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30 Years of ARTC – An Atlanta Christmas 2003

This being our 30th anniversary, we thought we’d dip back into the past and recap some of our previous performances, triumphs and tragedies, in a series of posts. And don’t forget our Chronology! It’s not as detailed, but it really shows the growth of ARTC over the years. You can see all of the photos in their full size on our Flickr album!

Welcome to the first installment of photos from our performances of An Atlanta Christmas. 2014’s performance will mark the 15th consecutive year of this heartwarming show about Christmas in the south. Originally conceived by Thomas E. Fuller as a series of vignettes that focused specifically on Atlanta and the history of the holidays, the ARTC writers have expanded it to include many of our serials, including Rory Rammer, Space Marshal, Unresolved Mysteries: Solved While U Wait, and Bumpers Crossroads. We’ve got Thomas’s original vision on CD for you (or through our digital distributors) and the expanded edition will be coming out of ARTC Studio in due time.

More photos of these performances will be coming in this series as we go along. You can watch the kids grow up, just as we did!

The ARTC chorus warms up before the show.
The ARTC chorus warms up before the show.
Brad Weage plays a medly of holiday favorites.
Brad Weage plays a medly of holiday favorites.

Music is a huge part of the Christmas holiday tradition, and we work hard to integrate it into our performance each year. Alton Leonard composed the theme song for the set, Old Atlanta Christmas, and provides carols whenever he can. Brad Weage also brought the classics along with him every year. Combine that with our talented vocalists and it creates that warm holiday atmosphere that’s a trademark of this performance.

Our younger performers take the microphones.
Our younger performers take the microphones.

The original version of An Atlanta Christmas was framed by a family gathered around in the living room reminiscing about holidays long past. Finding talented children to play those roles, as well as the roles of the children in the individual stories, isn’t necessarily difficult. The hard part is keeping them from growing up and out of the roles! Each year the producers have to look at the kids from the previous years and determine if it’s time to replace them with the next crop of budding audio dramatists!

Everyone dresses in their holiday finery each year.
Everyone dresses in their holiday finery each year.
More folks dressed up for the holidays.
More folks dressed up for the holidays.

Dressing up for the holidays is always a festive part of the performance. We’ve tried several different things to make the visual part of our medium more interesting for our live performances, but for Christmas it’s never really that difficult. Everyone breaks out the reds and greens and we throw a great big holiday audio party on the stage!

The Foley team enters into the holiday spirit!
The Foley team enters into the holiday spirit!

Plush animals, Santa Claus hats, coonskin caps, and jingle bells traditionally adorn the Foley table. Our usual fare of horror and science fiction often has a mix of recorded and practical Foley sound effects. After all, how do you cast a space ship from the skies of Earth to the orbit of the moon with a table full of sound effects? Sure we could do it, but it adds to the immersive depth of our performance to mix in a recorded effect from time to time. But at Christmas there aren’t as many Martians, there are fewer Elder Gods, and that thing clattering on the roof isn’t a faceless monster, and so we’re able to put the focus on what traditionally sets audio drama apart from other art forms.

Clair Kiernan presents the traditional Christmas poinsettia.
Clair Kiernan presents the traditional Christmas poinsettia.

And what holiday would be complete without the poinsettia. Not sure why the poinsettia is significant? Come see this year’s performance of An Atlanta Christmas and we’ll be glad to tell you all about it. More details coming soon!

In the meantime, be sure to check out the rest of the photos from our Stone Mountain appearance of An Atlanta Christmas on Flickr. We’ll have another set of holiday photos in a few weeks!

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30 Years of ARTC – The Dancer in the Dark, Dragon Con 2002

This being our 30th anniversary, we thought we’d dip back into the past and recap some of our previous performances, triumphs and tragedies, in a series of posts. And don’t forget our Chronology! It’s not as detailed, but it really shows the growth of ARTC over the years. You can see all of the photos in their full size on our Flickr album!

In 2002 we presented Thomas E. Fuller’s The Dancer in the Dark. We had no way of knowing it, but this would be Thomas’s final performance with ARTC before his untimely passing in November. We led off the show with the presentation of the ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award, with Thomas bestowing it upon Joyce Leigh.

Thomas E. Fuller presents Joyce Leigh with the ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award.
Thomas E. Fuller presents Joyce Leigh with the ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award.

But Thomas was in for a bit of a surprise himself, as David Benedict arose to address the microphone to present a second award that evening. One of the hazards of organizing an award is that sometimes you don’t get it yourself. In this case, we just couldn’t let that happen to Thomas and so the ARTC Board of Directors had voted in secret to present Thomas with the award as well.

Thomas E. Fuller accepts the ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award.
Thomas E. Fuller accepts the ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award.

Following the award presentation, we dove into The Dancer in the Dark.

Brad Strickland and Alton Leonard in The Dancer in the Dark
Brad Strickland and Alton Leonard in The Dancer in the Dark

The Dancer in the Dark was originally written in five half-hour segments. But those of you familiar with our convention shows know that we’re usually restricted to an hour. So Thomas painstakingly trimmed two and a half hours down to one. It is a testament to Thomas’s skill as a writer that he was able to do so and tell the entire story. The narrative details an archaeological dig and their discovery of the Malatowa Mounds. It starts off with a standard story of the struggle between academic exploration and the traditional beliefs of a small town’s residents, but quickly takes a decidedly Lovecraftian turn as mutilated animals start appearing mysteriously. And then the situation becomes much more serious as the Dancer’s last acolyte tries to raise an ancient evil from the mounds themselves.

Live Foley sound effects demonstrated
Foley artists and actors work together as a seamless whole

In the picture above you can see the Foley artists watching the actors closely for their cues. The creation of live sound effects is one of the most interesting parts of our live performances and is always enjoyed by our audiences.

Our technical team and our audience. Two critical componants of a successful show
Our technical team and our audience. Two critical componants of a successful show

And here you see one of the things that makes our Dragon Con shows so much fun: our appreciative audience! Our following at Dragon Con is quite loyal and we’re always glad to hear from folks, some of whom claim that they come to the convention every year just to see us!

Thomas Fuller and Doug Kaye
Thomas Fuller and Doug Kaye

The Dancer in the Dark is one of our favorite pieces and in 2013 we were finally able to release the full five parts on CD and digital download. But the production was incomplete without Thomas, who normally played Sheriff John Bell Hood Conklin. We miss you, Thomas.

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The Doom of the Mummy part 2 of 4

Size: 8.5M Duration: 18:03

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This month we continue with our presentation of 2008’s performance of The Doom of the Mummy, performed live at Dragon Con.

Regina Maniquis on cello for Dragon Con 2008
Regina Maniquis on cello for Dragon Con 2008

The music for this performance was particularly special. We had the incomparable Brad Weage, and we also added in the talents of Alton Leonard, who played the lyre and the ugab. But the star of this musical show was Regina Maniquis on the cello.

Bill Ritch wrote an ambitious script that called for all kinds of authentic Egyptian music with authentic Egyptian instruments, but integral to the plot was this all-important cello.

We hope you enjoy it!

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30 Years of ARTC – Camp Wak-N-Hak 2002

This being our 30th anniversary, we thought we’d dip back into the past and recap some of our previous performances, triumphs and tragedies, in a series of posts. And don’t forget our Chronology! It’s not as detailed, but it really shows the growth of ARTC over the years. You can see all of the photos in their full size on our Flickr album!

In 2002 we were privileged to perform at Camp Wak-N-Hak, a summer camp for children with cystic fibrosis run by Camp Twin Lakes. This was a richly rewarding performance for us, and the kids really got into it. What did we perform? Well, that’s been lost to the sands of time, but we had a blast and that’s what’s really important.

Audience at Camp Wak-N-Hak
Our appreciative audience at Camp Wak-N-Hak

Acoustically, this spacious basketball court was challenging with its high ceilings and hard walls and floor, but once this great audience got seated they soaked up the audio extremely well!

Thomas Fuller and David Benedict look on as Colin Butler addresses the microphone.
Thomas Fuller and David Benedict look on as Colin Butler addresses the microphone.

It’s a pretty good bet that we did an episode of Rory Rammer, Space Marshal.

Phil Carter and Colin Butler perform as the rest of the cast looks on.
Phil Carter and Colin Butler perform as the rest of the cast looks on.

The stage setup was extremely nice. We perform in a wide variety of venues and often don’t get to see the actual performance space until we arrive to set up. We’ve worked around some rather interesting challenges with other people’s sets, cramped stage space, low doorways leading onto the stage itself, and a lack of any discernable stage whatsoever. But Camp Wak-N-Hak had a quality, picturesque space that it was a pleasure to perform on!

William Alan Ritch and Joel Abbott on the technical side of the show.
William Alan Ritch and Joel Abbott on the technical side of the show.

One challenge we sometimes face is placement of the tech. A lot of theatres rely on monitors or booths that are off to the side. Some are so small that they don’t have a designated place for tech at all – they do everything with vocal projection and don’t have any sound cues at all. We do as much live Foley as we can in a show, but we also run recorded SFX when necessary and our experience is that it sounds weird when you play a recorded sound to go with an unamplified voice in a radio play setting. So we always just set up the whole shebang every time and being able to be centered on the stage really helps the techs get a good mix.

Lili at the Foley table.
Lili at the Foley table.

Speaking of live Foley, here we see master Foley artist Lili showing off the tools of her trade. Foley is one of the most charismatic parts of radio theatre and we love to showcase it. We were lucky to be able to have the table up a little closer to the front for this show. Foley is awesome to see, but the space they take up and the sensitivity of the microphones we use usually make placement a bit of a strategic decision.

Ron Butler and Colin Butler in a bit of pre-show prep.
Ron Butler and Colin Butler in a bit of pre-show prep.

Big thanks to Ron Butler for helping set up this amazing show!

You can see the rest of the pictures on our Flickr album!

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30 Years of ARTC – Solution Unsatisfactory, Dragon Con 2001

This being our 30th anniversary, we thought we’d dip back into the past and recap some of our previous performances, triumphs and tragedies, in a series of posts. And don’t forget our Chronology! It’s not as detailed, but it really shows the growth of ARTC over the years. You can see all of the photos in their full size on our Flickr album!

Last week we brought you the story of Guards! Guards! at Dragon Con 2001. But we’ve been doing two shows at that convention for several years now and the second part of that double bill in 2001 was Robert Heinlein’s Solution Unsatisfactory.

Harlan Ellison introduces Atlanta Radio Theatre Company at Dragon Con 2001
Harlan Ellison introduces Atlanta Radio Theatre Company at Dragon Con 2001

First, we got things started off with a bang by being introduced by the legendary Harlan Ellison. Mr. Ellison has performed with us in the past and we were honored to be graced with his presence once again, even though he did not act with us in this production.

Henry Howard is presented with the ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award
Henry Howard is presented with the ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award

Shortly afterwards we took a moment to present Henry Howard, owner and operator of Audio Craft Studio, with the ARTC Lifetime Achievement Award. Henry’s studio has served us well for years, and he was instrumental in our acquisition of ARTC Studio. He has also produced and edited a huge amount of our work and we make use of his expertise whenever possible.

Thomas E. Fuller performs the iconic opening lines from Rory Rammer, Space Marshal
Thomas E. Fuller performs the iconic opening lines from Rory Rammer, Space Marshal

And we led off the performance with Rory Rammer, Space Marshal! The name of the exact episode has been misplaced, so if you were there, let us know what we did at this show and we’ll edit this to reflect it. But no matter which episode it was, it was a rip-roaring good time!

Daniel Kiernan and David Benedict share a laugh during the performance.
A rip-roaring good time

See? A rip-roaring good time!

Peter David and Alton Leonard in Solution Unsatisfactory
Peter David and Alton Leonard in Solution Unsatisfactory

After the Rory Rammer episode, we got to the main event. In addition to all the other star power we commanded in 2001, we were also joined by Peter David!

A scene in a radioactive room features the actors wearing masks to muffle their voices, just as their characters would be muffled.
A scene in a radioactive room

One scene in Solution Unsatisfactory features the characters in a room filled with radioactivity. They were wearing full lead armor in the script. We simulated that with standard filtering face masks.

Be sure to check out the rest of the album for even more great pictures!

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Noir in the Naked City – Episode Five: Oppression

Naked City Atlanta logoNaked City is a monthly live literary event held at the Goat Farm in Atlanta. Each month, the hosts reveal the theme for the next month and people sign up for the privelege of getting five minutes to speak, sing, or do whatever on the subject of the theme. Go over your five minutes? Then you must spin the Wheel of Consequences!

Naked City’s website
Naked City’s Facebook page

Starting in February, I began a writing challenge for myself: A crowd-influenced serial called Noir in the Naked City where, at the end of each episode, the protagonist would be faced with a choice. The audience would make the decision for the character, and then the next episode would be written with that choice in mind AND on the next month’s theme.


 Episode Five: Oppression

They say the book of life hasn’t been completely written yet. I see that every day, as new decisions get put in front of me and the consequences of those decisions loom out of the darkness. It’s just one damn thing after another. And the latest one was this new dame who had come to tell me that she had a case for me and that it involved my brother.

“You gonna get up and come with me, or are you going to sit on the floor like a jerk?” the dame said. I sat there like a jerk for another minute, then I got up.

“I need a minute to get dressed,” I said. I was still wearing just my coat and was dripping slightly onto my hardwood floors. If I hadn’t lost the deposit on this place by now, this was probably going to be the clincher.

“Hurry,” she said, glancing at her watch.

“Why don’t you tell me a bit more about yourself and why you’re here while I put something on?”

“My name’s Abigail and I don’t want to distract you. From what I hear, you don’t have the greatest attention span. But I will tell you that your brother has gotten mixed up with the Masked Shadow”.

Now there was a name I hadn’t heard in a while.

A few years ago this city had been a real hellhole that had been run by a syndicate that called itself The Masked Shadow. A melodramatic name if there ever was one, but they made the trains run on time, as it were. The trouble was that they did it by ruling the city with an iron fist and suppressing any thoughts or actions that went against the grain. Of course we’d gotten there by being ruled up to that point by a delightful combination of corruption and chaos, a cocktail of ignorance and apathy that made it really  easy for the politicians to masquerade total control as total freedom.

Bread and circuses had been just the beginning. Soon enough they had created a situation with two allegedly opposing sides preaching diametrically opposite viewpoints that were really just two heads on the same dragon. Which side was in power depended entirely on which way they needed the pendulum to swing to keep the masses off balance and distracted from the fact that, when all was said and done, they were going to say and do whatever they damn well pleased. It was some of the most brilliant marketing the world had seen since New Coke.

So when the Masked Shadow stepped up, it was a breath of fresh air to a lot of folks. Instead of tricking you into thinking you wanted something, they just beat you over the head with a spiked club until you really did want it. Literally. And for some folks that was better than the alternative.

Since then things had mellowed out a little. The Masked Shadow got usurped by religion, as often happens, and people sort of went through an enlightened phase where they realized that if they could just tolerate each other a little better then they wouldn’t need protection in the form of elected officials or spiked clubs to come to terms with their neighbors.

That’s what this damn cat and his bizarro Neo Nazis were out to change. Nobody had seen anything like me before. The chances of a positive reaction were, frankly, slim. Nobody is that enlightened. The potential for complete chaos was high, and there was an excellent chance that both the politicians and the Masked Shadow were sharpening their knives. So their plan was to create a situation where everybody would get along because all the differences were erased, not just tolerated. And they’d be sure to slip in a little extra just to make sure they stayed in charge.

“And what’s this got to do with my brother?”

“I’ll tell you in the car, let’s go.”

When we got downstairs the car’s engine was running, and had some big galoot behind the wheel who looked like he must have gotten his license from a Cracker Jack box, because there was no way he was going to pass the written part of the exam. I could tell, though, that he could drive like a demon. Guys like that always could.

“I hate cars,” I said.

“Shut up,” Abigail replied turning to look out the window. I had to admit. The dame was growing on me. The car pulled away from the curb and accelerated quickly. My insides lurched. I really do hate cars. Unless it was the company that caused that lurch.

“How do you know my brother?” I asked, trying to take my mind off of it.

“I don’t,” she said curtly, whipping her head around to glare at me, her red hair flashing in the headlights of a passing car. “But I know of him through a mutual friend. That’s where we’re going now. Just as soon as we lose this damn tail.”

I glanced back through the rear window and saw a lone car about a block behind us. I didn’t question how she knew we were being followed – I could tell she knew what she was doing. Just then the galoot driving the car swerved sharply, sending me careening into her. She shoved me away roughly and said “Hit it, Gus. Cover’s blown anyway, might as well go all in.”

Gus grunted and shifted gears, accelerating again. “Where are we going, exactly?” I asked.

“Fifth and main,” she replied. “We’re meeting someone there.”

“Bad idea,” I said. “I just came from a murder scene there this morning.” My mind cast itself back to the grisly scene, the number of cops that were bound to be in the viscinity, and the unlikely coincidence that this should be our meeting place. It stank of a trap.

“You got a better idea?” she snapped?

“I know a safe house on the west side of town.”

“It’s not run by that creep Murray, is it?”

“As a matter of fact, it is. The Empire Nightclub.”

“Could you two make up your minds?” Gus asked. “I can’t go in two directions at once.”

Choice: Go to fifth and main for the meetup or go to the safehouse at the Empire Night Club?