Beanery Online Literary Magazine

May 6, 2009

Oh So Radio Show!

BEANERY ONLINE LITERARY MAGAZINE

OH SO RADIO SHOW!

Kathleen Clark 

     Before the invention of black and white television, family entertainment meant gathering around the Philco radio in the corner of the living room. Raptly glued to the lively performances of favorite entertainers, audiences of all ages were kept spellbound.

     Radio’s Golden Age began in the early 1920’s and continued throughout the late 1950’s. With a span of nearly three decades and a selection of genre’s including comedy, drama, sci-fi, mystery, horror, detective and music, literally hundreds of shows hit the air.

     One of the most popular and long-running music radio programs, the Grand Ole Opry, was the creation of station manager, George Dewey Hay. Begun in 1925, it was originally billed as WSM Barn Dance. When Hay replaced announcer Jack Keefe, he changed the name from Grand Opera, where the music was broadcast, to Grand Ole Opry. This weekly program from Nashville featured traditional “country” music with “hillbilly” and folk songs, along with classic mountain tunes. Some of the earliest Opry performers became staples, many launching successful country music careers. Later, in 1939, the show moved to NBC radio and reached tens of thousands listeners.

     Radio theaters simple format requires an interesting story line, a minimal cast because one person can play several characters, some lively dialogue, a sound effects person and actors with strong, emotionally expressive voices. For the listening audience, there is little need for elaborate costumes, sets, make-up artists, or lighting, thus cutting down on production costs. Because it is an audio experience, radio relies heavily on the imagination, less on props. Listeners fill in the gaps, following actions and sounds with personal imaginative settings.

     As television gained popularity, enticing visual images replaced audio and radio broadcasts begin to diminish. Although never a big moneymaker for aspiring actors and actresses, radio theater offers practical experience, opens doors for voice-over commercials and documentary work, helps develop animation techniques and provides excellent resume references. Today, increased animated and virtual movie releases provide more opportunities for voice-over enthusiasts.

     Radio shows ran from a few minutes to a half hour or longer, and audiences everywhere tuned-in to catch their weekly favorites. If you’ve never listened to Old Time Radio, some of these titles from a by-gone era may still ring a bell. Remember Amos n’ Andy, Abbott & Costello, Perry Mason, Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, comedians Jack Benny, Red Skelton and Groucho Marx and song and dance man, Al Jolson. And yes, The Shadow Knows!

     Who can forget the earthshaking broadcast, “War of the Worlds,” an ingenious creation of Orson Welles, that panicked a nation? Broadcasting from WABC in New York, a young drama troupe, under Welles direction, performed a radio play, the “War of the Worlds” from the Mercury Theater. On October 30, 1938 the Columbia Broadcasting System broadcast the program from coast-to-coast.

     The sci-fi story by H.G. Wells depicted a realistic Martian landing in New Jersey with alien creatures overtaking the world. The novice performers through superb acting caused mass hysteria! With powerful imagery and realistic sound effects, people who tuned in mid-broadcast, were unaware it was only a play. Having missed disclaimers announced by the radio before and during the production, listeners nationwide packed up and fled their homes.

     The following day, the New York Times ran these headlines: Radio Listeners in Panic, Taking War Drama as Fact and Many Flee Homes to Escape ‘Gas Raid From Mars’ — Phone Calls Swamp Police at Broadcast of (H.G.) Wells Fantasy.

     Writing a play in radio format isn’t a task often tackled in today’s high-tech market so GPAC applauds the efforts of Mark Hofmann, Daily Courier reporter, writer and director of the recent “Ocean’s 7 & 7—” the third installment of his Roy Stargess series. Featuring a cast of seven, the rib-tickling mystery/comedy centers around Stargess; private detective, novelist and alcoholic who encounters a new adventure in Las Vegas.

     Whether large or small, “audience reaction” is the key factor and defines the show’s ultimate success. It is, after all, what radio theater is all about!

ADDITIONAL READING:

SHALIMAR

YE OLD ’ROUND ’TUIT

WHAT? MARRY A PROSTITUTE, HOSEA ASKED GOD

DARE TO BE A CLOWN: Clown Types

SADIE

COPYRIGHTS GET NO RESPECT!

SHOULD THIS HOUSE HAVE SOLD AT A TAX SALE?

THE PENOBSCOT NARROWS BRIDGE AND OBSERVATORY

FROM THE BASTILLE TO CINDERELLA

PARIS CAFE’s

HIS KIND

A DOG FOR ALL SEASONS

PINCH HITTING

ARE WEBSITES (BLOGSITES) BENEFICIAL TO WRITERS?

DEFINING GOD

WHY NOT EQUITABLE “HORROR” ADS?

SITE LINKS:

www.beanerywriters.wordpress.com/

www.carolyncholland.wordpress.com

www.barbarapurbaugh.com

www.pennwriters.com

ellenspain.com

http://ligonierliving.blogspot.com/

http://www.methodists-care.org/

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