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Lit Between the Ears, Chapter Two February 1, 2016

Posted by William Spear in Uncategorized.
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LIT BETWEEN THE EARS was created to highlight radio drama and its contemporary offspring, audio theater. The focus produced posts which captured years of efforts and observations.

Without warning, the family of stories told with voices, music, and sound effects received visitor. First, came stage plays with visual elements of storytelling. Then a proposed television series wandered into the surroundings. Most recently, filmmaking has taken residency with surprising results.

In December 2015, a short film, THE THREE FOUNTAINS, was shot, edited, and submitted to festivals in the United States and around the world. The experience with FOUNTAINS validated the process and built skills.

In January, a second film, PETER’S SYNDROME, was started. Pre-production is largely finished and principal shooting is being scheduled.

Throughout writing for stage, television, and film, this publication has been idle. In fact, the decision had been made to abandon the these posts for a vehicle which might better reflect the other forms and formats. After all, what insights could audio theater and its grandparent, radio drama, add to these new endeavors?

As events have unfolded, the experiences of writing for the ear have shaped, and provided a basis, for my visual storytelling. Further, and over the course of completing one short film completed, and having another in progress, plus three plays, and the television series, audio has been given similar billing with visuals. In other words, the quality and extent of what is heard is equal to what is seen.

Before my filmmaking brothers and sisters rise up and edit me from their conversations for such sacrilege, consider these examples:

  • UNBOUND (stage): This contemporary interpretation of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s FRANKENTSTEIN, featuring a female protagonist, uses the sounds of an explosion and screaming crowd to mask the transition between two scenes on a darkened and curtain-raised stage. Later in the play, the high-pitched whining of an electrical generator, augmented by sparks, conveys the torture of the protagonist which is hidden behind a screen.
  • SECRET AGENT DAD (television): The proposed series, mostly comedic and autobiographical, about an inept husband and father who goes to extreme measures to become better at both, uses contemporary popular music to frame each season and individual episodes. One highlight early in the series is when the protagonist senses his actions are producing change, both desired but not yet fully understood. He chooses to celebrate by singing IN THE AIR TONIGHT by Phil Collins in an underground club whose patrons are drinking root beer and milk shakes.
  • PETER’S SYNDROME (film): The film-in-progress, tells the protagonist’s story with sounds which include a ticking pocket watch, heartbeat, helicopter, and machine gun. No dialogue is present; only the sounds which blur and blend Peter’s memories and present senses.

There are other examples but the net result is the same: How might my newly discovered awareness of sound in visual storytelling be woven into the history of radio drama and audio theater? In simpler terms, how might this blog be resurrected? The solution is to maintain its traditional focus on voices, music, and sound effects, collectively referenced as sounds, but reposition it to highlight those elements in stage, television, and film productions.

Welcome to Lit Between the Ears: Chapter Two, a twice monthly publication which chronicles the power of sounds across various media. Try it out. I’d like to hear what you think.


William E. Spear