Bob Tinsley: Adventures in Audio Drama – 4

Chapter 4
by Bob Tinsley

ShadowLa Cosa Nostra

“This Thing of Ours”, what do we call it?

What we call it affects the public’s perception of it, and perception affects acceptance and popularity.

This HUGE question was mentioned in Fred Greenhalgh and FinalRune Productions’s hangout, The Future of Audio Drama Panel. Everyone interested in audio drama should watch it. In spite of the technical challenges it was very informative and a lot of fun. It should, I hope, be the first in a series. An hour just isn’t enough to cover all the things that an ambitious title like that demands. Thanks, Fred.

But I digress.

Audio Drama. The first thing everyone focuses on when hearing those two words is radio drama. The impression those last two words leaves is: poor production values, awkward writing, bad acting. All that in spite of Suspense, Inner Sanctum, Gunsmoke, Mercury Theatre, etc.

That impression, that PERCEPTION, is helping to keep “This Thing of Ours” in the entertainment ghetto in my humble opinion.

Tell someone you are going to play an audio drama for them. Immediately you see their eyes lose focus; their lips lift in a sneer; they start making excuses (whining!).

But if you can press-gang them into actually listening to an episode of We’re Alive! or The Cleansed or The Leviathan Chronicles or any of the myriad of other quality shows out there, their face lights up, and they say, “Oh. I didn’t know it was like that.”

But if they were out there in the wilds of the interwebs alone and given a choice between “audio drama” or “audiobook” where do you think they would go?

Yeah, me, too.

So, what do we call it?

“Theatre of the Mind” is a good phrase, but does it still carry the same connotation in the mind of Joe Onthestreet that it did in the Golden Age of Radio when it was coined? Not to me. It seems kinda clunky. Too many words.

Theater, though, does have a certain cachet.

One suggestion that came up during the hangout Panel from Claire Eden, producer of Minister of Chance, was “sonic movie”. At first blush, not bad.

What is a movie? Images that move accompanied by meaningful sound, both of which occur outside the spectator (remember that word).

A good audio drama will generate images behind the listener’s eyes while the sound continues outside. The spectator becomes a participant.

“Movie” can work. I think.

But, “sonic movie”? Sounds kinda like a weapon, he said, pulling a sonic blaster out of his pocket.

“Mind movie”? I like that better, even if I did think it up myself (actually it occurred in the Wall Street Journal back in 2010).

But . . .

There’s that “movie” word again with the implication that everything is occurring external to the audience, an audience made up of spectators.

Then there’s “audio theater”. Many actors have said that they love theater because they can hear and/or see the audience reaction, implying that the audience affects their acting. From that I can infer that the theater audience is, in some way, a participant in the performance.

So, maybe, “audio theater” isn’t such a bad choice, audience as participant.

Is that the best name? I don’t know. I do know we need a good, spiffy, sexy name that runs trippingly off the tongue. It could be one of the biggest things we need to pull audio dra. . . erm . . . theater out of the ghetto.