As the economy flattens and the cost of producing live dramatic works goes through the roof, the recent proliferation of “radio plays” makes sense. It’s much simpler, not to mention more cost-effective, to produce a dramatic presentation that doesn’t require sets, costumes, or elaborate lights. While producing them might be relatively inexpensive, the worth of radio plays goes beyond their ease of staging. Because of their conventions — among them amplified voices, live sound effects, and an interesting kind of direct address delivery — they appeal to an audience’s imagination in ways that more traditional dramatic presentations often don’t.
This set of 10 original plays is being produced by Austin Script Works, which, for those unfamiliar with it, is a support organization for playwrights that boasts an impressive 100 members. Each year ASW sponsors the Out of Ink series, in which members are given 48 hours to write a short play incorporating three elements. This year the three elements were: crickets; a countdown; and the fictional town of Piscacadawadaquoddy-woggin, Maine. One more element: It had to be a five-minute radio play.
The selected results, perhaps not surprisingly, fall into three basic categories:
- traditional narrative stories, of which I particularly enjoyed “A Quiet Night” by Priscilla Sample, in which two men attempt to capture the “cricket conductor” and thus control the cricket cacophony;
- surreal/impressionistic stories; and
- stories that combine the narrative with the surreal.
The last were most successful, especially “Waiting Isn’t Merely Empty Hoping,” by Katherine Catmull, which combined an amusing story about two people waiting for a table in a strange and busy restaurant with a truly impressive soundscape. Sound was, in fact, the most impressive aspect of the evening, both the sounds of voices and the sounds of sounds, which is entirely appropriate for plays that depend so heavily on the aural for their stories. — Barry Pineo
Tickets are $10. All performances take place at the Blue Theater, 916 Springdale (map).
Wednesday 1/18 @ 9:15pm
Saturday 1/21 @ 6:30pm
Saturday 1/28 @ 1:45pm
Sunday 1/29 @ 8:00pm
This Out of Ink production is a part of the FronteraFest Long Fringe festival. For reservations, call 512-479-PLAY (7529).