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Location: International Falls, Minnesota, United States

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.

3 Comments:

Blogger B. Utter said...

" We don’t have community theater because Salem, Oregon has a driving need to see the owner of Lancaster Chevy play Tevia."

Y'know, I'm finding that my favorite people are also often the most quotable.

Contemplating winding down the end of live radio drama, huh? But the spectacle, Jeff, the SPECTACLE!

Nice of Gene to help you out with a canopy. I hope you washed his shorts before returning them.

9:34 PM  
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