Writer/producer Craig Wichman and writer/director Jay Stern come from backgrounds in television, film, and stage (Craig stars in an indie movie directed by Jay, The Changeling). In fact, they feel that independent audio theater has a lot to do with indie movies. That is, technology has opened up the door for a huge amount of new work, but not everyone with a mic in their hands is a great artist. Crudely quoting Craig, “You can’t just record a movie over the weekend and post it on YouTube and be a filmmaker. It’s the same thing with audio theater. You need a good script, trained actors and a director who knows what he’s doing.”
Craig and Jay chat about the process of choosing a script to run with and the long process of writing and revising, where they work as a team bouncing ideas off of each other and making edits. Their choice of stories tends to lay towards classics — The Merchant of Venice, Frankenstein, The Speckled Band and other Holmes stories — though they stressed that they focus on taking the classic story and bringing it to life for a modern audience (Good Friday, 1865, incidentally, was an original). “Sometimes you’ll get an actor, and as soon as they see a Shakespeare script, they’ll [begin Shakespeare voice] talk in their Shakespeare voice [/end Shakespeare voice]. We don’t want that,” Jay said, “We want timelessness.”
Indeed. In the hands of other, less passionate writers, the story of Lincoln’s last moments could’ve been a stale, plodding historical narrative. Instead, it is told almost exclusively without narration, by a startling cast, and transports us to a living, breathing history, not a cold mausoleum. Even with the inescapable ending, we ride along the story with breathless anticipation.
As far as audio drama’s future? They hope that more outlets for this work will boost its popularity, especially as those who might not be intentional listeners may become converts if they hear it. While they felt it’s a “sin” that there’s no radio drama being sponsored on a national level by National Public Radio (where do we even begin with that one?) there is hope in podcasts, small community stations, and the growing audiobook crowd.
I look forward to their future efforts, which may be a comedy! Whatever story they choose with access to a great pool of talent, excellent production capability, and a true sense of the capabilities of audio, I’m sure their work will continue to delight the imagination.
Radio Drama Revival! Episode 6