SALT LAKE CITY — Although radio theatre is a performance art form that is less common today than it used to be, Utah has always had these shows available to audiences every year. While most of these are performed solely for the stage, (like Mortal Fools’s Dracula), Plan-B Theatre has partnered with local NPR affiliate KUER 90.1 to bring their original radio plays (from Utah playwrights) to the airwaves.
This season, dubbed “the Season of Eric” is no different, and as the holidays approach, the company is working on a new piece, Fairyana, to bring the ears of Utahns. In preparation for the show next Tuesday, I had the chance to sit down production musician David Evanoff and ask him about his process in creating an aurally rich environment needed for radio.
UTBA: What’s your process in creating or finding music for these shows? How involved is the director in the selection?
Evanoff: In the past I have created entire scores for the Plan-B Radio Hours: solid music from beginning to end of the radio drama. This year Eric was very specific with his musical needs. No complete score. He only wanted a few moments of music, specifically a film noir/Christmas sound to transition the major scenes, and a theme song for the children’s TV show that is at the core of this radio play. My process will be to ad lib some crazy saxophone sounding music on the scene changes with my iPhone. The theme song I have actually written, its something that could be on a terrible kids show and it will be played live by me on a couple of keyboards.
UTBA: What type of music can we expect from your upcoming production. I know it’s holiday themed, so does that mean it will be more traditional?
Evanoff: The above answer pretty much covers it. The Christmas feel will be there, but very skewed toward a funny film noir style.
UTBA: How is working sound for a radio play different than other pieces? Are there special requirements or needs that you have to fulfill?
Evanoff: As the radio play is live, the music must be as well. It can change from night to night. Some times musical cues can be longer or shorter depending on how the actors attack a scene.
UTBA: As I understand it, you also have a man running foley for the production. Do you assist in that aspect in any way?
Evanoff: This year I will aid the Foley artist in that I’ll be playing some of the sound effect from my keyboards. Footsteps, and other sounds will come from me.
UTBA: What’s your favorite part of working on these radio pieces?
Evanoff: The collaboration with the playwright, the Plan-B team and the actors.
UTBA: Since you a play live, have you had any mishaps or surprises during a performance in the past?
Evanoff: No mishaps, but once during Radio Hour Frankenstein we finished very early. I had to ad-lib several minuets of live “scary” music to fill the end of the radio show. That was fun as I had never planned to play solo for that length of time. I had a good 2-minute solo on live radio!
Readers who haven’t heard or seen a radio drama should know that these performances are unique and should not be missed. These pieces are a completely different experience from most entertainment offerings in Utah, and are a great way to understand how important sound is in understanding every aspect of modern.