Jeff Adams' Radio Drama Blog

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Location: International Falls, Minnesota, United States

Saturday, December 03, 2011

This is a test

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Andy Warhol and the future of Audio

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve blogged, but much is happening around here at the moment. But for tonight, I think I’d like to focus on an idea I’ve been kicking around for some time.

As I write this, I’m watching part two of PBS’s documentary on Andy Warhol. Warhol’s genius was tied completely to a time and a context. His paintings, his films, his art need the 60’s to be understood and the 60’s can’t really be understood without the 50’s, and the 50’s without the 40’s and so on. This is how things have been forever. We move forward on a line, each decade or era informing the next. In this way, things – like radio drama – are lost. Next to television, radio looked old and silly. It was left behind. We look back and form opinions on the past, but our opinions are informed by the eras in which we live. In this way, in this way, things left behind truly appear to die.

But, does it need to be that way.

Without a timeline, in a context where everything exists on a plane together, audio can become art again, and not just what grandpa used to listen too. If the audience is free to select our art without prejudice, without a notion that this thing is not ours, just something we’re borrowing from the past, then we can be relevant. And that world is close.

Kids listen to The Beatles and Fat Boy Slim on the same iPod. Old Jimmy Stewart flicks and the latest blockbusters reside on the same NetFlix lists. And technologies are improving things too. No more scratched LPs, fading audio tape, movies that close never to been heard of again or TV shows that skip syndication. It’s all changing to granite. All of performing art is starting to resemble a bookstore with the ancient masters sharing shelf space with the latest bestsellers. This is a very good thing. It means the technologies and techniques we use are not dated, just different. Television did not replace our art, it simply evolved from it.

The sixties were all about tearing down. I wonder now if there is an age ahead of us that is about building up, about putting something back where there has been a hole for a time. There is no ‘Now’ in a world where art from all times can co-exist. This goes for audio, as well as anything. That is why we who tell stories just with sound should have hope.

One man’s thoughts at a late hour.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Call for Submissions: Sound Stages


Sound Stages: an Audio Theater Podcast, has just marked its 70th episode. We’ve been featuring all the best drama, spoken word, aural art, etc that we can find since March of 2005.

As a weekly cast, we need lots of material and are in search of new artists to contribute for this season. If you’d like your work featured on Sound Stages, please write Jeffrey Adams at this address. Write first.


We can’t promise much, but we’ve been averaging 2000 listeners per episode, and we get emails from Europe, South Africa and Australia. This year, we will be working on an advertising program could lead to income for both of us. No promises, but we’ll work on it. For right now, I’m offering exposure with a non-exclusive arrangement.

Again, write to if you’re interested. Or even if you’re not, for that matter.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Shadow Falls Review

One requirement to be an audio dramatist in this place and time is a kind of blind faith in the future. If you’re going to produce audio, you have to believe things will improve for the art form. You have to believe the audience is out there waiting to be discovered like a lost tribe on some remote South Pacific Island, primitive people who still listen to radio drama having heard not of Satellite TV and X-Box. And while much of a producer’s time is spent telling him or her self little lies about how things really aren’t as bleak as they appear, now and then we receive actual boosts from the cruel world out there.

One such boost is the new podcast series ‘Shadow Falls’ from some guys called Podshow L.A. The show is a kind of X-Files or Twin Peaks for audio, and it’s the most professionally produced thing I’ve heard yet created specifically for podcast. The creative mind behind Shadow Falls is Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff. I don’t know anything about him other than what I can infer from the show, which is that he knows his way around audio drama. Acting, script and storyline of Shadow Falls are excellent and accessible to a modern audience. By that I mean that it could be adapted to modern television without much trouble. And I mean that as a compliment.

There’s no private detective voice over, no thin synthesizer music, and no wooden-reads from the minor characters (these being the top three curses of New Time Radio, IMHO). The actors are all professional, the show is loaded with new music, including a dark and hip title single that plays out in its entirety at the end of each episode, and the production values are the best I’ve heard outside of ZBS. Plus, Adam Curry, the patron saint of podcasting, is given an Executive Producer Credit. You can’t get much more connected than that.

I have my problems with Shadow Falls. There are many many characters, and though the director did a fair job of establishing unique voices for each of them, it’s still tough to tell everyone apart. This is particularly challenging given the nature of the story. Shadow Falls, like all broadcast dramas these days, requires fans to follow each and every installment to keep track of the convoluted storyline. It will be interesting to see if Nemcoff can keep all the characters ‘on stage’ often enough for the listeners to keep track of them all. Take all this with a grain of salt,. I’ve never had much time for dramas with large casts. I couldn’t even get past the first Prancing Pony scene in the BBC’s Lord of the Rings.

There are occasional bits and pieces of dialog that smack of ‘First Draft Theater’. At the beginning of Episode Two, for example, our Narrator, the mysterious Molly, gives us a little history lesson of Shadow Falls beginning with French ‘Missionaries’ shooting all Native American’s on sight. In the rest of the scene, the French are referred to as ‘Settlers’ which makes a lot more sense when it comes to the shooting. Missionaries did a lot of damage in the new world, but most of it was unintentional. The point of going on a mission was to reach the natives and turn them into brown Europeans. Tough to do that if you shoot them all on site. That’s the kind of nit-picky error that story conferences are designed to catch.

I had some misgivings about the show’s sound design after episode one, but those were alleviated by episode two. E2 features a far more complex and layered design with music running throughout and much more Foley. This is important because podcasting is changing audio into a headphone medium once and for all. People listen to these shows with ear buds, and that gives us producers the chance to be more detailed and layered in our designs. Episode One of Shadow Falls featured little more than a few drop-in effects like footsteps and door knocks, and the music seemed more traditionally positioned between scenes. Heard on headphones, the overall effect was rather thin and weak. I hope Nemcoff and his crew get even more aggressive in the future, using sharper pans and more ambient sound effects to really create that world in between our ears.

If and when we finally arrive at Mass Audience Land, Shadow Falls is going to be seen as one of the shows that got us there. My hope now is that Mr Nemcoff and company can use the resources they appear to have to further the art form and find ways to engage modern audiences. This is going to take a lot of experimentation and work, and I hope Nemcoff, who is also a screen and TV writer, has enough commitment to audio to stay the course to its end. Yeah, I know. I’m saying this for selfish reasons. But if someone has to blaze the trail, and it isn’t going to be me (as it appears it won’t be) Nemcoff would appear to be a likely candidate.

Shadow Falls is available at

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lowly tech & the end of Live Performance?

Another weekend, another green, blue, electric yellow dollar.

It’s Monday morning, and I’m coming off a busy weekend. The Icebox Radio Theater, my main focus these days, earns a little extra money for itself (and for me) by renting out our sound system for various events around town. Saturday, we mic’d the stage for a Pioneer Picnic event in Littlefork, MN about twenty miles south of here. I live in Koochiching County, Minnesota, which is going to be 100 years old in three years. The county is starting their centennial celebrations a bit early so as to stretch the anniversary out. Anyway, there was a full day of music which is where I came in. Lug the sound system down there, set up in blazing heat (thanks to my friend Gene for a canopy) Work with a series of musicians, mostly amateurs. Things went relatively smooth until late in the show when we had to cut the last two acts short to avoid the thunderstorm that was brewing.

Second job on that Saturday: do a live play.

Tall Bears is a script of mine that the IBRT performed in May inside Backus Auditorium here in the Falls. Live radio. What the hell am I doing in live radio? The problem, well, it’s live, of course. You get one chance to get it right, and of course, you almost never do. Last May we had a technical problem and did not record the show (we record all our shows. The small fan base here likes to bye CD’s) so this was really important to me. The show had its hitches, of course. I myself missed a cue, and the strong winds in advance of the aforementioned thunderstorm blew pages around plenty. The sound effects crew missed one because they were busy getting their pages squared away. And when I finally did get the recording back home, I discovered the first minute of the show was missing. That’s live radio. Fortunately, I had the backup recording going. It’s of lousy quality (Olympus flash recorder. Cheap, convenient, but DAT quality it isn’t) but it will cover that first minute.

This is my fifth live play this year, and I’ve got another at the end of the month. After that, time for a break. Maybe a long break. The problem with small towns is you’ll only get good talent by accident. Mostly, you get people with enthusiasm (at first) but they are only interested in the ‘Community theater’ thing: a few rehearsals, lots of socializing, no real effort to make the play sound good. That’s the ultimate flaw in amateur arts everywhere: there’s no focus on audience. It’s all about creative self-expression. We don’t have community theater because Salem, Oregon has a driving need to see the owner of Lancaster Chevy play Tevia. We have community theater because people want to act. Audience is secondary.

My problem is I have a need for audience. I want people to listen and react. You can’t attain that without making the play sound good. People will wander off otherwise. Next for the IBRT, studio projects.

I think there are inherent limits to live radio theater. Not only is it a one-take situation, there’s a certain flatness that comes from five people lined up in front of SM58’s all set to more-or-less hearing level. If you can control the environment, you can experiment with the performance. Studio work is more than just doing retakes of flubbed lines. It is, I think, where the best art can be done. Live radio may be nothing more than a type of theater, and not audio drama at all.

All for now.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Post CON blog

July 11, 2006

I’m beginning today with a deadline. I have to be somewhere in half an hour, so I can’t go on for very long about anything. I could very easily go on because this is my ‘Post CON blog’ and this entry could easily decay into something maudlin and hard to understand, not to mention long.

‘CON’ in this context (no pun intended) stands for ‘convention’ of the science fiction variety. Every year for the past four, I’ve made my way to a gathering named CONvergence in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington. I started going because this particular con hosts the Mark Time and Ogle Awards for excellence in Sci Fi and Fantasy Audio. That, in a small universe such as ours, is a very big deal. There are precious few rewards in audio theater. And a plaque that says ‘done good’ is a wonderful thing to have. It’s wonderful enough to make you re-think quitting for another year and go back to the mics in search of the one story that will make the world take notice. I have been honored by the Mark Times three times. At that first con in 2003, I got much, much more than a plaque and a t-shirt. I got to breath pure, creative oxygen for a weekend. And I did not know I needed such a boost until I came home. Now, I wouldn’t miss it.

When I go, I stay up too late, visit the two dozen or so party rooms (each one with a different theme) watch tons of free movies, attend two or three panel discussions and generally grove on the vibe of 2,000 people enjoying a weekend they all look forward too every year. My son Stephen (now 16) joined me two years ago. This year my daughter Rachel (12) joined the two of us as well. Next year, I hope, my wife, Diane, will have to come along. She’s a life-long reader of speculative fiction, and she hates being left alone with the cats, so attending the con is a natural.

Now, I am back in my hot little attic (the merc is pushing 90 outside) trying hard to re-learn the geography of my own head. in these first few post-con days. The problem has to do with escape, and our need for it. Well, my need, anyway. Just how much escape can one person take before a breakdown occurs, and he ends up living in his parent’s basement, spending all his time online arguing that Ensign Ro really was a worthwhile character?

So much more to write about, but I am trying to keep these blog entries short. Next time, more about escape as well as: “Art and Life in Conflict” or “The Script can Wait. There’s Laundry to do.”

Friday, June 30, 2006


Radio Theater Producer.

That about says it all, doesn’t it? What the hell is a radio theater producer, other than an anachronism?

My name is Jeff. I’m a Pacific Northwest guy by birth now living in a small town in Minnesota on the US/Canada border. I’m married with two kids, near enough teen agers both. My wife is the public librarian in this little burg, and her job is the reason we upped stakes three years ago and relocated two time zones over from everything we’ve ever known. It was a great move.

Since landing here, I’ve met the manager of a local radio station who not only offered air time for a radio theater, but offered me a part-time job as well. That’s what I do. I work a little DJ gig for ‘The Man’ and use the proceeds to make plays with whatever talent I can find laying around. I’m a writer, producer, actor, sound effects artist and recently, thanks to GarageBand, the guy that does the music. This fascist approach is more out of necessity than lust for power, I assure you.

As a producer, I am slightly schizophrenic. My tendency is to start a theater or radio show, work on it for a time, then move on to another theater or radio show while leaving the first one with a presence on the web. My old shows hang around like grown children asked to move out, but unable or unwilling to do so. I am responsible for: Imagination-X, the Oregon Radio Theater, Stories On, Sound Stages: An Audio Drama Podcast, and The Icebox Radio Theater. I’ll add links to all this stuff later.

For now, I write to say hello. Feel free to ad comment, negative or otherwise. This is my blog. You’re welcome too it.