(Though ARTC has been doing live productions of the “Rory Rammer, Space Marshal” series for several years, only now is the Company starting on a tape production. ARTC spoke with Ron Butler, who writes “Rory,” about the project.)
ARTC: OK, so what’s your connection with this project?
RNB: Well, I wrote the scripts –.
ARTC: So? What have writers got to do with production?
RNB: I’m not going to get involved in one of those epistemological, “Which came first — the chicken or the egg?” discussions. At ARTC, the answer is, “More than at most places.”
ARTC: In the movie business, of course, the irrelevance of writers is legendary —
RNB: So is the amount of money you can get even for an unproduced screenplay. However, audio drama writers don’t have money to salve their bruised sensibilities.
ARTC: — but even in audio theater, writers are subject to rewriting —
RNB: Not uncommonly on the spur of the moment. Actors are often of the opinion that they can write better off the tops of their flat little heads than a writer can over a period of days or weeks.
ARTC: — expedient changes of character gender —
RNB: We’ve already talked about “Princess Two Moons,” and I don’t intend to say any more.
ARTC: — casting driven by “star power” rather than fit with the role —
RNB: I’m not sure either “star” or “power” is the right word in some cases.
ARTC: — even whimsical changes of accent. So you signed on as producer of this project —
RNB: As a matter of self-defense, yes.
ARTC: In point of fact, this won’t actually be the first “Rory Rammer” tape, will it?
RNB: In terms of a finished production, that has yet to be decided. The Company did put out a pre-production version of “Queen of the Spaceways” at DragonCon this year, though. There were a limited number of copies produced, and if you didn’t pick yours up then, sorry —
ARTC: What happened there?
RNB: Sonya Arundar, who has been doing electronic effects for our live productions for a number of years now, has turned her hand to tape editing. We had recorded voice tracks for Ted Raimi, Claire Stansfield, and Alexandra Tydings when they did the live version of “Queen” at DragonCon in 2000. Sonya is a big Ted Raimi fan, so she took up the project, got additional voice tracks recorded, and edited the whole thing together as her first piece of work.
ARTC: And there it ends?
RNB: Not at all, we don’t waste work. Current plans are for “Queen of the Spaceways” to be the flip side of one of our “Dean’s List” projects — Robert Heinlein’s “The Menace from Earth” — in a fully-finished form. [Editor’s note: We went with “Luna Shall Be Dry!” for that product. But we haven’t forgotten about “Queen of the Spaceways.”]
ARTC: How can you have a “flip side” on a CD?
RNB: It’s a figure of speech —
ARTC: So if you didn’t get one of the instant-rarity tapes at DragonCon, you really haven’t missed out on anything?
RNB: Maybe, maybe not. Sonya did a “blooper reel” for the pre-production tape, which may or may not show up on the “Menace” version.
ARTC: That doesn’t seem very fair.
RNB: You snooze, you lose.
ARTC: Writers get arrogant when they get a little power, don’t they?
RNB: I couldn’t say.
ARTC: But this isn’t the main “Rory Rammer” production, is it?
RNB: It’s the only one that’s a reality, so far. But I hope to fix that by sometime next year [i.e., 2002].
ARTC: Will this other tape have Ted Raimi as Rory Rammer?
RNB: No. These episodes — which we’ve been referring to as the “Director’s Cut” — should have a consistent Rory and the same Skip Sagan all the way through. There may be guest actors, but not in recurring roles. There might even be a tape with various “guest star” Rories and Skips somewhere out there in the future — but that would be a separate project.
ARTC: Have the actors been set?
RNB: Halfway. David Benedict, who did “The Monster” in “Passion of Frankenstein,” will be Rory. The role of Skip Sagan is still up in the air, I’m afraid. Actors — or actresses — who can both sound like an adenoidal teenage boy and say “anaphylactic” or “magnetohydrodynamic” without stumbling are few and far between.
ARTC: Just to throw in a gallopingly obvious idea, have you tried casting a teenage boy?
RNB: Their voices change, unless you take certain — surgical precautions. And it’s proven tough to get parents to sign off on permission forms for such things.
ARTC: Yig. Er — Have episodes been decided on? Do you have enough material for a tape?
RNB: We have suitable material for at least two tapes, maybe three. The episodes for the first tape are (tentatively):
- “The Phantom Menace”
- “The Island of Dr. Marceau”
- “The Planetoid of Doom”
- “The Lance of Justice”
ARTC: How did you do that?
RNB: Do what?
ARTC: I’ve never seen anyone talk in bullet points before!
RNB: It’s a writer thing.
ARTC: Anything to say about the episodes themselves?
RNB: They’ve all been live-produced before, so their plot summaries are on the Web site. (Is there a link around here someplace? Oh, yeah — here.)
ARTC: Let’s talk schedule. Or is this all vaporware?
RNB: Would ARTC do such a thing? We will be laying down voice tracks between November and January. Ideally, it wouldn’t take that long, but we’re threading the recording sessions for a number of upcoming ARTC tape productions around each other.
ARTC: Other upcoming ARTC tape productions?
RNB: Absolutely. Now, let’s see — Tape editing could start around March. Y’know, the history of ARTC hinges on various bottlenecks. Thomas Fuller, our head writer got stuck writing thirteen weeks of programming once, swore he’d never do that again, and began cultivating other writers. It took ten years, but ARTC now has a respectable little stable of scribblers. DragonCon 2001 was a milestone; there were no Thomas Fuller pieces on the program. A bittersweet thought, that.
ARTC: Other tapes?
RNB: Actors — Well, you’re never short of actors, though you can be stuck for a particular actor for a particular role —
ARTC: About these other tapes —
RNB: Musicians. By the way, I’m hoping Brad Weage will reprise the “Rory Rammer” theme music he’s provided at any number of live performances —
ARTC: Yeah, sure, but about —
RNB: In the case of “Rory,” the tape production has become a possibility only because ARTC has recently grown a crop of new tape editors. Our master editor is still Henry Howard, but Henry can only do so much, what with life and earning a living.
RNB: I already said Sonya’s working on “Queen.” Bill Ritch just finished up “Man Who Traveled in Elephants” for DragonCon, and is working on “Menace from Earth.” David Benedict — did I mention he’s going to play Rory? — is polishing up “The Passion of Frankenstein,” and may move on to “Solution Unsatisfactory.” And Daniel Taylor is working on “The Canterville Ghost,” I believe.
ARTC: One, two, three…
RNB: Put your shoes back on. Potentially, ARTC could have five new tapes / CD’s at DragonCon 2002.
RNB: Potentially, we could have put a man on the Moon in 1966, but this is real life. (And that’s another script…) I’ll be overjoyed with three, quietly happy with two.
ARTC: So long as one of them is “Rory Rammer”?
RNB: It’s a producer thing.
[Editor’s note: The voice tracks do exist. “Queen”, “Elephants” and “Frankenstein” materialized: “Rory” has become one of ARTC’s “cursed productions”. Mr. Butler’sreference to “real life” was all too prescient, but we’re determined to get it out sooner or later.]
[Second Editor’s note: Rory Rammer, Space Marshal: Volume 1 was successfully published in 2009. Volume 2 is in the planning stages as of 05/2013]