We live in a time when entertainment is becoming increasingly high-definition and digital, when if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind. But while the way of doing business and consuming media may have changed, performing skills are timeless, and some SAG-AFTRA members are finding a useful way to sharpen their skills by looking back to another era of rapid technological change. Members across the country are reviving the art of the radio play, complete with on-the-fly-sound effects, for live audiences. For performers, radio plays can be a great way to sharpen their talents and expand their range — and many are finding it to be quite a workout.
“It’s the theater of the mind.” — Edith Ivey
Several times a year, audiences are invited to witness the performance of classic radio scripts by voice actors, sound effects artists employing as many manual devices as possible, and, often, a real, live keyboard player. SAG-AFTRA Radio Plays draws in a diversity of talent from members across the media spectrum, including actors, broadcasters and many who have no experience with radio plays.
In 2009, David Westberg founded a radio plays group in Los Angeles. Originally conceived by the Seniors’ Committee of AFTRA as a tribute to AFTRA’s most senior jurisdiction, the group has presented more than 40 recreations of old-time radio scripts before an audience at the Autry Museum of the American West in Griffith Park.
Auditions are open to all members in good standing regardless of experience, age, gender, ethnicity or disability. Rehearsals take place about 20 days before the production and are typically scheduled around the cast’s availability. The show is assembled the day before and the day of performance. There is no pay or contract for participants, as the program is part of the union’s educational department.
To reserve an audition, watch for the SAG-AFTRA Communications Department’s weekly advisory of upcoming events. The announcement of the selected scripts, plus a link to hear the original radio show, dates of auditions and production, and instructions to reserve an audition are all contained in the announcement.
The response from previous cast members has been universally positive and the committee has always enjoyed a sense of pride and accomplishment in providing artists an opportunity to get on their feet and practice their craft in front of a live audience.
Click here to check out a story on the SAG-AFTRA Radio Plays in SAG-AFTRA magazine.