Wednesday, November 29, 2006

'Return with Us Now to Those Thrilling ...'

An innovative -- in a retro-sort-of-way -- project was announced today by the American Century Theater in Arlington, Virginia. I like the way it uses modern telecommunications technology (a toll-free teleconference) to emulate old-fashioned radio. Here's the text of the news release I received a few minutes ago:

American Century Theater Performs 365 Days/365 plays
In the Style of Classic Radio Theater via Teleconference on December 18th

In the largest theatrical collaborative effort ever undertaken in the United States, theaters across America are joining creative forces to present Suzan-Lori Parks’ epic 365 Days/365 plays over a 52 week span. But only Arlington’s American Century Theater is audacious enough to present its week of original plays in the style of old-time live radio drama to truly capture the power of the words.

On December 18, at 8:00 PM, DC area audience members will be able to call a toll-free number and connect to a unique theatrical event. They will hear seven original plays Parks wrote for the week of December 18-24, performed by professional actors with live sound effects. They can also connect the broadcast to a speaker phone and invite their friends and family to experience the “theater of the imagination” that made radio drama so effective and memorable.

Suzan-Lori Parks is one of the most celebrated of rising young playwrights, the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for drama for her 2002 play, Top Dog/Underdog. Parks, a MacArthur "genius" award winner, completed a collection of 365 short plays of five to seven minutes a piece, one for each day of the year. Cities, including Washington, D.C., will be presenting the plays in order, with a different theater company taking each week. DC's Studio Theatre is coordinating the project for the Washington area.

“The radio theater format gives us an opportunity to get live theater into the homes of people who may not be able to travel, during a time of year that can be very stressful" explained TACT Artistic Director Jack Marshall. "We are bringing live theater directly into homes. This is free, and both new and nostalgic. All anyone needs is a telephone.”

The troupe of actors performing the plays include Mary McGowan (The Autumn Garden), vocal artist Rick Rohan (A Thousand Clowns) and Marshall. But, the key person in the production is TACT sound designer Keith Bell. He provides the technical skills to make this experimental radio drama happen. "I promise that over the phone the plays will sound just like a studio production," said Marshall.

The 800 number and the PIN Code will be available to anyone wishing to hear the broadcast beginning Monday, December 4, by calling the TACT message line (703-553-8782), or by going to, The entire performance will be approximately forty minutes long.

“Our company is dedicated to presenting great plays and musicals that have been neglected, and now we are presenting a classic form of drama that has been neglected,” says Marshall. “There is nothing like live drama performed over the radio, and this holiday season, that is our gift to the community.”

The American Century Theater is a 501 (c)(3) professional nonprofit theater company dedicated to producing great, important and neglected 20th Century American plays and playwrights. TACT is funded in part by Arlington County through the Cultural Affairs Division of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources and the Arlington Commissioner for the Arts; the Virginia Commissioner for the Arts and numerous foundations and many generous donors.

# # #

No comments: