Monday, November 30, 2009

Surprise! Faigen's "Porch/Dusk" live, online

Port playwright Joshua Faigen's "Porch/Dusk" didn't start out as a radio play. It morphed into the form after Jack Welch, the former chief editor of Baker’s Plays, got his hands on the script. Thinking it was lacking that always-difficult-to-define "something," Welch, who directed the play at the 2008 New Works Festival, coaxed a new character, a narrator, from the elaborate, almost novelistic stage directions for the 10-minute piece about a Marine bereavement specialist whose job is to deliver the worst news possible — telling families that their mothers, fathers and children made the ultimate sacrifice. This, says Faigen, turned out to be an elegant way of clarifying issues, building mental images and setting atmosphere in the play, crucial in a work like this, in which a small physical space and timeframe is flooded with emotion, unresolved anger, grief and confusion. And, while it wasn't exactly a radio play, seeing how it was playing live, in front of people, on the Firehouse stage, "Porch/Dusk" had the feel and emotional texture of an on-air drama.

The form, of course, is fairly Wobegon, if not quite moribund. No one does radio plays anymore. There's not a whole lot of people even listening to what the cool kids call terrestrial radio, aside from, on opposite sides of the political spectrum, talk radio and NPR junkies. So, last year’s production was a theatrical dead-end for the piece, right?

Well, no. It turns out that there's at least one group still doing radio plays — the Shoestring Radio Theatre in San Francisco.

Faigen, who built two typography companies (talk about old-school) before turning his attention to the stage, sent off the script earlier this year. Shoestring looked at it, liked it and accepted it for production. And the Merrimac Street playwright promptly put it out of his mind, moving on to other projects — like "A Very Simple Play," a new piece that falls somewhere between theater and recital ("I'm not sure what it is, exactly," says the playwright.) and looks at the life, loves and music of Robert Schumann, using the composer's 18-part "Davidsbundlertanze" as a roadmap.

Then, last week, Faigen thought, whatever happened with Shoestring's production, have they even scheduled it? He’e logged onto the company's homepage and, surprise, there it was: A full-fledged old-timey radio-drama production, up and ready to go, complete with sound effects and melodramatic atmospherics. It was a bit of a surprise: Nobody told him, not even an email.

How did they do?

"I thought they did a great job," says the playwright.

Coolest thing about it?

The Foley artists. "You just can't argue with the sound effects," says Faigen. And the ease of "attending" a production. "Sometimes it’s nice to be able to go to the theater without actually moving from your chair, isn’t it?" says Faigen.

And problems?

Only philosophical: "I'm not certain you can call a radio play 'radio' if it's on the internet, but .... whatever," he says — a question better left for another day.

"Porch/Dusk" is paired with Linda Ann Loschiavo's "A Worthie Woman All Hir Live," which looks at the aftermath of a break-in at a woman's house. Both are directed by Russ Hickman. But if you want to hear the show, you better move quickly because it's only up for one week.

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: You can listen to the Shoestring Radio Theatre production of Joshua Faigen's "Porch/Dusk" here. Look for the second bullet point (“Shoestring Radio Theatre”) click on “Listen Now." Faigen's "A Very Simple Play" will be staged in February at the North Shore Readers Theater Collaborative and whose comedy "The Agawam," in which eight characters in search of faith (and a decent meatloaf), will be presented at the Actors Studio in April.

No comments:

Post a Comment