CLEVELAND — With the lights dimmed inside theaters across the country, some Ohio actors are turning the dial back in time and dusting off a forgotten art form.
“It’s kind of like, to go into the future, we went into the past in a way,” said actor Paige Cummings.
During a recording session, three Baldwin Wallace students ranging in age from 19 to 22 brought to life a decades-old script from a somewhat “lost” art form.
“Nope, I’ve never listened to radio dramas,” said actor Cole Tarantowski. “I grew up listening to the radio a lot, and I grew up loving theatre, but this is the first time they’ve ever collided.”
They recorded a piece for the CreakerBox Radio Series for the Radio on the Lake Theatre.
CreakerBoxes are a tool Artistic Director John Watts uses to create the sound effect of a creepy creaking door. He also adds in other sound effects created by hand, one the actors finish recording their parts.
Watts and his wife, Caroline Breder-Watts, founded Radio on the Lake Theatre, inspired by stories from their fathers about the “golden age” of radio before television took over as the primary form of entertainment in the 1950s. Breder-Watts serves as the theatre’s executive director.
The couple’s goal is to expose new generations to this challenging craft that relies solely on sounds.
“Maybe this will help people understand it is a really creative, really cool art form, said Breder-Watts.
“Who would’ve thought that this is a really prominent art form in 2020, but it is now, because it’s one of the only ways that we can hear theatre,” said actor Olivia Billings.
Pre-COVID, the throwback theatre troupe performed its plays in front of a live audience, but because the focus of radio plays is on audio, it made for an easy transition to record the performances for listening on-air or online.
Audiences have been tuning in to radio dramas since the early part of the 20th century, but now you may know them better as something else.
“I listen to a lot of, like, creepy and horror podcasts,” said Billings. “I love that kind of stuff, so I feel like that was a really easy comparison for me to make between the two.”
“I think that we can definitely learn a lot from the past by going back and looking at our art from the past, and how to develop it for the future,” said Cummings.
You can learn more and find full recordings of the group’s radio dramas at radioonthelaketheatre.org.