Do you hold auditions?

Occasionally. But, more than that, we invite you to be a regular part of our ongoing operations. Our weekly rehearsals are open to anybody who wants to participate, and if you show up — and if you can read a script — you’ll probably get cast. We hold outside auditions when we’re looking for some additional voices or some specific talents that might be in demand. Keep an eye here for announcements of those kinds or contact us to learn how to be a member!

What do you need?

That depends. What can you do?

No, seriously. We are in most dire need of technical and production staff. Experience is a plus, but not necessary: If you want to learn how to run a sound board, how to set up and break down a sound system, or how to mix pre-recorded voice and music tracks, we’ll be happy to train you. And we don’t even charge for it.

It’s an unequaled opportunity for actors, as well. Only in audio can a middle-aged man who looks like Santa Claus get cast as a romantic lead (“Country of the Blind” and “Throne of Shadows”) or a vicious gunslinger (in our live production of “All Hallows Moon”).

Where do you get your scripts?

Generally, we write them ourselves. We are fortunate enough to have attracted the attention of a number of professional writers in the Atlanta area, or with close ties here, like Jerry Ahern, Brad Linaweaver, Gregory Nicoll, Gerald W Page, Brad Strickland, and Wendy Webb. In addition, our first head writer, Atlanta playwright Thomas E Fuller, also taught creative writing for Georgia State University: He, and our other established professionals, nurture and encourage a new generation of writers like Ron N. Butler, Daniel and Clair Kiernan, Henry Lee Forrest, William Alan Ritch, Terry Sanders, Kelley S. Ceccato, Dave Schroeder, and Daniel Taylor.

What do you pay?

We don’t, generally, although a lot depends on what you can do for us. ARTC is a small-press audio publisher, as well as a 501c(3) non-profit organization, and the money we raise from sales of our productions through mail order or download goes back into the organization to help pay for publicity and fund future productions. Payment for individuals is rare and usually modest.

Someday, we hope to be able to pay. Our contracts allow for the possibility, and break down the percentage points up front against the day that there is actually some cash left over to divide up. Someday we’d love to have an actual employee. You can help us towards that goal with your purchase or you can make a donation!

Does one have to live in the Atlanta area to write for ARTC?

We’ve tried our workshopping process with writers who aren’t actually present, but the process is usually a dialogue between the company and the writer, and that’s a lot harder when they aren’t physically present. We get asked periodically about whether we accept scripts from outside writers. The process for doing so is as follows: If you are local to the Atlanta area and are available to come to our Wednesday night rehearsals, contact us and we’ll send you directions. After you’ve introduced yourself we’ll set up a time for you to bring your script in.

If you are NOT local, please prepare a one-page synopsis of your story and a one-page sample of dialogue you’ve written. Contact us and let us know of your intention to submit and we will send back instructions for how to submit those samples. If your story intrigues us and your storytelling style fits in with our own presentation style and capabilities, then we will invite you to submit the entire script for consideration and then we’ll go from there. There will almost certainly be revisions requested, so be prepared for that.

On the other hand, if you have a script you want produced and are looking for a production company for hire, contact us and we’ll negotiate rates for the production!

Does one have to live in the Atlanta area to work with ARTC?

Pretty much, yeah, you do. We’re aware that there are many talented people elsewhere. We’re aware that it’s possible to record voice tracks in various remote locations and edit them together later. For rare situations, we’ve done that. In general, though, we perform in the same manner as traditional “old-time radio”: We gather the actors in the same place at the same time, and read through the script in real time, as if we were in front of a live audience. (Which, often, we are.) We prefer to be able to physically assemble the cast for our regular Wednesday night rehearsals as well. That limits us to easy driving distance from Stone Mountain, GA (where we rehearse). Write to us for times and directions.

I have an awesome idea for a script!

That’s fantastic! We’d love to hear it. But here’s the thing: writing for audio is different from any other kind of writing we’ve ever come across. It’s more story-driven than most television or movies and has a lot less narration and exposition than most books. You can’t lean on special effects, sight gags, or body language. Everything has to be conveyed in the voice or the sound effects.

Because audio drama is not written as often anymore, it’s rare to find someone who can write it well right out of the gate. Therefore, we have an extensive workshopping process where we will listen to a reading of your script and offer you feedback and suggestions. A successful writer for ARTC will take that constructive criticism and be prepared for a rewrite or two or more before they can expect it to be performed. We’ve workshopped some interesting concepts into really amazing audio dramas in the past and we’d love to do it with yours as well!

What is “Old Time Radio”?

Old Time Radio, or OTR as its fans often call it, is a shorthand label for the Golden Age of Radio, from approximately 1920 to 1950, from “Stoopnagle and Budd” and “Amos and Andy” through “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar”. This is the period when radio was the dominant mass medium in the United States, roughly equivalent to television’s position today. Even so, the comparison suffers, because today’s mass market is so heavily fragmented. No single program in any medium commands as much of the audience as “Amos and Andy” or the various Arthur Godfrey programs did at their peak.

Still, it is comparable, in that radio was the average person’s primary window on the world: News, sports, entertainment and culture all entered the home through the glowing dial of radio’s mahogany console. Radio will probably never be so dominant again, but ARTC is working to revive one little piece of it.

Can I make copies of your programs to share with my friends?

Short answer: No. Long answer: Noooooooooo.

But seriously. In the Old Time Radio community, there is a widespread belief that programs are there to be heard and enjoyed. This is hard to refute.

There is also a pervading opinion that once a program has been released, either on tape or on the air, that it then belongs to everybody. This is plainly not true. Radio drama and other forms of audio programming cost money, time, and resources to produce; in return for that cost, the originators of that programming retain intellectual and performance rights to that material.

Yesterday’s situation

Now, many of the glorious performances that comprise the Golden Age of Radio are lost to us. Some are lost forever, simply because the show was held to be valueless at the time: If it was ever recorded, the media were reused or recycled.

Some are only lost for now, until some lucky cleaning or salvage crew discovers a cache of ancient tapes or discs containing the treasure of a bygone age. Many of these programs never included a copyright statement, certainly not what is now considered correct. In addition, many of the originators of the program are long gone, retired or dead; there may be nobody left to fight for ownership of the show, and it (informally) falls into public domain.

Today’s situation

The OTR community is founded, and leans heavily, on the unauthorized duplication and distribution of audio programming. This is done with the best of motives: To get the program into the hands — and ears — of an appreciative audience. Where there is no findable author or copyright holder, no one is hurt, and everyone benefits.

In this day and age, virtually anyone can make a limitless number of digital copies of almost any file and distribution has reached every corner of the globe.  Attempts to limit that distribution by companies far larger than we are have been hit-and-miss at best.  And so we do what we can – we ask you not to.

The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company is not a subsidiary of a faceless, nameless multi-national with money to burn on a moribund art form. We are a group of people who love what we do, and the medium we do it in. We take in just enough money to sustain our operations and try to put a little aside for future growth.  Even within the arts community we are considered small.

How you can help

And so, we ask that you refrain from uploading our material, even for free.  We have our own free podcasts that we encourage you to share with your friends and family that is taken from our live performances, but the studio work that we spend much more time and energy on to make it sound as good as possible, we ask that that material be left to us and our authorized distributors to sell so that we can continue to produce more of the audio drama you love.

And you can help!  If you see any of our material posted on a website that you think may be unauthorized, let us know and send us a link so we can contact the owner and ask politely that they take it down.  Many of these instances are due to people who honestly didn’t realize we were still around or that they were doing us harm.  We’d really appreciate the help! And don’t forget that we accept donations as well through a variety of means!

Why do you call yourself “Radio Theatre” when so much of your programming is online?

Because there really isn’t a consensus among those who do what we do as to what we should call it. Back in 1984, “Radio Theatre” seemed the obvious choice. Lately there’s a swing towards “Audio Drama”, but in our personal appearances we do a lot of comedy, and we don’t want to mislead people. (As if “Radio Theatre” doesn’t.) Plus, if we changed the name of the company, we’d have to change all the stationery, letterheads and business cards… Let me tell you, it’s a real bear to get a corporate jet repainted. 🙂

No, seriously.

We’ve been wrestling with the question of exactly what we are for a while now. Are we a theater company who only occasionally has a theatre? Or are we a radio theater with a stronger online presence than on the radio? Are we “new old-time radio”? We like to think that we’re what traditional radio drama and comedy might have become, if it had lasted long enough in the United States to take advantage of today’s technology and dramatic techniques. Perhaps the best label for us, if you must have one, is “Small-Press Audio Publisher”. We’re an art form divorced from its medium, and the Internet is the greatest thing to happen to us since Norman Corwin.

But all this time and energy you’re putting into a dead art form…

It’s not dead at all. It’s largely moribund in America, although there are still dozens of companies here who produce dramatized radio programs (here’s a helpful page to assist you in finding some of them!). Elsewhere in the world, particularly at the BBC, radio thrives as a storytelling medium. And we have confidence that sooner or later, the US will catch up.