AAA New York has partnered with Transportation Alternatives, the New York Bicycling Coalition, the NYC DOT, and other organizations in a public-education campaign to encourage drivers and cyclists to share the road safely.
I am a member of the AAA and I ride a bicycle every day in Queens– and its getting scary out there. Drivers don’t obey the rules and it’s getting worse. So I thought I’d do my part to help the campaign. I’d write a short-short radio drama on the subject and send it to AAA New York Car&Travel and other magazines.
I’ve written hundreds of educational radio dramas on a great variety of subjectives; from Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to Drug Abuse. Radio drama can teach anything, and entertain as well.
These two hour theatre plays are broadcast by many US stations. I would have no problem at all recommending them. They are of the highest quality. The problem will be slotting a two hour whole in to your programming. A Saturday or Sunday afternoon slot? Or perhaps a late evening broadcast? I would suggest that it has to be played in its entirety because, with this play anyway, there is an intensity that shouldn’t be broken. I thought I I would listen to an hour one evening and the rest the following evening because I didn’t start listening until late in to the night. Well, a stupid thought. I listened to it in one sitting.
I like enormously the concept of this. Live, in front of an audience. It gives an added depth. I felt as though I was also present which was great because, living in Amsterdam, I can so rarely go to an English speaking play. I preferred the dynamics of a live broadcast compared to most radio plays which I believe can lose so much vitality in a recording studio.
Why do I only give four stars? Certainly not for the quality of the production. However, the play itself – excellent but not Harwood’s greatest. Actually, I feel a bit churlish not giving five stars but……….
by Irwin Gonshak for The Sound Palette (Jan. 15, 2007)
In the early 1970s, the NYC Board of Education’s radio station WNYE-FM helped to set up In Touch Networks for the blind and handicapped. We won a grant in 1976 from the NYCouncil for the Humanities to do a radio series called, “Liberation for the Handicapped.” I was the writer and producer for the series, and I wrote an essay called “Making Fun” for the press release on the program “Stereotypes” which included original comments from Neil Simon, Mel Brooks, Sam Levenson, and Maureen Nolan (handicapped Barnard College student). Here is the essay. But first one aside: I used to walk through the crowded Manhattan streets with the late James R. Jones, Executive Director of In Touch, who was completely blind. When alone, he would walk himself with just his stick to guide him. When he was with me, he’d hold my arm and say, “When I have someone to steer me, I always feel like I’m on vacation.”
In the late 1970s I learned that Scholastic wanted to do an audio series on listening skills for the elementary school grades. Since radio drama is my field, I felt I could easily write a simple radio drama–dealing with the skill: following a sequence of events (just a few characters with a strong story line that goes in a straight line from beginning to end). I wrote “Strange Sounds from Outer Space” which Scholastic accepted and which became the prototype for the series. Incidentally, Hamburger Heaven used to be a fast food chain in Manhattan, which I believe no longer is in business… but still lives on in my radio drama. Click here to download PDF version of STRANGE SOUNDS FROM OUTER SPACE
PRX Description: “The Colonial Radio Theatre on the Air has produced six of the OZ books by L. Frank Baum in elaborate radio theatre productions with lush music scores, thousands of sound effects, and a full cast. In THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, Dorothy is carried by cyclone to the land of Oz where the exciting adventure begins.
Based on the book, and not the classic MGM motion picture, the story takes some twist and turns that might surprise listeners who never read the original novel. After 106 years since it first appeared, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ has proven itself many times over, to be a true, timeless classic. “
“Insomnia. The night seems endless. Your mind races with thoughts. After lying in the dark for a few hours, you begin to drift in and out of consciousness. The mind begins to play games as your thoughts bounce this way and that; memories are distorted and rationalized, reality becomes nothing more than strings of associations and tangents. Feelings of insanity slowly set in.
Sydney can not sleep due to impending test results from his doctor. Lying awake in bed, he is plagued with the seemingly endless possibilities of terrible outcomes. Emotional and distraught, he desperately searches for some semblance of meaning in his life. As his inner search deepens, he discovers that the only thing that matters is the one woman he should never have let go. “
“A young married couple from the city, in the midst of relationship troubles, decides to spend a long weekend out in the country. They are city dwellers and are not at all used to the strangeness of the deep woods. Sleepless from the heat and mosquitoes, recent unspoken and delicate issues begin to surface. As their playful dialogue gradually deteriorates into resentment and anger, something out in the woods creeps closer to their cabin. Something unforeseen. Something terrifying.”
by Billy Senese for The Sound Palette (Dec. 11, 2006)
In the beginning…
When producing “Insomnia” and “The Long Weekend”, I began purely from the point of view of a filmmaker. I had never produced anything for radio before, so I really had no other direction but to proceed as though I was making a couple of short films.
I came up with an idea. I wrote some scripts. I cast it, planned it, shot (recorded) it, cut it, produced the sound design, and produced the music.
So what was the difference then?
From a financial standpoint, I didn’t need all that extra crew hanging around. That was kind of nice. I didn’t need a camera or lights – very nice. There were no locations, no set design, no costumes, no makeup – nice, nice, nice, nice. No headaches? Yeah, right. There were still plenty of challenges to be met, especially when it came to the writing and performances.
For instance, in “The Long Weekend”, a married couple is arguing over whether or not they should have a baby. How many unsaid issues in a marriage are communicated simply through body language? How do you show body language in radio? You’re forced to come up with more imaginative solutions (tone, space, a well-placed sigh, silence, music, etc.) What I successfully avoided was using exposition or narration. Albeit, there is nothing wrong with exposition or narration, it’s just not the choice I would’ve made if it were a film script. And that’s the discipline I maintained throughout these plays.
Production Notes -“Insomnia”
The lead actress, Rachael Hofmann, flew in from Washington, DC to record her parts. After she returned home, I discovered that the entire final scene of the piece was missing from the audio source – whoops! It just so happens that the final scene is set entirely over the phone. So I borrowed a friend’s junky 8 bit digital recorder specifically designed to record phone conversations and re-recorded the scene live between my phone in Nashville and hers in DC. The 8 bit natural phone effect was perfect (I could have never duplicated the sound quality I was looking for as well with filters), and the conditions ended up leading to better performances all around. Sometimes you need things to go wrong.
Production Notes – “The Long Weekend”
Creating the monster sounds was by far the hardest challenge to overcome in this piece (I can’t even imagine the difficulties I would have faced with an independent film). Thomas Nola (www.eskimofilms.com) came up with the noises, and I maneuvered them into the piece. We knew we wanted a real monster – not something about which you’d say, “That sounds like a bear” or, “That sounds like this or that.” At the same time, we didn’t want it to be anything silly, alien, or unreal – very difficult to do. After many trials and errors, I believe we pulled it off.
Billy Senese is an independent filmmaker, producer and writer living in Nashville, Tennessee. His feature film debut, “Dark Awakening,” will be released shortly. His work focuses on the darker, hidden aspects of humanity. In the last year he has turned his attention to writing and producing radio dramas.
“Well acted and carefully produced to create a sense of aural-cinema, ‘The Long Weekend’ is a subtle, cumulatively discomforting tale of a couple alone in a country house, plagued by mosquitoes, their own carefully carved secrets, and noises approaching from the dark woods that might turn out to be something much more lethal than simply a metaphor for a shaky marriage.
Creator Billy Senese requests that his plays be listened to ‘late at night, with the lights off and the imagination free to roam.’ He knows that the best theater resides in the space behind our eyes and I’d suggest honoring his request. “