap some of our previous performances, triumphs and tragedies, in a series of posts. And don’t forget our Chronology! It’s not as detailed, but it really shows the growth of ARTC over the years. You can see all of the photos in their full size on our Flickr album!

Continuing our annual appearances at Dragon Con, and 2000 was a real doozy. First, it included one of Thomas E. Fuller’s best original pieces, All Hallows’ Moon. But we were also priveleged to perform an episode of Ron N. Butler’s Rory Rammer, Space Marshal series, The Queen of the Spaceways with Ted Raimi, Alexandra Tydings, and Claire Stansfield! All that plus Zap thy Neighbor by James P. Hogan, and you’ve got a stellar lineup!

Doug Kaye, Fiona K. Leonard, and Thomas E. Fuller set the scene in

Doug Kaye, Fiona K. Leonard, and Thomas E. Fuller set the scene in “All Hallows’ Moon”

ARTC doesn’t normally do costumes. It’s actually a long-running debate within the company – how to create visual appeal for a medium that doesn’t normally rely on visual appeal at all! But when you’re performing live, the audience expects to be able to see something and asking them to close their eyes can lead to inopportune snoring, so occasionally we give costumes a try.

David Benedict, Ron N. Butler, William L. Brown, Doug Kaye, Fiona K. Leonard, Daniel W. Kiernan, and Thomas E. Fuller portray the inhabitants of Mother Lode, New Mexico.

David Benedict, Ron N. Butler, William L. Brown, Doug Kaye, Fiona K. Leonard, Daniel W. Kiernan, and Thomas E. Fuller portray the inhabitants of Mother Lode, New Mexico.

Here’s another example of the costuming work for this piece. We have been very lucky to have a number of professional costumers work with ARTC in the past to help us on occasions such as this.

William L. Brown accepts the first ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award

William L. Brown accepts the first ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award

In 2000 we also debuted the ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in audio. Presented first to ARTC founder William L. Brown and informally known as the “Brownie”, the award was renamed as the Thomas E. Fuller Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.

Ted Raimi, Karen Barrett, and Claire Stansfield perform in

Ted Raimi, Karen Barrett, and Claire Stansfield perform in Rory Rammer, Space Marshal: Queen of the Spaceways as Alexandra Tydings waits for her cue.

We also had the great honor of performing with three of the stars of Xena, Warrior Princess that year. Ted Raimi hammed it up as Rory Rammer, turning in an uproarious performance…that also happened to be about half an hour longer than we’d scheduled it for! Claire Stansfield and Alexandra Tydings were also spectacular in the roles of Michiko Sakai and Aphrodite DeHavilland.

Alexandra Tydings and Ted Raimi

Alexandra Tydings and Ted Raimi

This performance is still recalled fondly by those members of ARTC who were lucky enough to be present.

We hope you’re enjoying this look back at ARTC! If so, let us know! And don’t forget that your support is extremely important. Tell your friends! Tell your family! Buy a CD or make a donation!

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The War of the Worlds: The Untold Story part 3 of 3

Size: 8.7M Duration: 18:32

ARTC Studio in action!

And, at last, we reach the third and final installment of this retelling of the classic science fiction story that has inspired so many others throughout the ages.  Except…

There’s one more chapter left to go. And that’s the one where we go into the studio and make this sound as good as we possibly can. ARTC’s Podcast is a fine example of our work – as one of the few audio drama companies that we know of to perform live, we take pride in this work and want it to have a life beyond the one or two performances we are normally allowed to give it. It’s also a great example of what we do for people who may not be familiar with us.

But it’s just a sample. In the studio we can get rid of feedback, get the exact right inflection, eliminate awkward pauses, make sure the effects are at the correct levels, and the music can really soar!

So if your only exposure to ARTC is our podcast, why not try out a studio production? You can get them here on this website or at Audible.com or Audiobooks.com. We thank you for listening, and we’ll be back next month with another example of the excitement of live audio theatre!

Tags: , , ,

The War of the Worlds: The Untold Story part 2 of 3

Size: 8.5M Duration: 17:58

Foley for War of the Worlds: The Untold StoryWe ended up performing The War of the Worlds: The Untold Story twice in 2013. The debut performance was, of course, Dragon Con, which is where this podcast performance came from.

But the second time was at the Marcus Jewish Community Center, and it was a blast. We cooked up a bit of new Foley since we weren’t going to have to work around convention crowds, and the MJCC sports a top-notch theatre space. We hope to get back there again some time!

In this photo, you can see Foley mixer Larrie Fisher (left), and Foley artists Anthony Fuller, Beth Braunstein, and Jason Boldt (left to right), plus cast member Clair W. Kiernan (downstage). Society has somehow come to the conclusion that the actors are the ones in a performance to be celebrated, but the fact is that without Foley, audio drama isn’t quite as magical and we spend a ton of time developing ours to be as good as we possibly can.

Tags: , , ,

The War of the Worlds: The Untold Story part 1 of 3

Size: 8.1M Duration: 17:23

The War of the Worlds: The Untold StoryThis month we bring you The War of the Worlds: The Untold Story by Ron N. Butler, based on the original novel by H. G. Wells, performed live at Dragon Con, September 1, 2013.

Making the decision to commission Ron to write this adaptation wasn’t easy. We’d sworn for years that despite our many adaptations, including a bunch by H. G. Wells, that we would never do this one. It seemed too risky to try to follow in the footsteps of St. Orson Welles.

But in the end, the allure of commemorating the 75th anniversary of the most famous radio broadcast of all time proved too much for us, and so we went for it. We think the result was very much worth it. Be sure to let us know what YOU think!

 

Tags: , , ,

The Inaudible Man – Ron N. Butler

We continue our celebration of our 30th anniversary with a piece that Ron N. Butler wrote back in 1992 for the Myriad Amateur Press Alliance about his experiences with The Invisible Man. A few notes before we get to Ron’s own notes:

  1. We no longer have such a sweet deal with Dragon Con as Ron describes in his piece. So if you want to come join, feel free, but don’t count on getting everyone you know into the convention for free.
  2. At one very memorable show, Daniel Taylor did indeed fire off the starter pistol Ron mentions later in the piece. If only he’d warned us…and our audio engineer.
  3. We performed a few pieces live on PSPR (now Georgia Public Broadcasting) (although The Invisible Man wasn’t one of them). We’d love to be invited back sometime. Hint hint.

And now…without further ado, Ron N. Butler’s notes about his own piece, The Inaudible Man:

————————————

In 1986, Confederation — The Atlanta WorldCon — did something strange and unforgiveable in the eyes of SMOFdom: They had money left over after paying all the bills. Over the next couple of years, the rump Atlanta WorldCon committee parceled out the money as grants to a number of projects, among them ‘Electrical Eggs,’ one of the first (if not the first) organizations devoted to handicapped access at SF conventions. One of the other proposals was for a science fiction magazine on audiotape, pitched by a group calling themselves the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company. We funded that one, too. That’s how I met Thomas E. Fuller, ARTC’s head writer. And he remembered my name when ARTC needed someone to fill a gap in their cast for an adaptation of H.G. Wells’s The Invisible Man at DragonCon in 1992.

“The Inaudible Man” appeared in a somewhat different form as part of my personalzine “F451” in the MYRIAD APA. I have added some parenthetical notes but mainly left it as-is, for good or ill. This is how I met Thomas Fuller and how I joined ARTC. And that made a great difference in my life.

RNB

————————————————————————————————————–
THE INAUDIBLE MAN

(July 5, 1992) It was Thomas Fuller on the other end of the line — playwright, poet, soon-to-be SF novelist, Atlanta Radio Theater mogul, giant dirigible enthusiast (That is, the dirigibles are giant, not — well, never mind.), and Berta’s husband.

“Ron!” he said, little realizing that I had just blown an entire paragraph on a smartass description of him. “ARTC is doing ‘The Invisible Man’ down at DragonCon this year — ”

Well, I thought, at least it’s not Lovecraft…

” — but Greg Nicoll has had to drop out because of work. Would you like to take over his part?”

Would I? Would I? Wells? Radio theater? Acting without having to memorize lines? I’d give at least an earlobe for this!

“Yeah, sure — if Lin [My wife. — RNB] says it’s OK.”

“Great. See you Wednesday at 7:30.” *click*

Errr — Where?

(July 8) At first, Berta had refused to tell me where the house was. But after I reminded her that if I didn’t show up, Thomas would just replace me — likely with someone even worse — she gave in. [This is pure, bumptious fantasy. Berta was perfectly gracious. — RNB]

I stayed at work an extra ninety minutes before heading north for Duluth. That was cutting it a bit too fine, as it turned out; I just had time to grab a sandwich and a Coke at Mrs. Winner’s in downtown Duluth (I think that was downtown Duluth) and race back to the Fullers’, arriving right at 7:30.

(I was dogged by a strange punctuality all through this production. No matter what I did, I seemed to show up where I was supposed to be right on time — not early, not late, just — there. Spooky.)

Berta and the boys were off riding hot-air balloons while Thomas and ARTC took over her dining room to rehearse. Half of the cast were already there.

Brad Strickland had brought along a huge boom box to record a rough tape of the read-through which would be passed on to the sound effects guy for his edification.

Daniel “Foley” Taylor was there to read off the sound effects cues.

I recognized Doug Kaye from a presentation he and Thomas had made for the Phoenix Society about another SF audio project — something to do with a time-travelling actor in a bunny suit… [“Dash Cardigan” — RNB]

Thomas introduced me to the female leads, Joyce and Lee [Millman] — and I promptly got them mixed up. (Maybe that had something to do with the way that Joyce’s full name is Joyce Leigh.)

A tall, happy-looking fella named Bill Jackson seemed oddly familiar.

The redoubtable Berl Boykin (whom I remembered from a previous ARTC/DragonCon production of “Shadow over Innsmouth”) would not be at that rehearsal — his car had burned down. (Or some such damn thing. The week previously his bedroom ceiling had fallen in on him.) Thomas would read Griffin, the Invisible Man.

Before we got started, Thomas and I had a penetrating and lengthy discussion of motivation and characterization:

“Can you do an English accent?”

“Well — ”

“Greg’s been playing ‘Fearenside’ as an older man with a deep, gruff voice.”

I looked at the script. Oh, what the hell — when in doubt, do “Blind Pew”. “Oi’ve been loadin’ and unloadin’ derries fur thirty yee-ars and — ”

“Great! Next!”

About forty-five minutes after our nominal starting time (i.e. about fifteen minutes earlier than a Mighty Rassilon Art Players rehearsal would have started), we gathered around Thomas’ dining room table, shoved the chips and dip and soft drinks into the center, and began reading. The rest of the cast had done this four or five times before, while I had had the script in my hands for under an hour. Mercifully, Thomas decided on a “cold” read-through for me before Brad Strickland’s boombox started recording.

It was a good script. (Thomas said later that this script was his first audio adaptation of Wells. He has a “Time Machine” script, but that began life as a stage play, produced in Hawaii.) It was surprising how many of the words were Wells’ own, considering that the audio production would run only about 35 minutes. For some reason, I had remembered Wells’ novel as being a short thing, almost a novella. When I dragged out my “Seven Science Fiction Novels of H.G. Wells” a few days before the rehearsal, I realized where I got that impression: It should have been a novella. In modern hands, that’s what it would have been. Under John W. Campbell’s blue pencil, it would have been a novelette. But Wells had written a leisurely Victorian novel, stuffed with late-19th-century social detail. Any audio script that isn’t to run four hours does well to catch the essentials of the story.

The first run-through went well. I stepped on a few lines, missed a few sound cues. For the second run-through, Brad Strickland set his boombox a-recording — and we got about 25 pages into the 34-page script before anyone noticed that the tape in the cassette wasn’t turning. Oh, my —

Another ten-minute break. I called Lin to let her know I’d be very late, and we went back to it. For being made on a boombox with a tiny condenser microphone, the resulting tape sounded surprisingly good — except me. I’d recognize that nasal, dweeby voice anywhere. Grg! Why did I get into this? Just to seize another chance to make an idiot of myself in front of friends and family?

Home around 11:30. Up at 5:15. *Urg!*

(July 31) There were two more rehearsals — one on Sunday and the last on the following Wednesday, the 15th. (I finally broke down at the last ‘un and asked Daniel Taylor where I knew Bill Jackson from. He confirmed my suspicions: the mundane Bill Jackson is “Sir William Colquitt” in the SCA, [Society for Creative Anachronism] one of the few SCA muckety-mucks I have never heard an ill word spoken of. Bill looked familiar because that was my sole acquaintance with him: seeing him. Generally from a distance of not less than ten feet.)

The last rehearsal was also videotaped. Berl Boykin (who did make the last two rehearsals) had/ has plans for a “Making of ‘The Invisible Man’” documentary of some sort, and brought in a camera crew to tape us all sitting around Thomas’ table.

(Of the four-person crew, three were black. And here I was, in my “Blind Pew” voice, bellowing out the suspicions of “Fearenside”, the late nineteenth century English bumpkin, concerning the bandaged stranger: “He’s bla-a-ack! …He’s a piebald, black here, white there. …He’s some sort of arf-breed, an’ he’s ashimed of hit.”

(Thus do we progress: Now I don’t even need to get up in front of an audience to embarrass myself. I can embarrass myself in someone’s dining room.)

Berl did one thing, though, that made me feel very much more comfortable about my own performance: his accent. Where mine was bad, his was terrible. No offense and no disparagement of Berl’s talents meant, but that accent never got farther east than Nantucket. Thank you, Berl.

Every year, I intend to skip DragonCon. And every year, I seem to end up down there somehow. Last year, I was performing in a Mighty Rassilon Art Players’ production of “Two’s A Crowd” and we had to pay to get Lin in. At least Atlanta Radio Theater Company has a spiffy deal that gets its members’ spouses and significant others in free, too. It was $70 saved, especially as Lin and I would likely have gone to D’Con anyway — friends Ben and T Boyer were barnstorming through between Florida and Texas, alighting briefly in Atlanta, mostly down at the Hilton Towers. Getting into D’Con free is probably the biggest payoff I’ve gotten in my darkly checkered theatrical career.

Lin and I planned on making an evening of it. We hired Claudia, our daytime babysitter’s daughter, to look after the boys. Lin would get her set up over at the house about the time I was getting in a final rehearsal at the Hilton, then come on down, see the show, and we would party-hop or bar-sit afterwards with friends until the wild, ungodly hour of — oh, 10:30. Maybe even 11:00!

Enough persiflage. I gathered with the rest of the ARTC folks outside the ballroom at the Hilton at 6:00 on Saturday night for our setup and run-through, and waited. And waited. And waited…

There was to be a band, “Those Damned Johnstons” I believe, playing in the ballroom later that night and DragonCon had decided to let them set up before ARTC. Well, as bands will, they took forever for their sound checks and tweakery. Some of us tried hanging around inside, but TDJ being a modern band, the noise level soon drove us out again. I believe we got to take the stage about ten minutes before our scheduled start time. So much for mike checks and rehearsal. Oh, well… It’s not as if I needed any familiarization with mikes and procedures or such before my first audio production in my entire life. No. Not at all. I’ll be fine. (*grmf*)

There was considerable discussion between the sound effects man, Thomas, and Daniel “Foley” Taylor about six gunshots that have to be fired in mid-play (plus one more later). Daniel had come up with a seven-shot starter’s pistol — only to be told that if he fired it in the Hilton’s ballroom, Hotel Security would come charging in and shoot him dead. Sound effects had gunshots on CD — but the “cycle time” would be very slow. The method finally settled on was popping balloons inside empty oil drums. It sounded — adequate. (If you think this is bizarre, ask Daniel or Thomas how the sound of the hatch of a Martian space-cylinder was done for Orson Welles’ classic “War of the Worlds.”)

A few minutes after 8:00, we all lined up before the row of mikes on the stage, with the foley and sound- effects tables behind us or to the side. We’d never gotten a chance to do a proper sound check. Thomas and I ended up using the same mike — a bit awkward as Thomas is, of course, six feet nineteen-and-a-half inches tall while I shop for clothes in the “Stylish Dwarf” section of Penney’s.

Thirty-five minutes later, we were done — just like at rehearsal. I thanked everyone in line-of-sight for letting me play with them, then hopped down to look for wife and friends.

“How did it sound?” I asked Lin, and she answered, “Oh, it was just fine-” — in that way that your spouse can say things that make you instantly think of open flies and bits of spinach stuck between your front teeth.

“OK — give.”

Well, basically, while Thomas and I were not — exactly — sharing a dead mike, we were sharing a weak one. Now, Thomas would be audible reading clean limericks on a windy football field during band practice, but I was doing mime. Lin said I could be heard — if you were listening closely. Fortunately, Fearenside’s lines don’t seem to have been exactly crucial to the audiences’ following the continuity of the play. Still, it was a bit of a letdown. Thomas was the Invisible Man —

And I was the Inaudible Man.

One of the really nice things about audio, though, is that there are occasional opportunities for redemption in the editing booth. I got one on “Invisible Man.” The week after DragonCon, the cast and crew got together in the studios of Georgia Public TV to do the really, truly, finally last dangerous version of “IM” — the one that would be broadcast over Peach State Public Radio. (PSPR’s offices are in the basement of GPTV’s building, something I had never had an inkling of. Some wit has pulled one stick-on “L” off the sign on their door, reducing them to “Georgia Pubic Radio”. God knows, it would probably do wonders for their audience share if that were an accurate description.) And budgetary realities being what they are this year GPTV’s TV studios are seeing very little video production, leaving them wide open for underfunded audio/radio groups to use their equipment.

PSPR had sent an observer to the DragonCon production and must have been not entirely appalled by what he saw, as they were making noises about using “IM” and some other Atlanta Radio Theater Company material on their network of ten stations around the state. Of course, their “budgetary realities” may have something to do with that, too. As I recall the numbers, PSPR gets about $500,000 a year — $300,000 of which goes straight to National Public Radio. That leaves $20,000 to run each radio station in their network; not enough to pay for a fulltime janitor for each transmitter unless he provides his own cleaning supplies. PSPR’s interest in high-quality, low-cost, available programming thus becomes as intuitively obvious as those math lemmae in high school were supposed to be.

This recording session for “Invisible Man” was as relaxed as the DragonCon performance was tense (for me, anyway). The GPTV studio was quite bare — a high, gray room with lights and supporting trusswork hovering near the ceiling and a curving back wall that made it seem larger than it really was. Sound effects and foley equipment were again arranged on two tables on the sides of the studio, with a semicircle of microphones on stands at the far end from the glass-fronted control booth.

[Small historical note: This was the very studio from which ARTC did its one and only thirteen-week season of live radio drama broadcasts for the Atlanta market.]

All the mikes worked, this time. The point was also made that these were marvelously directional, so I found myself sighting down the length of the thing whenever I had lines to speak, like staring down the barrel of a shotgun. I was determined to be heard, this time…

The company went through a few warming-up exercises, like practicing getting rid of pages of script without making noises that would show up on the tape. Producer William Brown came on the PA and pronounced mine particularly crisp and clear. (*Flush*)

The first run-through was a “crossed fingers” exercise — you always hope the first take will be perfect, but it seldom is. We got about two-thirds of the way through before everyone’s flubs began coming in. The starter pistol we’d been unable to use at DragonCon turned out to have a small problem with getting off more than three rounds in a row. (So maybe the balloons weren’t so bad after all.) And I had to struggle not to laugh at the spectacle of Thomas and Bill Jackson simulating an entire pub full of people off-mike, just the two of ’em, with much arm-waving and back-slapping.

After wrapping up the first attempt, everyone wandered down to the basement and the GPTV snack area. (Why does food seem to figure so sharply in my memories of radio?) Mr. Brown announced that he’d had to turn my mike input down, which didn’t bother me a bit. After twenty minutes or so, we wandered back to the studio and did it again — one and a half times more, then called it a night. The production crew played back some of the tape over the PA while Daniel packed away his foley equipment. I liked the timber of my “Fearenside” voice better in the first run-through, but what the heck. The material we heard was missing a number of effects and music (chimes), but it was still hard for me to believe this little group of people using relatively modest equipment had produced such a nice-sounding product.

The night was warm and humid when we walked out into the parking lot about 10:00, and a heavy rain descended on us between my leaving the front door and getting to my car.

( September 9: Current plans are for Peach State Public Radio to play “The Invisible Man” on Halloween. Alas, it will not be played on any Atlanta public radio outlet.

(Other ARTC projects in one state or another of preparation include an adaptation of “The Time Machine,” Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness,” and possibly one or more of Kipling’s SF stories.)

Taking the babysitter home after DragonCon, I tried to answer her question about what we’d been doing that evening. Depressingly, I found that “We were doing a radio drama version of Wells’ ‘The Invisible Man’” would not cut it, as this really very bright twelve-year-old young lady lacked some key concepts. Like “radio drama”. Radio in the last decade of the twentieth century, after all, consists of 1) music, 2) news, or 3) telephone call-in shows. Maybe I’d have done better to describe it as “kind of like a book on tape”.

Ditto “The Invisible Man.” Claudia had never heard of it. Nor of H.G. Wells. *Sigh* Could be there’s something to be said for “Illustrated Classics” comic books after all.

 

Tags: ,

Older Entries