What ART Stands For

We have a little different mission than other old-time-radio clubs and I'd like to share that with you.

One thing to understand: the hobby of old-time-radio only appeals to a small percentage of the American public. That's the primary reason why radio stations of today don't believe that having OTR on the radio will sell commercials. And only a small percentage, a fraction, of those who like OTR, are interested in watching programs be created or re-created. That's one of the reasons why attendance is so small at the OTR conventions.

And out of the fraction of people who enjoy seeing people recreate shows, there's only a fraction of them who are interested in performing.

In the days when OTR was live, if you were interested in performing, there were places you could go - places you could learn the craft, and places where, if you were talented, and lucky, were able to be employed. Unfortunately, it's a lot harder doing that today. Larry Albert is the shining exception, since he makes his living being involved in radio drama.

And if you're interested in writing radio drama, the opportunities are even scarcer. Imagination Theater has a handful of people that are writing for them, in addition to Jim French. There are a small number of people around the country putting out new radio shows, mostly their own creations.

ART is composed of people who want to do something about those two things. We have two primary aspects that we focus on, and in doing so, are becoming an ensemble of voice-over, radio actors. One aspect focuses on the grand stories that existed on old time radio - stories that are now lost because the recordings of their broadcasts are no longer in existence. They are lost in the veils of time - either not recorded at all, or the transcription disks didn't survive. For example, there is a chapter of ART in Lexington, Kentucky whose mission is to recreate and record the 30 Great Gildersleeve episodes that didn't survive World War II.

The other aspect of ART deals with the writing of new radio scripts. I've been writing my kind of radio script since the year 2000. My scripts tend to deal with a portion of history, and are mostly set in World War II. I like to put facts that I discover into my scripts, so that people can learn something as well as just enjoy audio drama. But where do you go if you are drawn to writing audio scripts? It's not an easy task. Having only the voice to carry all the action imposes some severe restrictions. ART offers an opportunity for authors to hear their scripts. Being an ensemble, the actors share their expertise and suggestions as to improving the script... and some of them become recorded.

In the process of doing those two things - bringing OTR shows back to life, and encouraging new audio drama, ART members become better and better actors. We also invite some of the old time radio actors to be with us, so that we can learn from their body of knowledge. Because we want to continue the craft of audio acting, we compile techniques and "how-to" information to educate others.

In the fall, we put together the ART Radio Studio. This is the time when our veteran ART actors come into town, a time of reunion, the "family" gathering. The local ART actors perform with the veteran professionals while recording shows for ART. These events are open to the public, for a small fee. Our audiences have been small, which allows everyone to mingle with performers. This is not a convention kind of thing. We rehearse the scripts, and then we perform them.

Our first Radio Studio, in 2005, carried with it a piece of magic. I'm going to digress here, and talk about Alonzo's Watch, which had its premiere at that workshop:

Through the magic of the internet, Mike Wheeler was given a collection of letters written by his great-grand-uncle - letters written in 1861 and 1862, when Alfred Wheeler was serving with the Union Army in the Civil War. He showed them to me, and I suggested that they'd make a good radio script. Mike took fire from that idea, and wrote his first radio script. Then he sent it to me. I suggested changes, and sent it back to him. That went on for three months, during which time the script was rehearsed and other changes suggested.

We recorded Alonzo's Watch at Radio Studio 2005, with our OTR guests taking the lead roles in it. Another piece of magic came at the end of the show. One of my contacts while doing the research was a Civil War re-enactor, a bugler. He came in uniform to the performance, and at the end of the show, the sound of Taps could be heard from a hidden room. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. I was worried that the magic we experienced that day wouldn't survive in the recording - but I was wrong. You can hear the magic when you listen to Alonzo's Watch. Alfred Wheeler LIVES again in that play.

We also do a similar workshop in the spring - this year it's June 9-10. Ruth Last will be with us for the first time, from New York City. Last year we had Jimmy Lydon and Jeff David with us, as Jimmy directed us in The Case of the Evil Angel, from Silver Theater.

Outside of those special times, ART meets twice a month, second and fourth Monday evenings, in the Madrona area of Seattle. In addition to that, a small group of ART meets on the first and third Mondays to record Vic and Sade shows from the original scripts. Both of these workshops are open to anyone - you don't have to perform at the mic if you don't want to. Some of our best suggestions for improving the scripts come from people who are "audience" and can listen.

The shows that ART has recorded, after they have had been polished in post production, are sent to OTRNow, for Rick to broadcast on channel 22 of Live365.com and to sell. We also have shows that we put together for REN, the Radio Entertainment Network.

The interesting thing about ART is that only half of us come out of the hobby of OTR - the rest are actors who are drawn to doing voice.

So for the one or two of you in the audience, who is interested in this aspect of the OTR hobby, we'd be pleased to welcome you to one of our workshops. We leave the in-depth discussions about the history of radio, its shows and actors to REPS and other conventions and other clubs. Instead we want to make it live again.

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