Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Radio Drama Indeed!

While listening to my podcasts over lunch, somebody mentioned the word "radio”.  It’s an interesting time for that word.  How long will radio as we know it continue to function, in a world of downloading and streaming content?  Already you can see that many radio station DJs have been removed, replaced by automated playlists.

My parents are from the generation where you were lucky (and rich) if you had a television.  Radio was your entertainment.  My dad will still seek out and listen to the “old time radio” shows where you gathered around the radio at a specific time on a specific day to listen to content you couldn’t get anywhere else.  Content only for your ears, and your imagination.

Which brings me to my question.  It’s often said that Shakespeare’s fans would not have gone to “see” a play, as we might say today – they went to “hear” the play.  So what if Shakespeare was a radio drama?  Would it work? Imagine hearing just the first act (or maybe just some scenes) from Macbeth.  And then being told to tune in next week.  What would your imagination do with that?

There’s really two parts to this question, feel free to answer either one.  The first is could it have worked back then, just like any other radio drama?  I’m half expecting that somebody can tell me a story of when this was, in fact, tried, and what the results were.  The second half is, could it work today?  If you found out right now that tomorrow night at 8pm, a local radio station was going to start broadcasting your favorite Shakespeare play, would you make time to listen?

Rules:

* You don’t get to know anything about the production that would help you visualize it in any specific way.  The entire effect is ruined if the radio show is just an audio broadcast of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 1999 performance of so and so.  This has to be all about your attention span, your ears, and your imagination.

* You don’t get any recording equipment.  You can’t say “I’d Tivo it and then listen later, at my leisure, with the ability to go back and play certain parts over to analyze them.”  This being a live performance is part of the question.  You’re going to only get one shot, you’d better pay attention.

I deliberately put in rule #2 because I think that without that, even for me, the answer is fairly obvious – tape it and listen later.  It’s hard for us now to *not* think of it that way.  But that’s part of the fun.

3 comments:

csg said...

It's an interesting question. There's a company here in DC called Lean and Hungry Theatre (http://www.leanandhungrytheater.com/) that has done "radio Shakespeare" a few times. I have not attended a live recording myself, but they've done fairly well, and the program appears to be popular.

If it were broadcast with the right actors, I think a radio Shakespeare would be worth tuning in to.

JM said...

Check out these: 1936-1946 from radio broadcasts and 78 records.

http://www.archive.org/details/Orson_Welles_Shakespeare_Collection

Weez said...

Assuming no prior commitments, I would TOTALLY sit down to listen to regular installments of Shakespeare plays. Even with modern recording technology, I've sat down at the appointed time for radio drama and loved it, so it's not even a hypothetical for me. I love a good radio drama, and Shakespeare has a LOT of helpful dialogue - "here comes your father", "now I die", that sort of thing - that makes him splendidly conducive to just listening. :)