Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Radio Play

Many of us spend part of each day in an acoustic world of our own choice, thanks to our little white earbuds. Doesn't it seem that this era would have produced at some kind of rebirth for radio drama? Yes, we have podcasts, and the narrative nonfiction of This American Life is among the most used. But I expected some enterprising theatre person to discover a way to move radio plays back on to the platter of American experience. They never left the BBC, where you can still hear, on any given day, a new play written for the ear.

There are voices out there, calling to us. Karinne Keithley's basement tapes of the mole cabal. Or Hotel Savant's The Archery Contest. One of the most inspiring pieces of theatre for me is actually a concert piece, Frederic Rzewski's Coming Together. (Worth seeking out: the unhistrionic version by California Ear Unit.) And then there is that rare animal, the richly imagined concept album yearning to be staged (or filmed?) — for example God in Three Persons by The Residents, or the new work at hand.

The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman is the 22nd album by Sparks, who are almost certainly the most interesting pop band old enough to be your fathers. While it may overstay its welcome a bit, it's the kind of new radio play I imagined this age would bring: not designed for the family sitting around the radio, but an intimate headphone drama for the inside of the listener's skull. In 2010, is the internal monologue the ideal storytelling medium?