By Celine Dirkes
There are two different job descriptions that might come with the title of “Producer.” Well, that’s according to Natasha Sydor who holds that title for ReThink On Air. A more business-focused producer might handle budgets and logistics, while a creative producer leans into development by bringing together a creative team. Natasha identifies as a little bit of both, leaning heavily on her creative side.
“I’m the individual throughout this production that’s touching every single aspect of it,” she says. Previously, Natasha produced ReThink’s site specific, devised production of Sleepy Hollow in 2019, however the development of ReThink On Air’s five original radio plays from two-sentence pitches into 20-minute plays uniquely challenged her.
“We created an entirely bespoke process for this show,” Natasha explains. After vetting the writers with ReThink’s Artistic Council, she developed a six-week writing workshop that would shepherd the playwrights, none of whom had written a radio play before, through the creative process. Each week featured a presentation on a relevant topic, beginning with onboarding and an overview of the process in Week One, then transitioning into tools each writer could implement in their creative process.
Week Two focused on the anatomy of a radio play. “During that week,” Natasha begins, “I presented a lot of research on traditional radio plays and what makes them sticky.” She explored the historical function of audio drama, and how they survive today as podcasts, with a special focus on their scripts and structure. Natasha lists some guiding questions as: “How exactly do you write a radio play? What does the beginning, middle and end look like? And how can we do that within the confines of 20-25 minutes?”
In Week Three they focused on the rules of science fiction. Natasha, a huge fan of the genre, was excited to explore the structures that make it work. According to her, a writer must know the rules within their world, and question when to follow those rules and when to break them. The On Air playwrights drafted, edited, and offered each other feedback in their weekly workshops. Natasha says, “Whatever the theme is of that week, we would make sure that as we’re going through those edits we’d be looking at it in that light.”
In their final creative development week, Week Four, the team focused on sound effects, or Foley. “Something that’s really exciting for ReThink On Air,” Natasha states, “is that we’re creating all these sounds live, with people, at the live show. So, those sounds are essentially another character in these productions.”
The fifth and sixth weeks were dedicated to table reads. Volunteers from the ReThink community read aloud each play in its entirety to get a sense of what they sounded like live, and what beats did or didn’t work.
“I was not expecting to cry when the writing process was over,” Natasha reminisces, and reflects that she looked forward to spending time with the writers at their weekly Saturday sessions. Despite meeting virtually, a bond of trust developed within the team. They ended with a virtual goodbye party as the plays moved on to the next stage of development--finding directors and casting actors.
“To have that trust, to break down those barriers of the computer and of the screen, and really connect through the storytelling,” Natasha gushes “...the storytelling is at the forefront of all the work that we do.”