award-winning audio drama producer shares her experiences of the
first-ever U.S. based festival showcasing audio drama and more.
summer in Kansas City, Mo., the National Audio Theatre Festivals
(NATF) launched HEAR Now: The Audio Fiction and Arts Festival to
celebrate the modern art of audio drama, audiobooks and the many
other forms of “sonic storytelling.”
Voice's” Robin Miles was among the narrators who performed at HEAR Now for AudioFile Magazine's program at the Tivoli Theater.
the audio equivalent of a film festival. You’ve got a bit of it
all: live and scripted solo performances, multi-voiced productions,
classic radio drama, experimental narrative and much more.
four-day festival gave fans, performers and producers the opportunity
to come together and share a variety of program genres and styles
through both live performances and listening. Guest performers such
as Phil Proctor of the Firesign Theater shared stories and performed.
has never been anything like this before in the U.S.,” said
Festival Director Cynthia Allen. “NATF recognizes that with the
Internet, audiobooks and personal listening devices, there are more
people than ever before listening to audio storytelling, so they
decided to launch this new festival to celebrate this unique and
wholly American art form.”
GET IT STARTED
Now kicked off on June 20, a Thursday, with a special listening
session that featured Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere,” which was
completed only weeks before by director Dirk Maggs for BBC Radio.
This high-quality production features an all-star cast that includes
Cumberbatch, James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, Anthony Head and many
more. Special remarks recorded by Gaiman and Maggs were heard just
prior to the playing of the first 90 minutes of the three-hour
program, while the balance of the series was heard throughout the
presented from the world of audio drama included work from producers
like Tom Lopez of ZBS Foundation, the best of the last 15 years of
the Mark Time and Ogle Awards hosted by Great Northern Audio Drama’s
Jerry Stearns and Brian Price, Audie award-winning drama from
SueMedia Productions, new work from FinalRune and many others.
were delighted by the number of works submitted for the first year of
the Festival,” said Allen. “The Festival was able to showcase
award-winning work by established artists, as well as new productions
from emerging artists, in moderated ‘listening’ sessions.”
from all over the U.S. were heard in high-quality theaters, giving
fans the chance to fully experience the work. HEAR Now’s “Podcast
Palooza,” which ran online throughout the festival and until the
end of August, in conjunction with programming from the Atlanta
Fringe Festival in June, gave those who could not attend the
opportunity to be part of the fun.
readings hosted by AudioFile Magazine and Editor Robin Whitten
presented “Golden Voice Narrators” Dion Graham, Katherine
Kellgren, Robin Miles, Barbara Rosenblat and Stefan Rudniki reading
works of the “Jazz Age” and the “American West,” bringing the
art of narration to the HEAR Now Festival.
addition to recorded audio drama and live narration, each night of
the festival featured a live performance at the University of
Missouri Kansas City’s Spencer Theatre.
next evening, June 21, featured “Audio Vaudeville,” where solo
and group performers from around the country came together in a live
show. “Audio Vaudeville” featured storytellers, poetry, sound
art, narrators, fully produced live radio plays and sketch comedy.
The Audience Favorites of the night were New York City’s
VoiceScapes first place win, with an original play called “It
Always Feels Like Monday”; the second place Audience Favorite was a
dark comedy about ‘problems in a nuclear power plant’; and third
place went to a short comedy featuring Barbara Rosenblat and Melinda
Peterson as “best friends forever.”
night saw the local Kansas City Group “Right Between the Ears”
win the overall Festival Favorite trophy with their fast-paced sketch
comedy group featuring guests Phil Proctor and Barbara Rosenblat.
was a great show,” said Allen. “‘Right Between the Ears’ has
been producing live audio programming and shows for public radio for
over 25 years in Kansas City, so it was great to see the hometown
DETECTIVES TO DISCO
Thom of Skywalker Sound hosted a live teleconference session from his
offices just outside of San Francisco that showed how feature-length
animation uses audio drama techniques to begin the production
process. Sennheiser’s “Silent Disco Headphones” were used to
showcase special binaural recordings like “Myst” and “The
Maltese Goddess,” from the ZBS Foundation.
the festival, Kansas City residents got to hear live readings of Mark
Twain on the radio by Audie -winning narrator Robert Fass, as well as
at onsite readings throughout the town, by aspiring voice actors Sue
Bilich, Donna Postal, Diana Dorman, and Mac Chamblin.
ensure a next generation of listeners, more than 30 children were
treated to a special tour of the Kauffman baseball field, where the
book and audiobook “The All-Star Joker” by David A. Kelly takes
place. Children ages 6–8 received copies of the book, as well as
listening CDs courtesy of the author and Random House Listening
Library. Audible also donated downloads of the audiobook for the
children to hear after the tour.
“Roots” of the art form were recognized and celebrated when
long-time radio drama producer Himan Brown (1910–2010) was
posthumously given NATF’s Norman Corwin
Excellence in Audio
for his more than 65 year career, during which he produced more than
30,000 radio programs, including “The
Adventures of the Thin Man,”“CBS
Radio Mystery Theater,”Dick
and numerous daytime soap operas.
special session hosted by his granddaughter, Melina Brown, showcased
a video tribute to Himan, featuring actors Tony Roberts, Patricia
Elliot, Bob Kaliban, Russell Horton and Jada Rowland. Additionally,
Kaliban and Horton were on hand to be part of a panel and share
stories of their many days in the studio working with Himan.
programs, like tours of the University of Missouri Marr Sound
Archives, showcased the early history of recording and sound
archiving. The Marr Sound Archive comprises a range of historic
formats, including LPs, 78s, 45s, cylinders, transcription discs,
instantaneous-cut discs and open-reel tapes that let us listen to
more than 300,000 recordings of jazz, blues, country and popular
music, historic voices and authors reading their own works, vintage
radio programs and more.
Sunday rolled around, “Workshop 101” presented work written and
created onsite throughout the festival by a small group of first-time
audio drama artists.
wants to maintain its educational mission. Being able to offer a
small group an intensive hands-on workshop was an important goal for
the festival and one we plan to grow into multiple smaller workshops
throughout next year’s Festival,” explained Allen
don’t forget the after-parties, hosted by Tantor Media
(audiobooks), Audio Cinema Entertainment and SueMedia Productions,
which gave attendees a place to gather at the end of each day and
toast their many accomplishments.
keep the “party” going, The HEAR Now Festival will be presenting
another Audio Vaudeville type performance as part of the upcoming
Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention, with help from SueMedia
will be an evening of live contemporary audio/radio drama, along with
narrative readings in the spirit of celebrating the art of modern
by Bob Kaliban (CBS Mystery Theater) the show will feature
performances by Audie Award and Golden Voice-winning narrators
Katherine Kellgren, Robin Miles and Barbara Rosenblat, and the
award-winning New York based audio drama troupe VoiceScapes Audio
performance, which will take place on Oct. 18 at 8:30 p.m. at the
Paley Center for Media, is free to anyone with an AES Conference
given the success of the first HEAR Now Festival, NATF is planning
events for the next one, June 19–22, 2014, in Kansas City. For more
information visit www.hearnowfestival.org
or write to email@example.com.
Zizza is the owner of SueMedia Productions, a full service audio
production company. She is an audio producer, director, writer and
sound designer. She also teaches audio arts and sound production at
New York University’s Kanbar Institute for Film and Television at
the Tisch School of the Arts.