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Three Questions: an interview with . . . Frederick Greenhalgh March 20, 2007

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Frederick Greenhalgh is Writer, Director, and Producer for FinalRune Productions. Although he describes himself as a “newcomer to radio drama”, he has a longstanding interest stories from many media.

In a short span of time, he’s founded FinalRune, launched a weekly radio show titled Radio Drama Revival! on Thursdays, and is podcasting as well.

We interviewed him from his studios in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

. . .

LIT: So what drew you into radio drama?

FREDERICK: My first experiment with turning one of my stories to audio was with “Day of the Dead,” a modern retelling of the Orpheus myth about a young man who heads to New Orleans in search of his missing lover.  The form allowed me to “show, not tell” in a way that I felt surpassed the written page, and have been passionately producing my stories for audio since then.

LIT: How does radio drama allow you to “show, not tell” in ways which are similar to, and different from, stage, film or television?

FREDERICK: Well, they all tell stories — it’s just the tools in the box that are different.  On stage and film you have the visual component to work with. In theater, you have the power of living people right in front of you, and in film you have brutally intimate shots of the actors.  In radio drama, you’re down to the words alone.

Also, stage and film are what I call “shared” media — you sit through a play in a large theater or watch a movie in a busy Cineplex or home with your friends.

LIT: What’s the contrast?

FREDERICK: In radio drama it’s a direct relationship between you and the story.  In this regard, radio drama has more in common with the novel than anything else.

LIT: How does that impact you?

FREDERICK: As a writer, I find the form compelling because it forces me to write a better story. While you can prop up a poor story with flashy effects (acting, CGI, luminous prose) in most other media, in radio drama you have no such luxury.  Production value obviously adds a lot to the radio drama’s power, but I don’t think it alone is enough to save a script with holes in it.

Radio drama also has the opportunity to enter our modern lives in ways that the other media do not.  You can’t (shouldn’t) watch a movie while you’re driving, and you can listen to a great radio play from the comfort of your home. With fewer people finding time to read, and Hollywood churning out more chaff than ever before, the opportunity is ripe for the radio drama.

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

FREDERICK: Radio drama has a curse in names.  In the modern era, the “radio” part of radio drama is pretty much obsolete, and the names that have flooded to replace it — audio theater, audio drama, audio movies — all come a little short, in my opinion.

LIT: In case you couldn’t tell, we’re pretty much stuck on “radio drama”.

FREDERICK: I’ve started using the term “audio fiction,” if only because it markets my work as literary in nature and not belonging to some medium you’ve never heard of.  All of my plays so far have been adapted from short stories, and it’s from the ranks of literature where I think we’ll find a revival in this art form.

It boggles my mind that the Audiobook industry is reasonably successful while radio dramatists struggle to even get an audience. 

LIT: But look at the sales of the books and authors being adapted for Audiobooks. The comfort of buying something you’ve already experienced elsewhere has to be part of the medium’s success.

FREDERICK: I think another problem is a lack of understanding of the medium — most people haven’t heard any radio drama (or maybe know about “War of the Worlds,” Amos & Andy, etc. of old) and have no idea that this kind of work is being produced today.  There’s no “Radio Drama” section to be found in your major bookstore, and frankly, very few of the works being produced are comparable to the standards in the publishing industry.

LIT: You’re setting the bar pretty high.

FREDERICK: I think the trick will be in producing stories that lure people into trying something they never expected, and then keeping them there because it’s good enough to deserve their ear.  Of course, there’s a lot of economics involved, but I think if a few big-name writers’ work was done to a professional standard, the industry would find out that many people will listen to a superb 2-5 hour play who wouldn’t listen to an 18 hour audiobook.  Maybe even more than will go see the lifeless movie for $8 too much.

LIT: Do you see any examples from other media which might serve as a model for radio drama?

FREDERICK: With the success of HBO, Showtime and other premium cable programming, I grow heartened that there are people in America who like cutting edge, gripping stories that speak deeper than the cup size of the lead.  Radio drama happens to be a convenient medium that you can listen to in your car, at the gym, while cooking dinner, while drifting to sleep …  We just need to get the stories out there.

LIT: Do you have a favorite piece of radio drama?

FREDERICK: Of the classic era – The Hitchhiker.  I recently went to see the movie “The Hitcher” thinking it was a remake and was sorely disappointed.  This play, while being extremely simple (very few scenes, limited effects, pretty much just Orson Welles’ voice) is a real unsettling piece of suspense that disturbs you without having to spill a drop of blood.

LIT: How about from the contemporary era?

FREDERICK: I really admire Great Northern Audio Theater’s work and have listened to a bunch of their CDs and an adaptation of a Joseph R. Lansdale story “God of the Razor” where Brian Price directed and did sound design (a good example of a modern short story adapted for audio). The story “Martian Trombone” is a roaring satire on radio drama, the music industry, Area 51, everything.  Terrifically funny with a self-conscious sound design that twists all the genre conventions around their own throats. Another favorite is “High Moon,” a comedy-fantasy-western that delightfully bends the rules.

There’s a whole lot more out there, and I discover new stuff every day, especially from the ranks of the podcasting world.  Even the stories that don’t soar to excellence often have a whole lot of vigor behind them, and I love how so many diverse voices are able to reach an audience through the tools of the web.  Mainstream acceptance may be a long ways off, but the niche audience is excellently served with the amount of work out there.

. . .

In closing, Frederick shared that FinalRune Productions (http://www.finalrune.com/) brings unconventional and compelling stories to modern audiences through the medium of audio fiction. He is looking to collaborate with other writers to build a more active repertoire and to push at the boundaries of what is possible with the medium.  Along with a modern myth, a horror story, and a literary short story, new to FinalRune’s portfolio is comedy, fantasy, romance and a twisted tragicomedy of a man trapped on an island where no one seems to leave.

Frederick’s radio show, Radio Drama Revival!, airs Thursdays from 1:00 – 1:30 PM EST on on Portland, Maine’s community radio station WMPG (http://www.wmpg.org/).  Podcasts, additional news, reviews, and discussion of the medium are available at http://www.radiodramarevival.com/ .

As Frederick said, “My ambition with this new show is to attract new listeners to radio drama, sate the cravings of the true audio addicts, and to showcase the diversity and quality of the modern scene.”

Details:

Frederick Greenhalgh
Writer, Director, and Producer
FinalRune Productions
P.O. Box 437
Old Orchard Beach, ME 04064
(207) 650-6198
fred@finalrune.com
http://www.finalrune.com/

Radio Drama Revival!
Thursdays from 1:00 – 1:30 PM EST
WMPG
Portland, Maine
http://www.wmpg.org/

Podcasts
http://www.radiodramarevival.com/

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Comments»

1. Jens Hewerer - March 20, 2007

There is the wonderful German word for radio drama/audio theater “Hoerspiel”. I believe it sounds good in English, but you can’t just push onto people. Too bad!

2. Frederick - March 20, 2007

Just wanted to thank you again for giving me the opportunity to chat about my work! It’s always a pleasure to discuss my favorite art form and try to figure out where thing are going.

I should note that while Brian Price of Great Northern Audio Theater directed “God of the Razor,” that it’s an AM/FM Theater Production from “The Grist Mill” — I realize my phrasing didn’t necessarily make that clear. Scott Hickey from AM/FM was graciously my first guest on Radio Drama Revival! and I’ll be featuring Great Northern’s “Dialogue with Martian Trombone” (which is a great self-reflective ‘radio drama’ piece) next week.
(This week is my first live performance to celebrate the “Begathon” fundraiser at the station — worth checking out, too!)

Thanks again!

Fred

3. Radio Drama Revival! - March 21, 2007

Interview with me at Lit Between the Ears Blog

I’ve grown a big fan of the Lit Between the Ears blog written by William Spear of Two Plus Plus Productions. He continually has a high level of discussion about audio work, both the ars poetica and the cultural/economic/political climate that af…

4. FinalRune: Debut Live Drama Today, Thursday 22 March, at 1:00 PM on WPMG « Lit Between the Ears - March 22, 2007

[…] Three Questions: an interview with . . . Frederick Greenhalgh Lit Between the Ears – Celebrating the Power and People of Radoio Drama https://twoplusplus.wordpress.com/2007/03/20/three-questions-an-interview-with-frederick-greenhalgh/ […]


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