What started as small acting sessions among Columbus friends in the absence of theatre during the COVID-19 pandemic has quickly expanded to almost 100 actors from multiple states.
The group takes vintage radio tales and produces their own audio versions with the help of modern technology.
Shhh Productions Vintage Radio Hour performs The Low Road, a story from Wyllis Cooper that originally aired in 1947. The Columbus-based group has been performing audio tales since May. Patrick Clark leads the effort and recently shared with Columbus Rotary how it began.
"I wanted to do two or three shows with a couple of friends because a show that I was cast in was postponed due to COVID," Clark continued. "I'm now fielding calls from people across the country wanting to be involved in this project. It's kind of overwhelming. This was intended to be a small project that has grown bigger by the week. Our intention is to create an opportunity for actors to continue acting and honing their craft. We also are entertaining people as some of this work is nostalgic. We want to perpetuate that. There's a simplicity to using your imagination to be entertained, and we have tapped back into that. We're incorporating 21st Century technology, but using the authentic scripts from the 1940's and 50's."
The actors assemble through Zoom with only the audio streaming on YouTube. Close to 100 actors are involved in the project, ranging in age from 9 to 82. Patrick says they've found that the anxiety and unexpected mishaps associated with live performing remain.
"The power went out in my neighborhood and knocked me out of the Zoom call during the live performance," Patrick recalled. "We had the foresight to have a slide that said - technical difficulties, thank you for your patience. I got on my phone and texted the production manager. I told her to send me the link and got in through my phone. I got into the chat function and told her in five seconds fade, and by the way what page are we on? In my mind that took 3 years, but in reality it was about three minutes at the most to get back in. All of the functions and features of live performance still happen with mistakes. But with the technology, we need to be even more attuned to each other as actors because we have to create the sense for the audience that everybody's in the same space. So that technology must be met by actors learning how to format their work in that environment as well."
Patrick and Shhh Productions Vintage Radio Hour are in the middle of season three, which features some Halloween-themed shows.
Sample from Season 3 plays...
Moving forward, the group wants to develop original content by playwrights in Columbus and elsewhere. It's also working with an artist in Texas to compose original music. Live productions take place every Thursday at the group's YouTube channel, and all shows are archived.