One of the first attractions of working in audio theater, in telling stories with just sound, is that you can truly be everything—cook and bottle washer, director, actor and engineer. It’s a high wire act to do all those jobs. You might want a little help to provide a little variety of voices or just keep your sanity sort of intact, because you have to try to do all those jobs really well. But it remains that one can learn or at least pick up on all the necessities for doing audio drama all by yourself.
That’s not true with film (it takes a corporation), or theater (it takes a village) or music (it takes a drummer), but for just opening your mouth and saying what you want to say—audio storytelling is for us.
When I came to radio theater (because that’s what it was called back them) I came to it as a writer. I don’t know if I was a very good storyteller, but I wanted to express myself. I wanted to have a conversation, because that’s how most thoughts and then writing came to me—as conversations. I’d think, a guy says to the other guy and some kind of knowledge or joke or emotion is conveyed. Soon conversations turned into skits and full-length plays and even novels. Anything can be done in audio.
But here’s the deal. Audio theater is very hard to do well. I can count on one hand the number of people I know who can consistently produce top-notch well-written, well-acted, well-designed audio drama. Audio theater is so imaginative and the audiences’ imaginations are so limitless, that as an artist/producer you have to be very concise, very focused and very sure of what you are saying, because if you’re not sure what you are talking about you can’t cover it up with high-def images or a cool guitar solo. Working in audio can leave you very exposed. I love that. I love talking about it.
For me, it simply comes down to a very simple question. How do you get a production to sound like you want it to sound like? That’s what this occasional column is going to be about. Talk to you more in a couple weeks.
is a writer, audio producer, director, and reviewer.