Convergent Series

learning, using & teaching metal clay, and other aspects of life

Posts Tagged ‘radio theatre’

Hexagonal Eighth!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2018/03/13

Don't Panic Button: yellow on orangeI keep telling myself “Don’t Panic,” as shown in friendly yellow-on-orange letters on the button illustrated here (and in friendly orange letters, below) but I can’t believe how oblivious I recently was. Had I just come back from California sicker than I’d realized? Otherwise, how did I completely miss all the connections until this weekend?!!

I mean, there I was, on March 8 of this year, among other things in a sort of hexagonal phase, nattering on about Kepler and his various hexagons, and I totally missed another connection to them.

OK, so the hexagons were merely a side-comment on a note about planetary motion, but that means I missed connections to both hexagons and intergalactic travel for that very date, March 8, 2018: it was the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!

Even worse than that, I had missed that the BBC was celebrating their anniversary with yet another installment from the HHGTTG’s “canon” (or whatever you want to call the mix of radio, print, TV, film, and video game variations, all of which have things in common but also include huge deviations!)…

To be fair to myself, there’s no reason that exact date should mean anything specific to me: its introduction into the USA was slightly later. I don’t have the exact date of that, but I still distinctly remember the moment that I heard the very first episode: I was driving home from a Gold Circle store (miss that chain!) and just by chance caught it from the very beginning on an NPR station in my car. I mean, how improbable was that?! That drive took under 15 minutes, but I sat it my car in the garage and listened to it through to the end, then ran into the house and started calling friends to ask if they’d heard it. (I would’ve had my first ARPAnet email account by then, so I probably wrote a few colleagues, but what I remember most is calling friends from my kitchen phone.)

One of the Don’t Panic buttons shown with this post came with my copy of the old IBM DOS game. But maybe I should back up a bit: I’m a huge fan but I’m definitely not a complete HHGTTG geek. (Well, those who came to my big HHGTTG Hallowe’en party back in the mid-80s may argue that point, but I know others who’ve gone far deeper into it than I ever have! For example, both the individual button and the game that included the other one shown here were gifts from folks who’d enjoyed that party.) My primary affinity has always been to the radio / audio pieces!

Those of you who’ve only known me since I started down this art jewelry tunnel may have no idea how infinitely improbable my going this direction would have seemed several decades ago. I’ve mentioned here on occasion that my “history” contains work in research on the teaching of mathematics, especially in aspects involving visualization, and how my sense of design has evolved from that rather than from a traditional arts background. And I had taken some metalsmithing classes, ones that I now realize were just terrible, but I didn’t know that at the time and had simply been so massively discouraged by them that I could not imagine continuing in that direction…

But the thing you may not know is how the HHGTTG led me to spend years and more years (nights and weekends, on top of my “day” job) ensconced in windowless rooms involved in an art form with ZERO visualization. Yep, the HHGTTG led me to a side-career in Radio Theatre, with the WYEP Radio Theatre Company!

I joined with the very first production as sound man (sic); within a year I moved on to technical director; eventually I added the roles of producer and occasional acting director too. Our half-hour shows ran on Sunday nights from somewhere in the mid 1980s through around the end of 1992. We produced both single-night shows and multi-week series. The folks at WYEP were incredibly supportive, alternating the airing of purchased shows with our series, thus giving us time to research, rehearse, record, add effects, edit, mix, and finalize our productions, all in our “spare” time!

A couple of older actors (then probably around the age I am now…), ones who had actually worked in radio theatre in the 1940s and 50s, started the group at ‘YEP. This was a few years after the HHGTTG first aired. The first call went out in December (of the month I am sure: I was supposed to be back home in Florida then but, unexpectedly, had been forced to skip that trip over a work deadline, which is the only reason I caught the call) in I think it was 1986 (which sounds right: I first volunteered at ‘YEP in 1976, where I learned and then taught production techniques to new volunteers, but I had to cut back when I started a job I held in 84-85; ‘YEP was off the air for a while then too, part of which involved a move from Cable Place to Chatham). After a year or two, for various reasons, those guys gradually moved on. There was a diehard crew from the beginning that helped keep it going, bringing in various other colleagues both to add range to our company and to help increase our flexibility in scheduling. It ended pretty much when I decided to move to California. (And a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon who taught script-writing for the drama department and provided me with a lot of moral support in addition to the occasional script decided to move to a different part of CA at the same time…) While others would have continued to participate in it, and the friend who helped me with the technical director duties would likely have continued that for at least a while longer, no one stepped up to take on the overall production management that I’d also done.

The whole thing had been a labor of love by a great team of volunteers. I tried, without success, to obtain some major grants to support our efforts. But I did manage to get the station enough money to cover our direct costs (e.g., rights, tape reels, snacks, etc.) and to provide any volunteer who wanted one with a cassette copy of a program on which they’d helped. Yeah, this was back in the dark ages of splicing recording tape with sticky tape, and distributing copies on cassettes!

Later, my reaction at the moment I first heard about Apple’s music download service, was, “If I only had a place to create Radio Theatre now, could this be a way to try to distribute and fund it?” Producing audio theatre was, for years (until I started doing this art-jewelry thing!) my alternative-career fantasy. I don’t have plans now to go into podcast production, but I am delighted that all this is continuing in one form or another. Such fun!

At last, here’s a link to the newest production in the HHGTTG universe, where on March 8, 2018, on BBC Radio 4 they aired Episode 1, titled (note the connection that started this rant…) Hexagonal Phase! It seems to be available without geographic restriction, but only for 30 days from air-date: so if you’re a fellow HHGTTG-fan, do catch it while you can!


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