Updated: Jul 26, 2021
We’re bringing you previews of the five science-fiction radio plays that will makeup ReThink On Air. Each of these pieces explore the ways that sound fuels storytelling and will come to life both as a staged play and as an audio-only event later on in our season. In our last blog, you read about how Katie Siegel, Matt DeMiller, and Amir Gad tackled the science fiction prompt with stories of zombies, radio-stations and extra-dimensional portals; now we’re digging deeper into the human side with stories from Hannah M’Lynn and Elisabeth Graham.
Inspired by current events, and a historical interest in burial rituals across time and space, historian and playwright Hannah M’Lynn says “Grief is a part of human nature, and I love the different ways that humans give a voice to the metaphysical concept of Death. I wanted to explore this in my own way, and hopefully give a positive spin to it, since this topic has been regularly discussed over the past year.” This inspired her to write Bjorn Again, where after a freak accident grants him the title of “first human to die in 100 years,” Bjorn Radsted is in for a surprise when Death and Time themselves come to personally reap his soul. “I've heard that radio is considered a dying art,” she says, sticking true to her themes, “But if you look at how many podcasts are available online, that can't possibly be true. I remember the first narrative story that I listened to as a podcast; when they added in music as a storytelling element, I got chills!”
Elisabeth Graham’s piece The Record, relies on our species' close relationship with audio storytelling in both form and content. It sprang out of Graham’s fascination with the Golden Record project, which attached literal golden records to long-distance space probes in an attempt to communicate with intelligent life. “Attached to the Voyager 1 and 2 probes, the Golden Record is a 12-inch disk embedded with sounds and images that encapsulate human history,” Graham explains. These recordings include an EKG and EEG of Ann Druyan, the project’s art director, thinking about her romance with Carl Sagan. “There's equations, the sounds of pulsars, and Chuck Berry,” Graham says, “There's romantic love in the form of a heart beat. It's got it all.” This amazing collection inspired her to tell the story of another form of long-distance communication: in The Record, ten years after the death of a prominent scientist, her husband and estranged daughter sit down to listen to one last message she sent them from beyond the grave.
“I am inspired by the Golden Record the same way that I am inspired by my favorite science fiction,” Graham says, “There's no need to silo art and science away from each other. There's an opportunity to examine our humanity through two equally rigorous schools of thought, and that is at the heart of what makes us all deeper thinkers and more compassionate people.” With the help of these five engaging and inspiring plays, we hope to continue exploring the intersection on that venn diagram.
To learn more about ReThink On Air, apply to our open staff positions, or read more about the playwrights and producer, visit https://www.rethinktheatrical.org/onair.