Spotlight On: RadioTheatre 

Christopher Borg 
8/20/2013 
RadioTheatre, entering its 10th season, is a great example of a group with a very unique focus that has been able to find and sustain a niche audience in the non-commercial theatre world of Off-Off-Broadway. Described by its founder and Artistic Director, Dan Bianchi, as a “mom and pop” theatre company, they survive on ticket sales alone and do not ask for financial donations nor apply for grants.  Dan writes the scripts and does most of the behind-the-scenes work and he uses a loyal group of actors and crew to present it on stage.

Over the years, between the theatre company and Dan Bianchi, they have racked up a whopping 8 IT Awards nominations, as well as a Drama Desk Award nomination and are even mentioned in this month’s American Theatre Magazine for their H.P. Lovecraft Festival.  With Horse Trade as their co-producer for several years, they have called the Kraine and Under St. Marks home.

I caught up with Dan and asked him a few questions about this intrepid member of the indie theatre community:

Borg: OK, what is RadioTheatre?

Dan:  Well, we’re NOT an authentic re-creation of old time radio shows…rather, we are inspired by the artistry created during the Golden Years of Radio when SOUND was king and STORY TELLING, along with great voices, music and sound effects…as well as, the individual imaginations of its audiences …were the primary ingredients used to provide a memorable, live, theatrical experience.

It’s not much different than the earliest form of Theatre…telling tales around a campfire in the dark where all of one’s attention is focused upon the Narrator.  However, primitive it might sound, it’s still the most powerful means of intellectual stimulation, wherein, the audience is invited to participate by conjuring the images in their own minds…something they are not required to do very often these days.

Of course, we do like to add some 21st Century touches…such as fully scored orchestral sound tracks which you won‘t hear anywhere else, a plethora of aural effects and, sometimes, a few visuals, too!

As for our stories content, RadioTheatre draws its inspiration from the Pulp Fiction Era when genres such as Adventure, Horror, Science Fiction and Crime dominated the American popular culture…all genres which have been thoroughly mined and exploited by Literature, Cinema and TV, but, generally ignored or spoofed in the Theatre world.

Borg: What is new for you this year, as you celebrate your 10th anniversary?

Dan:  We thought we'd bring back some of our favorite shows this year...and mix in a few new surprises.  We'll begin with DRACULA which we played to sold out crowds in a short Off-Broadway run at Players Theater a few years back.  I've adapted an Orson Welles script and created all new orchestral music and lots of sound effects.  ...for our NYC Christmas season show this year, we're going for something different... the world stage premiere of MEET JOHN DOE, Frank Capra's 1941 Oscar nominated movie with Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck.

Since Radiotheatre was also the first group to present the original KING KONG on stage, we'll probably bring that back for the 6th time to NYC.  Also planned for 2014...we will bring back our award-winning H.G.WELLS FESTIVAL, THE HOLLYWOOD RADIOTHEATRE FEST (CASABLANCA, THE MALTESE FALCON, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, ALL ABOUT EVE), THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK FEST, and something new, THE COMMON MACBETH, the same supernatural tale of terror, but not by Shakespeare, with great story tellers, gigantic music and sound design.  Next May, we will do a different sort of horror show titled NAM where Vietnam War vets tell their stories backed by a fantastic sound design and period 60s music and newscasts.   We also have several touring shows lined up for 2014.  Tours bring in good money for my actors and crew and it's a thrill to play in 1500 seat union-run houses.

BORG:  What has been your favorite show or most successful?

DAN:  Out of all the shows we have done, the most attended, most profitable and most attractive to press and magazine coverage are our H.P. Lovecraft shows.  I suppose we're among the first to translate the literary work of this giant of the macabre to the stage, so, his fans come from all quarters to see it, including celebs.  So, for the coming season, we'll present, yet, another festival of his work.  I've adapted nearly 40 Lovecraft stories and we're about half way through them.  We will return with fan faves THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH and THE CALL OF CTHULHU.

BORG: What do you like best about working in Indie theatre?

Dan:  Take a look at the titles! Who else gets to write/direct/perform everything from FRANKENSTEIN to WAR OF THE WORLDS to DOUBLE INDEMNITY to KING KONG?  Yeah, I know it's not Tennessee Williams or King Lear or original plays about rich white, eccentric families arguing around the dinner table...but, everybody else does that kind of stuff.  Who else does what we do?  Or, at least, the way we do it?  At heart, I believe we do People's Theatre...which is why we continue to draw crowds young and old...and usually people who have never gone to live theatre before. That makes working at this end of Theatre worthwhile in itself…

It was never my intention to create a play that goes to Broadway. I had done that before and I've won plenty of awards early on in my career and I've run international theatre companies.  This time out, I wanted to make a group with a trademark presentational style, so, no matter what the title of a story, we present it in pretty much the same way each time.  We're closer to a musical quartet playing classical works than to traditional play making…

As an Indie working in this end of NYC theatre, I've been able to keep control of production values and content without interference from others.  I don't have to answer to boards, to investors, to grant givers. I'm able to continue creating my own special brand of Theatre in Manhattan for 10 years, which is a feat in itself…

There are those of us stage artists who have no place else to go but here...it is not just a stepping stone up the ladder to big budget show biz.  This is our home and the only place we can produce such works the way we want to produce them.

For more information about RadioTheatre’s upcoming season you can visit them here: http://www.radiotheatrenyc.com



 

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