As I mentioned a couple weeks back, I had the amazingly well-timed opportunity to talk to Rich Fish who happens to feature prominently in the new documentary by Georgia Southern University, Theater of the Mind.
Oh and yes, we talked to James Kicklighter who was kind enough to chat on the phone about a month ago. Thereafter, James was so kind as to send me a screening version of the DVD to check out.
The documentary is far from comprehensive, but a refreshing primer and a worthy tribute to OTR. It highlights a group of modern college students — painted as a tad spoiled by non-linear digital editing — as they to learn the art of creating live radio plays, interspersed with experts talking about the magic and challenge of live radio as well as interviews with voice actors of the era (including Edith Ivey and Rosemary Rice).
As the new generation learns more about the art form they soon realize that it was real work to make this happen, and the historians highlight the professional qualities needed to succeed in the Golden Age of Radio. Both Ms. Ivey and Ms. Rice have some great anecdotes to share about working on the air, and how the get into broadcasting to begin with.
Running at just over 20 minutes and created in just a few months, it’s again only a flavor, not a full meal. One feature I felt was sorely overlooked was the creation of live sound effects — what an opportunity to show visually what can be created in audio! I would’ve love to have seen a sound effects demo with a professional, either from the day or a modern equivalent.
I do hope “Theater of the Mind” gets wide circulation, and even more, I hope it sparks a more in-depth series that deeply examines the terrain that this merely skips across. This could easily be a multi-part PBS style documentary, and radio is well worth. Georgia Southern, I hope you’ve started that effort!