West Plains Hosts the National Audio Theatre Festival

Jul 27, 2007

KSMU's monthly series "These Ozarks Hills" features stories about people and places in the Ozarks collected and presented by long-time journalist Marideth Sisco. In this installment, Marideth gives us some highlights from the National Audio Theatre Festival that took place in West Plains in late June.

Marideth: Hello! I'm Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. Iknow many people think of the Ozarks as a laid back place to settle down. But for people who work in radio, for at least one week out of the year, West Plains is a real hot spot. It's not just the temperature, although it does happen at the end of June. For that's when West Plains plays host to the National Audio Theatre Festival. It's a gathering of the best and brightest in all the audio arts. From voice actors like Jeff Hedquist, Simon Jones, and Barbara Caruso, recording engineers like Tom Lopez, Henry Howard and NPR's Renee Pringle to Grammy-winning record producer Paul Reuben and Academy-Award nominee Randy Thom of Skywalker Studios. Now, Randy is on a very tight schedule right now what with all the Harry Potter and Pixar movies. And he couldn't appear in person but he listened in when they set up microphone arrays to catch the sound of a helicopter landing. He talked with them for about an hour via conference call about that and a lot of other stuff. There were workshops in writing for the spoken word, voice acting, production techniques, computer software, sound effects, all the things that make radio, well, radio...all mixed in with a healthy dose of fun. One of the microphone arrays they gave Randy to review for instance was recorded on an iPod mounted face down under a rock on the landing pad. He said he was surprised by how bad it wasn't. Technology...isn't it wonderful? And through it all, Dwight Frizzell and Michael Henry were putting together a sound composition in the theatre involving Indian flute, the helicopter, and a couple of Warthog A-10 fighter jets from his hometown airbase, Whiteman, up near Kansas City. I tell you Dwight, what will you think of next?

And meanwhile, out in the lobby, Rhiana Yazzie, part of the Native American Radio Theatre group, was worrying over sound effects for her play "Peach Seed" while the voice actors were rehearsing their parts inside. Rhiana, how's that coming?

Rhiana: Well, today, for the Peach Seed, we had our first rehearsal and tonight we're working on sound effects. So we're putting together all the cues and everything that's going to be in it: wind gusts, chopping of trees, fires...So, I think it's going to be a late night.

Marideth: And outside, Charles Potter was busy creating those sound effects. Charles, how's it going?

Charles: We're recording backgrounds for a scene where the cavalry charge in a script. So we have a bunch of guys. They're all going to be charging by this surround sound microphone to create the sense that we're right in the middle of the trail as the cavalry charge by.

Marideth: They ended the week with a two-hour non-stop performance before a live studio audience...just like they used to do it in the old days, but with better toys. You should've been there. All in all, it made for a rip-roaring week of audacious audio antics right here in the quiet Ozarks...giving the lie to the idea that all is peace and quiet out here in these Ozarks hills.

Our thanks to the talents and perseverance of audio artist and independent radio producer Dianne Ballon for the sound clips and Brad Smith for production assistance. I'm Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills.