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Three Questions: an interview with … Lucus Keppel, Founder and Producer of Central Audio Theatre January 20, 2007

Posted by William Spear in >> Radio Drama, >> Three Questions: an interview with ....

(By Spear at 1,721) “Three Questions” welcomes Lucus Keppel, the Founder and Producer of Central Audio Theatre from Mount Pleasant, MI. Central Audio Theatre produces 10 audio plays a year from scripts submitted across the country. The cast is drawn from the university and the surrounding community.

Lucus is also one semester away from completing his Master of Arts in Broadcast and Cinematic Arts from Central Michigan University and has recently completed his terminal paper – a guide to the production of Audio Theatre at the college level.

As “Three Questions” goes to press, Central Audio Theatre has recently held auditions in advance of the second half of its season and we thank him for stepping away from his schedule to joins us.


LIT:      Lucus, how is radio drama similar to, and different from, stage, film or television?


LUCUS:            Audio theatre is less like stage theatre, film, and television than it may appear, and deserves its own niche in the entertainment field. In fact, I believe that audio theatre is more akin to the act of reading than it is to stage theatre, film or TV.


LIT:      What do you mean?


LUCUS:            Both reading and audio theatre engage the person being entertained by them – they both require the participation of the audience to a level unknown in the other media. This demand of audience participation actually benefits the story and the audience, because the audience joins in the creative process, creating their own interpretation of what happens in the play in their own way. Film, by contrast, shackles the audience to one particular view of an event, even down to what to look at, when, and for how long.


LIT:      What about stage?


LUCUS:            The stage offers an audience more flexibility in their choice of what to focus on, and invites the audience into suspending their disbelief. Stage theatre is highly symbolic in nature, using visual cues to represent external forces. Audio theatre, on the other hand, can represent reality in startling realism, or take the audience on flights of fancy that resonate within the brain, but cannot truly be visualized.


LIT:      Do you have an example of a piece that “resonates without being visualized?”


LUCUS:            Take Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, for instance. His description of the water being stock-still, but the shore, buildings, and everything on the land waving up and down is a great image mentally, and can be discussed and comprehended, but never truly visualized. Every attempt at showing it that I have seen has failed in one way or another – and that’s just the point. It’s an image that resonates mentally that cannot be duplicated visually.


LIT:      What should radio dramatists and production companies do to reach new listeners?


LUCUS:            Reaching new listeners is a task that seems, at times, hopeless. When I first meet people and tell them about Audio Theatre, very few people get it straight away. Some believe “radio drama” to be dead, and others simply don’t get it. But when I compare it to a book-on-tape, but like a play-on-tape, suddenly, there’s comprehension. And more than comprehension – there’s desire to hear an episode. My age group (20s) is often passed over by current American audio theatre producers because we don’t have the history with Audio Theatre to feel properly nostalgic, but I believe that once they get the concept, the 20-somethings of the world will really embrace the Audio Theatre world.


LIT:      Hold on; are you really saying that the 20-something crowd has interest in the format?


LUCUS:            Our age group has a high capacity for imagination. The key is to aim it at the right people; the theatre crowd, the ipod listeners, etc. That’s a reason we [Central Audio Theatre] run a podcast of the episodes – to grab our tech savvy age group as well as spread our reach beyond the local area.


Therefore, I think that we need to try to do a better job explaining Audio Theatre – perhaps through interviews, personal contact, or wherever we can push it to the press. Resist the urge to wax nostalgic about radio’s past and talk about the future – entertainment that travels with you anywhere, allows you to drive or do household chores without interrupting your concentration, and brings you exciting imaginative stories.


LIT:      What’s the final impact of your recommendations?


LUCUS:            The bottom line? The more we explain Audio Theatre in modern terms, the more likely it is that we’ll get a new listener. And each individual listener will typically bring in more, IF they are entertained. Explain – Entertain – Expand.


LIT:      Staying with your “Explain – Entertain – Expand” position, what is your favorite radio drama and why?


LUCUS:            Choosing a favorite piece of Audio Theatre is tough for me. I’ve enjoyed a huge variety of pieces, and each of them for different reasons. The BBC’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was the first I listened to, so it definitely has a strong place in my heart, but I learned a lot about the art from listening to Focus on the Family’s “Chronicles of Narnia” series. Yes, they’re almost books on tape, but they did a great job of having each actor come to life, and it really blurred the line for me between Audio Theatre and Books-on-Tape. And then there’s “Infidel”, by Crazy Dog Audio Theatre. I am amazed at how good a production it was—the writing grabbed me, and I found echoes of many modern complaints seductively waiting in the apparent chronicle of the Crusades.


LIT:      You’ve identified several pieces, but what about single, favorite story?


LUCUS:            So, since I can’t choose a favorite piece, I’ll say what I look for in a good Audio Theatre piece. It must have a good plot that carries you through the story. The writing should be believable – characters should say words that they might actually say. Nothing is more likely to throw me out of an Audio Theatre piece than dialogue that sounds faked or is simply there for exposition. Production elements need to be solid, too – not every script calls for lots of Foley work, but when it does, the Foley effect needs to be cleanly recorded, and not present a different background (e.g. static/white noise) than the dialogue. I also really like the post-produced sound; I think it adds professionalism without sacrificing character interaction, when it is done correctly. Also, a good audio play sounds unified, each level being consistent without being over-compressed. I strive to put these elements in each episode I produce, though of course, some of them come easier than others.


LIT:      Before you go, how can scripts be sent to Central Audio Theatre and what will happen to it after you leave?


LUCUS:            Central Audio Theatre will continue beyond my term there – while I founded the organization, it has been picked up by the school, and will be produced by graduate assistants through the foreseeable future. As to scripts, they can be e-mailed to CentralAudioTheatre@gmail.com for evaluation and possible production.


LIT:      Lucus, we appreciate your insights and encourage readers to reach you or Central Audio Theatre as follows:

Central Audio Theatre

Web site:






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Three Questions: an interview with … Lance Roger Axt, Founder of Play it by Ear Productions 


All “Three Questions” an interviews


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1. kemi - February 22, 2008

Luv this site a great deal,but please can you expanciate more on the similarities and diferences of a radio and tv drama.

2. kemi - February 22, 2008

Luv this site a great deal,but please can you expanciate more on the similarities and diferences of a radio and tv drama.

3. William Spear - February 22, 2008


In addition to Lucus’ comments, please allow me to offer some thoughts. At the highest levels, radio and tv tell stories. Both media advance story lines and develop characters. Both media engage audiences in an entertaining manner.


1) Radio and tv tell stories differently; radio, and in more contemporary terms, audio, dramatists write actual conflict rather than support conflict presented visually;

2) Radio is more to conducive to one-off and serial live performances than tv;

3) Radio’s use of audiences’ abilities to create visual environments through aural suggestion can present a wider range of more nuanced performances live;

4) Radio, and audio, can effectively develop visual stories;

5) Radio has the capacity for a wider range of actors with varying physical appearances;

6) Radio tends to elevate music into a more direct component of storytelling; and

7) Radio more often uses sound effects to tell stories rather than support stories as in tv.

There are business considerations as well. Radio and audio have lower costs of entry for delivering high quality stories.

From a production standpoint, actors can be at disparate locations, record lines, and be mixed together.

Other views are welcome.

Thanks for asking, Kemi.

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