Generations ago advancing technology dealt the medium of radio entertainment a mortal blow, conspiring with evolving visual technologies seemingly hell bent to forever shutter the theater of the mind. Yet with the dawn of the computer age there came a renewed, albeit tentative, appreciation for audio drama with the newly initiated pouring over digitized old time radio archives, commuters immersing themselves in audio tales and connoisseurs of the art form filling the 88-seat house at West of Lenin to see and hear the Sandbox Artists Collective do their Sandbox Radio stuff live.
Sandbox Radio spins the old-school notion of a live radio variety show into something shiny and new by tickling the imagination in ways yet to be fully embraced by the greater Seattle arts community. Not enough has been said about the efforts of the Sandbox Artists Collective but looking about at the packed house on the evening of April 16th the word is clearly beginning to spread.
For their fourth episode, the stories and music centered about the theme of “The Chase,” with many vignettes leaning heavily toward magical realism. Writer Paul Mullin’s ongoing serial, “Markheim” continues to weave an intriguing collision of Urban Fantasy a la Emma Bull or Neil Gaiman coupled with the tried and true tropes of Hardboiled Detective Fiction, the story’s local settings adding a flavorful layer that leaves the listener hungry for the next installment.
Juliet Waller Pruzan’s “Always Disappearing,” once again demonstrated her Bradbury-like sense of the magical and poetic. Vincent Delaney’s “Squeeze Play” reminded us all why his is a wit to be reckoned with and Elizabeth Heffron swung listeners from her creative pendulum with the humorous missive, “Stewart and Miriam,” and the tragic and intensely eerie monologue “Child of the Second Tier” performed masterfully by Mik Kulhman.
In this age of exhausting visual titillation, it is unfortunate audio theater has become little more than a fringe curiosity. Granted our community contains terrific audio drama groups like Jim French’s Imagination Theater, classic radio aficionados like American Radio Theater and scads of worthy locally produced podcasts like 19 Nocturne Boulevard, but these efforts seem content to adhere to the tenets of long-established aural storytelling memes. Sandbox Radio stands alone locally in its efforts to produce unique raw, risky and highly personal dramatic works solely for the ear. Want to experience a tale of audio horror perfectly tailored for the Facebook set? Harken to Sandbox Episode #2’s “The Request,” by Vincent Delaney. How about a bittersweet comedy-drama that lovingly captures the perpetual tumult of urban romance? Give Anita Montgomery’s tale from Episode #3, “F-You Cupid!” a listen.
Sandbox Radio’s acting ensemble never disappoints, each member clearly a seasoned artist at the top of her game. These folks relish the opportunity to play in this sandbox, as would any actor worth his salt. All clearly grasp why playing in the theater of the imagination is such a rare treat and vital exercise–you can hear it in the rhythm of their speech and the musicality of their voices.
With its delicate balance of music, pathos and humor Sandbox Radio’s director Leslie Law does much to honor radio programming of the past kept familiar by the likes of Prairie Home Companion, but this project brings to its audience so much more. Sandbox Radio pulls nary a punch and for many answers the question of what, precisely, audio theater will sound like in the future?
It will sound a great deal like Sandbox Radio.
You can download past editions of Sandbox Radio by visiting thesandboxac.org or subscribe to the podcast at the iTunes Store.