Because audio drama is the most visual medium available.
Okay, so let’s begin with a bit of history. The foundations of American media – networks (CBS and NBC), formats (sitcoms, westerns, mysteries), the concept of advertisers funding programming – all had their roots in radio, in particular the “Golden Age” era from roughly 1930 to the late 1950s when radio drama dominated the airwaves. Radio flourished until the advent of TV, when equipment makers decided to end its life.
Some amount of radio drama persisted in the 70s and 80s – indeed an era of NPR-funded shows and on-the-air possibilities brought us greats like the ZBS Foundation, The Firesign Theatre, NPR’s Earplay, the work of Yuri Rasovsky. And let’s not forget Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!
Still, post 1960 radio drama was largely on life support until the advent of the internet.
Fast Forward to Today
So why would you take an antiquated art form from the 60s and bring it back? Well, let’s start with your pocket. What’s in it? Or, should we say, if you’re leaving the house and headed somewhere, what’s in it? A device that can play back audio material while you’re traveling? Yeah, that’s what we thought…
The Cleansed‘s creator, Fred Greenhalgh, had his roots as a creative writer with a novel to sell. But no one was buying. Fred also had taken 2 years of film school. But making something as vast as The Cleansed in video is, well, epic.
Enter audio drama. In audio drama, the story is told using sound effects, dialogue, and music – nothing less, nothing more. You can unwind the entire 21st century simply by playing off loud explosions with the right line of dialogue. It is a magic trick. You have the IMAX theatre of someone’s imagination just waiting for you to come with a bucket of paint. When it works, audio drama is divine.
Though The Cleansed is one of the more ambitious audio drama projects attempted in the modern age, it is significantly easier than producing a film of the same scope. The actors can be recorded asynchronously (i.e. not all of them are there are there at the same time, though we try) and people do not need to ‘look’ like the characters they portray as long as they sound like them. That gives us some flexibility in casting.
Doing it on Location
We have attracted some national press exposure because of our dedication to recording audio plays out in the world, e.g. ‘on location.’
This means that instead of the traditional studio environment, actors are using acoustic environments in real locations similar to those called for in the scripts. The “Refuge” scenes were recorded in and around a farm in Maine that allowed us locations like: interior of barn, exterior of barn, out in the paddock with the horses, near a stream, in the woods. We even threw our characters in a canoe and had them paddle!
The “Republic” sequence was recorded at the North Dam Mill in Biddeford, Maine, an historic textile mill that has been renovated to offer studios, business space, restaurants and more. A large amount of the complex has yet to be renovated, and instead has huge warehouse spaces where we were allowed to run around. There is also an extensive underground tunnel system that served for all of our “Soup” locations.
Do you like it?
We hope you can hear the difference. By recording ‘on location’ we hoped to make The Cleansed sound as immersive, urgent, and realistic as any audio production you will ever hear.