By Celine Dirkes
“When audiences go to see live work, they’re not really sure what to expect,” Natasha Sydor, producer of ReThink On Air, explains. According to her, the process of producing an original work is completely different from producing an existing play. “It’s scary! It’s raw, it’s new, it’s never been workshopped before, and it’s coming directly from someone’s mind onto the paper [and] onto the stage.”
Yet, this was the challenge set before Natasha and a team of five playwrights whose work she guided through a six-week virtual development process. Not only did they face the challenge of creating original work, they are also developing work for an unusual medium-- audio drama.
“The great thing about ReThink On Air,” Natasha starts, “is that these writers have the opportunity to have their work seen or heard in so many different formats.” This is certainly true, as beyond the invite-only live shows coming to the East Jersey Old Town Village in June, the production will also be live-streamed, recorded as a podcast, and possibly broadcast live on a local radio station.
According to Natasha, an auditory focus immerses the audience into the story, not only through their sense, but through their limbic system as well. Using audio as the primary focus of a story gives playwrights two major tools in their storytelling--dialogue and sound effects. During the development process, Natasha encouraged the playwrights to develop their characters through their dialogue and voice posing questions like, “How can [their voice] get across their personalities when we don’t have that added value of seeing their facial expressions, which movies and TV are so heavily reliant on?” More challenging was determining how best to create soundscapes. Many first drafts featured things that had to be seen in order to be understood and required the playwrights to ask themselves what sounds could tell the same story.
While the virtual development process had its challenges, Natasha is looking forward to tackling the live show where everyone will finally be in the same room together. “We wanted to collaborate, we wanted to eat, we wanted to laugh together,” she says, “But we really used those couple hour workshop times that we had on Saturdays...and the writers and myself looked forward to that every single week.”
Now, the playwrights have passed their pieces on to directors and casts as Natasha shepherds On Air through the next stage of production--rehearsals. Also virtual, this next phase comes with its own challenges of translating stories off the page and into a transporting soundscape. Throughout, Natasha is focused on the gifts storytelling can provide.
“This is a celebration of finally being able to tell stories in this new and exciting medium that everyone can participate in.”