In the last days of Fall 2001, I was among several fledgling writers led by the late, great Digby Wolfe creating a radio show that was recorded before a live audience. Called “Green Chile Stew,” it was an hour-long melange of comic skits performed as part of UNM’s annual Words Afire festival by Tricklock Theatre Company. The Albuquerque Journal selected it as one of the ten best theater productions of the year.
“Green Chile Stew” was performed at the Outpost Performance Space on Yale. The performers stood at microphones and read their lines from scripts placed on music stands. Off to one side sat the sound effects person. In the land of radio (and television and movies), that function is called the Foley. Footfalls, door knocks, gun shots — whatever sounds were called for — were generated live with shoes, pieces of wood and more all gathered on a table.
The writers included David Landry, Casey Mraz, Aaron Frale, and Elizabeth Otero. (I’m sure I’ve missed a couple of people; this was 11 years ago and I'm listing them from memory.)
What amazed me most was the audience reaction. People loved watching a radio show being made. “Green Chile Stew” was performed and recorded twice and then mixed down to a one-hour show for KUNM-FM, taking the best pieces from the two nights.
Last night I watched another live radio show. I went to Ames, Iowa, to see L.A. Theatre Works perform Pride and Prejudice, a show we’re bringing to Popejoy Hall this January. We wanted to see first-hand the style of their presentation so we’d better understand it.
One of the chief differences between the performance last night and our performances of "Green Chile Stew" is that L.A. Theatre Works had more of a visual presentation. Actors were costumed in period attire. Slides projected behind the actors helped show us where each scene took place. Lighting was designed rather than turned on or off.
Their microphones were stationary, as one would expect for a radio show, but the actors were not. They moved from microphone to microphone even during scenes, adding physical distance or proximity to our understanding of the narrative. Many of them portrayed a number of different characters with the addition of a coat or shawl. One actress also doubled as their Foley technician.
The audience last night in Stephens Auditorium on the Iowa State University campus rewarded the cast of nine with a hearty round of applause for a story well-told. Of course, having a story as popular as Pride and Prejudice helped. This is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s novel, a benchmark being celebrated around the world.
Pride and Prejudice has proven to be popular here: it’s almost sold out. Even before we got the chance to witness the style of presentation L.A. Theatre Works offers, New Mexicans trusted our choice. Now having seen it — and from my own experience with "Green Chile Stew" — I think people here will enjoy seeing radio come to life on stage.
Terry S. Davis