Last April, when we were planning this year’s season, we knew that we had to conceive projects that would be flexible enough to withstand any potential limitations due to COVID. In other words, the season had to be composed of titles that could offer valuable learning opportunities for our students and engage with our audiences while guaranteeing that we could produce the titles regardless of the status of the pandemic.

What would the production look like if we were able to design and build scenery and costumes? How many people could we fit in Anderson Theatre while following social distancing and safety protocols? What would it look like to stage these plays while maintaining social distancing and wearing masks onstage? What would happen if in the middle of the rehearsal and production process we had to switch to online learning? How early should we start recording? What to do if cast members got sick and could not attend online rehearsals?

The challenge was both exciting and a bit nerve-racking. Ultimately the exercise proved fruitful, the worst-case scenario we had considered was clearly materializing once we learned about the fall semester calendar changes and the delayed arrival of returning students, we decided that the production would be rehearsed and performed online as an audio-only performance. Rehearsals were all conducted over zoom. Students recorded their parts inside a make-up sound studio we crafted in one of our spaces. Because of safety protocols we only allowed one student at a time inside the recording studio. We recorded all of our rehearsals on zoom and actors had to listen to their scene partners using headphones since they could not be inside while recording.

The first edited drafts were done pretty early in the semester. The cast had the opportunity to listen in, and we made several changes, a lot of changes. This meant that the cast had to re-record. Rehearsals continued online until we were ready to record and edit again. Further revisions and edits occurred over the past weeks until we crafted a final project that we are thrilled to share with you today.

I chose the two plays you are about to experience today from dozens of scripts after searching through online radio shows archives. The first play of the program is The Thought. It was produced by NBC Radio on July 14, 1945. While there is no author listed, the piece was part of a radio series titled The Haunting Hour which aired in the US in the 1940s. I didn’t find any records, other sources pointed out that there are no archived documents with names of producers, cast and crews. Adding to the mystery, an online archive of old-time radio shows claims that in addition to no credits, the ending of the series was not even announced “thus when the show ceased to exist, it seemed that it just suddenly vanished without a trace.( https://www.oldtimeradiodownloads.com/thriller/haunting-hour) I did find a couple of recent adaptations of The Thought online, as well as other renditions that appear  to be closer to the original premier date; however, none provide information about the creative teams behind the original production.

My Dear Niece completes our double bill of radio thrillers. The original broadcast appears to have taken place on January 24, 1946 as part of Suspense, a radio series produced by CBS. While the script I found lists Elliot Lewis as the author, I located other sources that claim Lewis was not involved in the series until the 1950s. Mr. Lewis was also a director and writer with quite an impressive body of work on radio and television, so it is very possible that he was the writer of My Dear Niece, and later became a regular in the series. Unfortunately. attempts to locate Mr. Lewis’ estate went unanswered.

I began searching for the music to accompany the plays soon after the titles were chosen. I started with the great American film composer Bernard Hermann (1911-1975). Hermann’s work defined an entire era of film and television production in the United States. Since our production is almost entirely underscored, the list of composers grew significantly. We included selections from XIX century opera composer Georges Bizet (1838-1875) to contemporary composers like Nathan Johnson (1976 - ) Our list includes other important composers such as Maria Grever (1885-1951) who was the first Mexican woman to achieve international acclaim as a composer, and whose prolific work encompasses over eight-hundred songs as well as film collaborations with Paramount Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox. Here is a complete list of music we borrowed for this production:

Raymond Alessandrini. An Empty Room (2001)
Georges Bizet. L’Arlésienne Suite No.2 Intermezzo (1872)
Sydney Bechet. Si tu vois ma mère- slow (1965)
Alberto Domínguez. Frenesi (1939) Performed in Spanish by Aurora Schelmeske’24
Antoine Duhamel. Kristallnacht (1998)
Antoine Duhamel. La embajada (1998)
Antoine Duhamel. Yo me quiero morir (1998)
Maria Grever. Júrame (1926)
Bernard Hermann. Scene D’Amour (1958)
Bernard Hermann. Morane’s End (1968)
Bernard Hermann. Crossing Corey (1968)
Bernard Hermann. Run Away (1968)
Steve Jablonsky. Cologne (2013)
Nathan Johnson. The Game’s Afoot (2019)
Agustin Lara. Porque Ya No Me Quieres (1952)
Miklós Rózsa. Finale (1960)

This is the first time I direct a radio show. In fact my experience with radio before podcasts is limited to a vague recollection of a program that would play in the background of my parents’ kitchen when I was growing up in Venezuela, a long running radio series titled Martin Valiente, el ahijado de la muerte (Martin Valiente: godson of death) a melodrama turned action-adventure radionovela. Needless to say, I needed all the help I could get for this project. I’m grateful to the cast and our production team for their hard work and dedication. I’d like to highlight the work of our editors: Austin Adler and Eli Simon. Both Eli and Austin learned how to edit as we were building the project. Their curiosity, perseverance and willingness to experiment and take risks were key to making all of this happen. My gratitude extends to Kristi Borowy, the Department of Theatre & Dance’s Administrative Assistant, for her attention to detail and ongoing support.

Enjoy the performance!
Henry MacCarthy