Live radio dramas are a rare treat in present-day Utah. Earlier this year aural senses were in high gear inside the Hansen Dome at the Clark Planetarium.
SLCC Preforming Arts Department professor Jon Clark and SLCC student Tamara Brune-Wharton along with Utah’s own Salt City Radio Players packed the house with their old-time radio show “The Martian Chronicles” and “Mars is Heaven” by Ray Bradbury.
Now that Sundance is over and spring semester is quickly approaching midterm, there are talks of a new radio drama and sound design course be offered at SLCC later this year.
“I came here as part of my plan to learn streaming video testimony for victims working with the court system. After taking some film courses I became fascinated with production and sound,” says Brune-Wharton, who also served as Foley artist for the productions. “Taking classes here at SLCC and working in sound, I realized that I have a love for old time radio.”
George Lucas, known for making “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” has said many times that sound and music are 50 percent of the movie experience.
Nothing comes close to the experience that people used to have in listening to actors perform radio drama, then hearing the sounds and them making it all come to life.
“I got really interested in sound when I was in high school,” Clark says. “Sound effects were a natural out growth from doing theater.”
Clark started doing sound full time when he came to Salt Lake in the early 80s working on video and computer games.
“Based on my theater background I was handed the sound problems and asked to fix them as a sound designer,” Clark says.
Foley, or sound effects, isn’t something you can take a class on and learn over a semester.
“Foley is specifically and properly defined as sound effects recorded in real time as you watch the film,” Clark says.
It can take several years just to build a Foley kit then turn around and build it again with new discoveries.
“It’s such an esoteric little niche of sound design,” says Clark, who is also a fan of old-time radio. “It really is a throw back to 80 years ago when that’s how sound was done on live radio.”
Radio dramas are not just actors reading a book like a book on tape.
The dramatized and purely acoustic performance of radio drama first started in the 1920s. By 1950 television had taken over the airwaves and here in America radio theater had become a thing of the past.
Thankfully there is no need to stop by a museum or audio archive with the podcasts and live shows happening around town and created at SLCC by students.
Last year, students created “The Hunger Games Radio Drama”. This year the students in the Center for Arts and Media Production Club will record “Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson,” an original story written by SLCC adjunct professor Lew Jeppson.