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      I Heart Radio By Gabe Hakvaag. Hakvaag is the producer/coordinator of the annual HG Radio Fest.

      My love of radio goes far back, to WOR AM out of New York City, which my parents had on every morning, to my first transistor radio, that I plugged into my ear (one bud back then, mono only) and kept under my pillow so I could listen to broadcasts of comedy albums (Steve Martin’s Get Small was a favorite) after bed time. EG Marshall’s Mystery Theater came on every weeknight at 7:05, and I would sit at my desk, having completed my homework, and listen.

      Radio theater (or, as purists now insist, audio theater) captivated me for many years. And it is a form that has enjoyed a resurgence. I admit, a lot of the interest is tied to nostalgia for shows that later moved to television, or featuring characters we now see in block buster movies. And I certainly enjoy that aspect of it. But for me, at least, there’s more to this type of story-telling that, as a director, I find very gratifying.

      When preparing to mount a stage play, a lot of time is spent thinking about how the play will look. Where is it? What time of day is it? What kind of world does it take place in. All of these questions are part of the visual design of the production. They help tell the story. But what happens when the visual element is removed? How can you tell this story, and answer these questions, without costume, make-up, scenery and lighting design? I have to think about the story I’m telling in a very different way – and make very different discoveries about the story we are telling.

      Taking visuals out of a production also changes how the audience experiences the story. They have to listen more intently. They have to put the audio elements into a new perspective, adding their imagination to the actors’ performance. They have to lean in a bit more, and that effort is very quickly rewarded with a closer, more vivid, experience.

      Theater is not simply reciting lines and wearing costumes. At its core, it is telling a story with an audience, and creating a unique experience together. The story stops being something made up on the page and transforms into an experience we have together. Audio drama is a story form that intensifies that experience, the way whispering into someone’s ear intensifies how that person listens to you.

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