SALT LAKE CITY — Plan-B Theatre Company and KUER’s RadioWest are joining forces for the ninth time this season for Radio Hour Episode 9: Grimm, a unique performance experience for both live audience and listeners to the live broadcast. RadioWest host and commentator Doug Fabrizio is known for his the quality of his journalism and his thoughtful interview style. Plan-B and RadioWest might seem like an unlikely partnership, but it has proven to be both successful and a coveted yearly event for audiences. Here Fabrizio discusses his working relationship with Plan-B and why he thinks radio drama still works.
UTBA: First, what got you into radio? Why radio over other outlets?
Fabrizio: I was drawn to radio for the same kinds of reasons I was drawn to theatre: vanity and exhibitionism. Plus, it gave me a chance to write something I could also perform. I’m a sucker for radio because it’s such an intimate medium.
UTBA: How did the partnership between KUER and Plan-B happen? How would you describe it?
Fabrizio: It all started with Jerry Rapier and Cheryl Cluff. They did a staged adaptation of H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds (the same one that scared the hell out of America in 1938), and I loved it. Somehow I managed to convince them to let us be a part of it. It’s a terrific relationship because those guys are smart and professional and frankly they do most of the work.
UTBA: You’ve been a contributor to several productions with Plan-B in addition to the RADIO HOURS including the Script In Hand series of readings and annual events like SLAM! What has been your favorite experience and why?
Fabrizio: Hard to say the favorite. I loved playing Sherlock. But Dr. Frankenstein is right up there because it was such an intense character. And I never knew if I was going to completely pass out while screaming, “IT LIVES!!” I need better breath control.
UTBA: What is it about radio drama that works for you? Why do you think theatre-on-the-radio still has appeal?
Fabrizio: Radio drama works for the same reasons all radio works; it allows you to use your imagination to fill in the blanks and that makes it a more powerful experience. There may be some nostalgia that makes radio drama appealing, but that wears off pretty quickly. It only works if all the elements come together: writing, effects, music, and of course the performances.
UTBA: 6 years ago, I brought a group of my high school theatre students to see the live performance of Frankenstein. For many of them, it was the first play they’d ever seen and the intensity and intimacy of the production proved to be a great introduction to the larger world of theatre. Would you agree there is a deeper audience-performer connection with live radio drama? Do you think about that kind of impact when performing in front of a live audience in the theatre?
Fabrizio: All actors will tell you an audience has a powerful effect on a performance. What’s unique about watching a live radio production is that the audience is in on the masquerade. They can see the microphones and sound effects and it makes them feel part of the spectacle in a different way. I think that heightens the connection.
UTBA: What do you think is the main challenge of a Radio Hour production?
Fabrizio: It’s got to be bringing it in on time. Each performance is different and you’re never entirely sure if you’ve cut enough, or too much. But, hey, that’s the beauty of live radio.
UTBA: If you could pick the next Radio Hour adaptation what would it be and why?
Fabrizio: Matthew Ivan Bennett is amazing at adapting different forms. I’d like to see him turn a reality TV show or a cable cooking competition into a three-act radio play. He could do it.
That admiration is reciprocated by Plan-B’s resident playwright and Radio Hour veteran Matthew Ivan Bennett, whose Grimm is the fifth Radio Hour that he has penned). I asked him to share why he thought Fabrizio and Plan-B work so well he had this to say:
“Doug is my champion. Radio Hour would not go on without his enthusiasm and support. It’s been obvious, over the years, that our audiences overlap because I haven’t met a Plan-B regular who doesn’t listen to RadioWest. I’ve been tuning in a lately when I’m running errands, and podcast at home, because we’ve been toying with the idea of a Radio Hour that actually mimics his interview/call-in style. And I’m a frequent listener because I fully expect a play to be born someday out of his topics and guests. And he’s been perfect for the parts I’ve written. I want us to produce Frankenstein again so I can hear him read the words ‘vivisected toad.’”
Bennett also had this to say about the success of the Radio Hour collaboration:
“I love radio theatre for myriad reasons—the forefront reason being that it’s spatially boundless. I don’t go in much for screenwriting. For me the language’s the thing. Radio theatre satisfies my urge to spin language and to set a story in castles and bogs and dwarven cottages. I hope for many more collaborations with Doug.”