Cheryl Ann Cluff | Photo credit: Chris Detrick, The Salt Lake Tribune

Cheryl Ann Cluff | Photo credit: Chris Detrick, The Salt Lake Tribune

Cheryl Ann Cluff: Our interest in live radio drama began with RADIO MACBETH in 1996. The live audience listened to the story, presented as a psychological radio drama, in a 1940’s style ‘living room’, complete with a vintage Westinghouse radio. The actors and foley (sound effects artist) performed the show in nearby rooms, concealed from the audience’s view.

We then produced THE PBTC RADIO SHOW in 1998, which included an original adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s THE RATS IN THE WALLS; then THE WAR OF THE WORLDS in 2002, with Mercury Theatre’s original 1930’s script. Both productions were presented before a live ‘studio’ audience, with THE WAR OF THE WORLDS broadcasting live on KRCL.

A few years later, we created Plan-B’s RADIO HOUR, which was broadcast live on KUER’s RadioWest on three consecutive Halloweens as episodes of RadioWest – RADIO POE (2005), THE HITCHHIKER & ZERO HOUR (2006) and LAVENDER & EXILE (2007). These were presented in-studio only, and each included a small studio audience of about 10 people.

We had so much fun in the KUER studio we decided to re-combine the theatre experience with the radio experience. So we moved RADIO HOUR back into the theatre in 2008 and 2009, allowing us to have a true ‘live studio audience’ for the KUER live broadcast on Halloween. In 2005, 2006 and 2007 there was a single live broadcast in the morning which was recorded and re-broadcast that evening. The twist in 2008 and 2009, in addition to being back in the theatre, is that we did two live broadcasts on Halloween!

There are three reasons why I like live radio drama:

1. It engages the audience a little differently than most other forms of theatre; the audience actively participates by creating the visuals on their own, with help of course from the actors’ voices, sound effects and music.

2. Live sound effects. As the director of Plan-B’s RADIO HOUR, I wanted most sound effects performed live just as they did in the old days of radio drama. I would say 95% of the sounds were performed live (with various and sometimes weird objects) in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Then with FRANKENSTEIN and ALICE, every single sound effect was performed live and we added the element of Dave Evanoff’s original music. Going through the process of creating and finding objects to make the necessary sounds was more fun than you can imagine. I must give a shout out to Cory Thorell, who was the live sound effects designer (and sometime foley) during all the years of RADIO HOUR. We banged, shook, dropped, chopped, and rolled all kinds of things in search of the object that would create the perfect sound. It was hilarious. Sometimes we laughed until we cried. One of my early favorites was when Cory twisted a bunch of celery to make the sound of bones being crushed in RADIO POE. It sounded VERY CONVINCING – made us all cringe every time we heard it, much to Cory’s delight.

3. Actors and their character voices. We worked with a bunch of amazing actors (including the late Tony Larimer) who created many distinct and interesting character voices for every RADIO HOUR. Our casts ranged from three to five actors. It always sounded like we had at least 10. All of them were an absolute pleasure to work with.

For me, our journey through live radio drama has been creatively invigorating and completely satisfying. I’m looking forward to hearing all of them again on Halloween!

RADIO HOUR MARATHON airs on KUER FM-90 on Halloween (Sunday, October 31 from 8pm-midnight). Listen in locally at KUER FM90; stream online here or download the iPhone Public Radio app and select Utah and KUER.

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