Thursday, November 13, 2014

Willamette Radio Workshop—various venues—Pacific Northwest

Putting On Airs

This group has been active in this area for over thirteen years doing live, staged performances of old radio shows and adaptations of novels and stories, complete with Foley Artists (sound effects people).  The Founder and Leader of the Pack is Sam A. Mowry.  For more information on the company, schedule of shows, et. al., please go to their site at www.radiowork.com

My first exposure to them was a few years back at the UFO Festival that is held every year in McMinnville, OR.  It was a rendition of Orson Welles’s infamous, radio broadcast of H. G. Wells’s classic, War of the Worlds and, although they have done many fine productions since then, this is my favorite to date and seems to be a standard with them, especially at Halloween.

I love the Sci-Fi/Horror genre, especially the 30’s through the 50’s, B&W, B flicks of those eras including Val Lewton’s atmospheric, low-budget films and later, Roger Corman’s, especially the Vincent Price/Poe collaborations.  Also such films as The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Thing, The Blob, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Invaders From Mars and, of course, War of the Worlds.  The latter having already gained fame because of the Halloween broadcast of 1938.

Most of these classics from that era, including War… have been remade since then but none of the remakes are anywhere near as good, in my opinion.  Throwing more money into a production, having bigger stars and technological better special effects does not automatically translate into a better presentation.  Because one thing is missing from them, and what those B films and radio had, is adding and trusting an audience’s imagination to flesh out the environment and emotions.  What a human mind can imagine is going to be more beautiful or more horrifying than any CG effect.

And so we have come full circle, back to books and radio, still probably the purest form of entertainment and, perhaps, enlightenment.  And so we, as viewers/listeners, humbly sit back and relax and let the pros transport us to various vistas of exotic lands and forgotten times.  We leave behind the everyday cares and woes that modern life has imposed on us and allow our creative batteries to be recharged so that once again we can tackle the “slings and arrows” of the everyday world.

Not only is it fascinating to watch the Foley artists at work, recreating many of the sound effects from that era.  The visuals they show on the screen behind them are often drawings/photos from the artists of that time period.  Also, of course, we wouldn’t want to forget the voice actors themselves who play all the various characters.  It is one thing to create a character, when you have all sorts of trappings of costumes and sets to mask a character, but it is something entirely different when you are creating a world out of simply the author words, the actor’s voice and an audience’s imagination.  So, plaudits to this very fine group of individuals!

Their upcoming events include a new partnership with WSUV and the Creative Media and Digital Culture Program, in which they will produce four live radio shows at the Kiggins Theater in Vancouver, WA with support and additional activities provided by the school and the students.  War of the Worlds was the first offering, followed by a Radio Christmas Carol (their Dickensian fund raiser for the Vancouver Food Bank) with a broadcast of Radio Carol scheduled for Christmas eve on OPB at 9pm. January has their Hobbit's Greatest Hits at McMenamin's Kennedy School on the 10th at 3pm. All these shows are free, with donations asked for the Radio Carol show.

Their future shows will include, The Island of Dr. Moreau, adapted by William S. Gregory and a double bill of The Fall of the City and R.U.R. for next summer. Dates are TBA at this point.

Regular members of our company include Chris Porter, Todd Tolces, Cindy McGean, David Ian, Dino de AElfweald, Marc Rose, Phil Rudolph, Linda Goertz, Mary Thomas, Bruce Miles, Erik James, James Dineen, Alyson Ayn Osborn, Scott Jameison, Toni Lima, Patt Blem, Robin Woolman, Sara McCauley, Atticus Welles Mowry, Lindsae Klein, Tim McKinney, Alan King, Renne King, Greg Alexander and, of course, Sam A. Mowry.

I have seen their Flash Gordon, Journey to the Center of the Earth, et. al. and I have enjoyed every one of them.  Also I have worked with a couple of the actors in their company on the stage, Tim and Alyson, and I can tell you from personal experience, they are some of the best.  I saw the clip below from The Island of Dr. Moreau and it appears to be their most ambitious endeavor.  Both the Lancaster and Brando films of this subject are pretty awful, only the Laughton version from the thirties having some merit.  Also R.U.R is an old stage play from, I believe, the thirties, in which the word robot was first widely used.  I’m looking forward to both those productions.  A final suggestion from me, would be to do a radio theatre of James Hilton’s wonderful, The Lost Horizon of Shangra-La (of course they may have already done that at some point and I simply missed it).


There are several excerpts of his company on their web. But here are some . . 

Audio
www.radiowork.com

Video
http://youtu.be/Bt_5XkXgVIw

And some clips from the Columbian here: