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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Wednesday (3/8/17) 2:08pm - ... wherein Peter posts an old radio-serial episode.

Executive Summary:
I finally finished off an old radio-serial episode I made with some improv friends. You can listen to it on soundcloud.

Longer version:
Way way back in 2012 (!), I participated in "Radio City Austin", one of the first productions from the Brand New Theatre Company. It was a devised radio serial -- performers would improvise material, and that would be used to generate a scripted radio serial to be distributed online.

We had a set of rehearsals -- basically directed improv -- and then a subset of us slowly hammered out scripts. And then the production ran into delays, and more delays, and even more delays. I don't know what the issues were, but as far as I know, the production was never completed, and the BNTC itself dissolved not long afterwards.

But at the time, it got me thinking: this would be a neat thing to try with folks from the AIC.

Backing up a bit: only a few of the performers in the Radio City Austin cast were trained improvisors -- I think just me, Heiberg, and Lindsey Reeves. The rest were very good actors, but they ran into the problems one often sees with actors trying improv for the first time -- VERY DRAMATIC EMOTIONS hamstrung by an inability to accept offers, or build on them, or let their characters lose.

It was rough going.

Why not try the same thing -- a devised radio serial -- with some improv friends?

So, at the end of April 2012, I invited four friends -- Lauren Buck (then Zinn), Eric Heiberg, Marc Majcher, and Audrey Sansom -- to do a similar project. We'd do a character-generating rehearsal, we'd try a plot-building rehearsal, and then we'd cobble together a little 10-minute script and record it.

That started out smoothly. We did a few rehearsals in May, and we started homing in on a story. Then everybody got very busy, and the rehearsal schedule kind of evaporated on us, but we had enough material in the can for me to write out a ten-minute serial episode.

Then we met up with Scott Hearne, producer of the Theft Forum, and he got us all sitting around a mic at the end of October 2012. We read the script and recorded it. So: I wound up with one audio file of the production. No scoring or sound effects, but I had the dialog.

And then... nothing.

I'm sure there were a number of reasons I completely dropped the ball on this, but I'm betting one of the main ones was that I had recorded the actors all wrong. Specifically, I had them all on one mic in a living room. This meant that there was a lot of room tone, plus you could hear a lot of the room in the recording. Typically you want more of a pure, 'dead' recording, unadulterated voices, so you can add effects to put that voice in whatever space you like.

Worst of all, the 'everybody on one track' thing meant that I had very little freedom as an editor -- I couldn't switch between alternate takes (because there weren't any), and it was hell to make adjustments to an individual voice. If actors ever talked each another (and they did), it was basically impossible. So if (say) one actor was louder than another, I was stuck with those uneven levels. (And that happened, of course, because differnet actors were at different distances from the mic.)

All of this is to say, I just didn't do anything with the project for two years.

Then in January 2015, we started recording Tales from the Black Vault, our Lovecraft-audiodrama podcast. And doing that reminded me that we could go back and finish work on the old devised serial. Lindsey and I went over the old audio and determined: nope. We needed to re-record everything. Specifically, we needed to re-record each actor *separately*, using a single, really good mic, and then piece everything together afterwards.

A problem: Heiberg had moved out of town.

So things didn't move forward on that until February 2016, when Heiberg came to Austin to visit. I secretly nabbed an hour or two of his time, set up a mini-recording-booth in my living room (following Lindsey's patient instructions), and got all of his audio down. Then I got eaten by directing Fiasco -- *but*, then when that wound down, in late June/early July, I got the other three actors to drop by my place and record the rest of the audio.

Then I spent a long, long time teaching myself enough about audio editing to piece together the entire thing. Every day, I'd put in a little bit of time towards it. Finally, I ran the whole thing by Lindsey, and she cleaned up some of my n00b-editor mistakes, and... ta-da! Here we are.

I find it hilarious that it's taken me literally five years to get a ten-minute piece of audio turned around, but I feel good that I was dogged enough to get it finished. And the piece itself is fun. Go us!

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Mood: [mood icon] accomplished · Music: none
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