Proposal for a Series of Radio Programs on the American Tradition of Audio Theater

At the beginning of the new millennium, I would like to propose a series of twenty-six programs, each one hour long. All works are available on transcriptions, most of them scarce. This series would open with Archibald MacLeish's Fall of the City (1937), which remains a milestone to us all (and incidentally his greatest work in this genre); but from there we would differ from other series that might likewise start with MacLeish in concentrating upon the more radiophonic North American works. By "radiophonic," I mean those pieces that successfully exploit the unique possibilities of radio, to realize stories and experiences that could succeed only on radio, my theme being that in this age of film and television radio works best when it does what the other media cannot do--not when it attempts to recreate the situation or even the illusion of live theater but when it realizes experiences that can exist only in the ear. From the classic period, we will play such works as Orson Welles's War of the Worlds (1938), Lucille Fletcher's Sorry, Wrong Number, Norman Corwin's Daybreak and Kenneth Patchen's He Wears a Slouch Hat. Since I have suggested elsewhere (most recently in a program for Westdeutschen Rundfunk) that the great American radio theater of the post-War years was in radio comedy, we will feature, for one program apiece, several major figures from this period, including Amos 'n Andy, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly, George Burns and Gracie Allen, The Easy Aces and Fred Allen. Here we will play both whole programs and choice excerpts, depending upon what is available, and how much commentary is necessary. The contemporary (post-1950) period will include exceprts from Stan Freberg, Nicholas and May, Cheech & Chong, John Cage's Roaratorio, the Firesign Theater's Do Anything You Want To and selections from Bob & Ray, among others. The programs would be produced by Richard Kostelnaetz, who will also write the brief commentaries. If the series successfully develops a reputation, the whole cycle could be repeated; ideally, it could also provide the sponsor with a foundation for fresh productions of American audio theater.