Radio theater

Quarantine radio theater draws inspiration from the past during pandemic


Professional theater artists have been unemployed since state and local authorities restricted large gatherings to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The continued closure of performance venues also stings people who view theater as a hobby.

Community theater enthusiasts use theater to socialize with friends and stretch their creative muscles. During quarantine, the absence of this plug can sting.

A group of a dozen people who were active in community theater before the coronavirus pandemic found a way to maintain their camaraderie.

As the newly formed Quarantine Radio Theater troupe, amateur theater enthusiasts dusted off the scripts of radio plays from the 1930s and 1940s and produced new versions, complemented by dramatic music and sound effects.

This effort is both nostalgic and a sign of the times. Since they cannot meet in person, they record their lines individually and then mix them into a finished product.

“We just get the satisfaction now that people are listening to it and enjoying it. It’s the only thing we want, have fun, and if people like it, that’s just a bonus, ”said Brant McCance, group president and the man who weaves all the pieces. together on his computer.

McChance spent 17 years building cabinets and counters, and now works for LGP Consulting in Wood River, Illinois. He helps build safety equipment for laboratories – devices that remove and replace caps on test tubes.

He also received a university degree in theater and is the technical director of Alton Little Theater, a long-standing community theater company.

“I like the technical side of things, but like everyone else, I love to play,” said McCance. “It’s just refreshing to be able to get lost in another character, another character.”

Quarantine Radio Theater merged about two months ago. Its members were part of a group that met regularly on video chats, reading plays aloud together instead of collaborating on plays and musicals in person.

Members include two lawyers, a pre-K teacher, an office administrator, and a data analyst and developer. Their first Quarantine Radio Theater production was “Meridian 7-1212,” a 1939 mystery that focuses on telephone operators. Next came “Poltergeist”, a ghost story that was first performed on radio in 1936.

The group also adopted a literary approach, producing a radio adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen. Her next track is an adaptation of “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott.

The process is straightforward. The members of the troupe take turns selecting the scripts and developing the casting. They have a video chat rehearsal, then record their lines on their phones and send them to McCance.

In this time of homeworking and distance learning, proximity to home can make it difficult to access quiet recording locations.

“I recorded a show in my children’s closet. It was very glamorous, ”said Alison Beach, an Air Force lawyer. She got involved with Alton Little Theater when she was posted to Scott Air Force Base for two years. Now, she collaborates remotely with her friends in the theater, from her quarters at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

McCance finds sound effects and music signals online and creates new ones himself. When he needed a trombone sound for “The Fabulous Dr. Tweedy”, he asked his son to play a few bars. The stairs in his house are particularly squeaky, he said, which gives him an ace in the hole for the scariest programs. It usually adds introductory and ending sequences to the main program.

Quarantine Radio Theater publishes its shows on podcasting platforms and on YouTube. It will produce an inaugural season of 10 shows. Members hope to expand the repertoire, inviting people to write new radio plays based on old classics.

“It’s a way to keep the hobby going,” Beach said of the group. “We can reconnect with a good community theater family. Even though we can only talk to each other on digital platforms, it ensures that the creative outlet doesn’t have to stop just because the in-person theater has stopped for a while.

Follow Jérémy on Twitter: @JeremyDGoodwin

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