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AUDIO: This Sweaty City: GE Bulova Electric Clock Radio

Last week, we streamed the 1st episode of  This Sweaty City‘s “Dead Man Wakin’ Up” to introduce a three-part guest blog series on behalf of the project’s creators. Here, company member Will Bowling discusses the recent interest in radio by other local theater companies and the different ways people have gone about producing that work. 

SNEAK PEAK: “This Sweaty City” – Episode 2: ‘GE Bulova Electric Clock Radio’: Scene 3:

[This Sweaty City’s protagonist Peter Demeter, a late night radio DJ, visits his childhood home (which happens to be a brothel) in search for his father’s alarm clock radio. As a DJ, radio is his life and he has, well, just smashed his in a fit of anger. He encounters the Sheilas, Madame and his father, all in festive moods even as dark events are taking place in the neighborhood]

Goat In The Road is thrilled to premiere Episode 2, The G.E. Bulova Electric Clock Radio later this month. As we finalize production, we’ve been talking a lot about radio as a storytelling medium — what about it is so effective for us, and who else is having as much fun with it as we are? We’ve noticed we’re not the only artists tackling radio around New Orleans.

This last year has seen several episodes of Thomas Adkins and Ren French’s radio thriller, The Clifton Monroe Chronicles, a 1940’s noir detective story that follows an ace reporter and his sidekick as they pound New Orleans pavement in search of “truth, justice, and a killer headline.”

Produced by The Shawdowbox Theater, the performances are minimally staged: dim light, actors at music stands, most of the sound effects either folied or actor generated. The overall effect is one that transports you back towards an early 20th century living room, as a family might gather around a big old radio to catch the latest episode of The Shadow. It’s exciting work that seeks to re-invigorate a genre, celebrating its quirks and eccentricities.

The Cripple Creek Theater company is currently in production for their entre into the realm of radio drama with a production of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milkwood, as part of their 8th season. Originally written for radio in 1954, this epic work follows the inhabitants of a fictional Welsh fishing village, exploring their dreams, relationships, and private thoughts through poetry and music. Under the leadership of Emilie Whelan and Chris Lane, Cripple Creek recently recorded a version for broadcast in partnership with WRBH Radio for the Blind. A full live production, in collaboration with local sea-shanty sensations the Valpariso Men’s Chorus, is scheduled for December.

Radio in a digital age provides an eager listener with more podcasts that an entire city would be capable of consuming in a year. Sophie Johnson and James Hamilton, seasoned veterans of NOLA’s The New Movement, have expertly tackled this medium with the podcast version of their hit storytelling series, Shipwrecked. The duo, along with audio engineer Kyle Sheehan, take an incredibly intimate live experience and make it even more so, just for your ears. These podcasts are heartbreaking, hilarious, and not to be missed.

So, why are so many of New Orleans best theater artists, producers and standups steering their audiences towards aural experience? Goat In The Road has kicked around a number of possibilities. A strange nostalgia for storytelling mediums many of us never grew up with? Relatively low production overheads, providing maximum entertainment on minimal dollars? Something fun to listen to while you do the dishes?

Sure, maybe all these reasons and more; we can’t say for sure. But we do know why it works for us, and we’d bet it rings true for our many friends and collaborators around the city. Listening is a truly personal and intimate experience.

As many of us live a life surrounded by so many screens, blogs, tv shows, web-series etc., sometimes you just want to close your eyes, listen, and let your mind take up the slack. Radio, podcast — whatever you want to call it — the act of listening requires only one sense, where so many other entertainment mediums require us to bifurcate that attention between aural and visual stimuli. Sometimes, putting on a good pair of headphones and laying down with a nice glass of wine, or even sitting in a dimly lit theater and focusing only on what you can hear; sometimes that is the most pleasurable imaginative experience you can have.

Check back in next Wednesday for Shannon Flaherty’s conversations with collaborators of This Sweaty City and why they choose to live and work in New Orleans.

Goat in the Road Productions is a New Orleans-based performance ensemble dedicated to the production of original and invigorating new works of theater, dance, performance art, and educational programming. Last May, Goat made its foray into the audio world with Episode One of a 12-part performance+podcast series. On November 22 and 23, the group will perform Episode Two at Luthjen’s Dance Hall located on the corner of Marigny and Chartres streets as part of the 2013 New Orleans Fringe Festival.


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