Radio Theatre on KRAB
From the beginning KRAB broadcast drama, either "theatre" or the vaguely less posh "theater", some coming from commercial recordings, other from KPFA, including the KPFA Reader's Theater and Eric Bauersfield's Black Mass, WBAI's Mind's Eye Theatre, and the BBC. Over the years there were a number of Seattle and KRAB groups that produced drama or theatrical readings for KRAB. These included Greg Palmer's Roachdale Radio Players, which, with Raymond Jarvi directing, seems to have gotten serious when it morphed into The Breadline Theatre. There were productions by the Group Action Theatre (John Gilbert, Jim Wilkie, Susan Reid), Bijou Theatre, UW Reader's Theater, Theatre Group of Seattle, Helix Community Theatre (Paul Crane), Voxamerica Readers' Theater, Empty Space, The Womyn's Theatre, the Family Bathtub Theatre, and the Conservatory Theatre Company. In 1979 Kathy Bottoms received a grant from the Seattle Arts Commission to produce the KRAB Radio Theater.
From 1974 to 1979 KRAB also aired productions from Earplay, National Public Radio's foray into radio drama. The producers "commissioned playwrights such as Edward Albee, Arthur Kopit, Archibald MacLeish, and David Mahmet to develop original material for the series". Between 1974 and 1978 the NEA spent about $2.5 million on Earplay, with CPB, the Ford Foundation, KCET, Minnesota Public Radio, and others chipping in another $7.5 million. By 1978 CPB had withdrawn its funding, and KCET, unable to attract other support, abandoned the project in 1979. (See "NEA, Programming in the Arts: An Impact Evaluation, Karen Shapiro, Sep 1980". For a little more about what brought the curtain down on Earplay, click here or scroll down
If you should any have additional information about radio drama or theatre on KRAB, please let me know.
A note about NPR, CPB and EarPlay
In 1970 KRAB received its first grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (Guide 213, pg 6), and, in Jun 1971 (Guide 221, pg 4), became eligible to broadcast programming from National Public Radio. The NPR material airing on KRAB was selected to avoid duplicating KUOW's service and to be somehow consistent with whatever KRAB's programming vision was at the time. For a very brief period, for instance, KRAB ran All Things Considered at 5:30 in the morning, while KUOW ran it during afternoon drive time. So, NPR would appear rarely on KRAB, with Congressional hearings (Watergate, for example), an occasional documentary, performance, or arts program being about it.
The Lady's Not For Burning - KRAB Feb 16, 1963
The Complete Play by Christopher Fry. John Gielgud and Pamela Brown (Decaa)
This is the earliest example of radio theatre scheduled on KRAB. From an LP recording.
Cast - The characters in the order in which they are heard
Thomas Mendip, a discharged soldier. . .John Gielgud
Directed by John Gielgud
Scene: A room in the house of Hebble Tyson, Mayor of the small market town of Cool Clary
Time: The 15th Century either more or less or exactly.
Collection of C Reinsch
The Squaw, by Bram Stoker, produced by Erik Bauersfeld at KPFA - KRAB Oct 10, 1964
Another in the Black Mass series from KPFA with Erik Bauersfeld and Janet Dawson.
Erik Bauersfeld passed away Apr 3, 2016, and it seems appropriate to share one of his productions now. Starting in 1961, Bauersfeld was KPFA's Drama and Literature Director for 31 years, which means he weathered some pretty terrible storms. Introducing his interview/conversation with Bauersfeld, John Whiting writes "For Erik and me, this was just an arbitrary slice out of a dialog extending over four decades. As one of the two long term KPFA survivors who were not lined up on either side of the barricades, his insights into the station’s gradual commercialization and vulgarization are Confucian in their self-evident simplicity."
Although KRAB aired others of his Black Mass productions before Oct 1964, "The Squaw" is the earliest for which we have a program guide that confirms the date of broadcast.
Courtesy Pacifica Radio Archives
NEW MAY 2017: The Diary of a Madman, by Nikolai Gogol produced by Erik Bauersfeld for Black Mass - KRAB May 20, 1966; KPFA Feb 6, 1965
GOGOL'S Diary of a Madman, produced by Erik Bauersfeld for a KPFA series called Black Mass.
Adapted for radio by Erik Bauersfeld; Technical production by John Whiting; Music design by KPFA music director Charles Shere. The cast is Erik Bauersfeld and Bernard Mayes as the Madman and his alter-ego, respectively; and Pat Franklyn plays the women, and dogs, in his life.
John Whiting gives a production date of Dec 16, 1964. The earliest KPFA broadcast date is Feb 6, 1965. Erik Bauersfeld also did an earlier "imaginative rendition" of Madman (probably a reading) that aired May 22, 1963.
If you are curious about the Black Mass series, more can be learned at John Whiting's MyKPFA site.
A reading of Diary of a Madman by Mark S Klyn at the Berkeley Reader's Theatre is also in the KRAB Archive and can be found on the Readings page.
Courtesy John Whiting and the Pacifica Radio Archives
The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade - KRAB Jun 8, 1966
The play by Peter Weiss, presented by THE Royal Shakespear Company, directed by Peter Brook and loaned to KRAB by Standard Records. [Guide listing for the first KRAB broadcast, Jun 8, 1966]
Right at this time we have an hour and a half sized hole which we are planning to try to fill with a recording of MARAT SADE, the (off?) Broadway play about and for (?) crazy people. Care to listen in?? [Guide listing for Sep 16, 1966]
Peter Weiss' musical play, directed by Peter Brooks and performed by The Royal Shakespeare Company. The cast includes Patrick Magee, Ian Richardson and Glenda (Secret Garden) Jackson. [Guide listing for Jul 13, 1976]
The Royal Shakespearean Company under the direction of Peter Brook performs Peter Weiss' remarkable play frequently regarded as a synthesis of the theatrical principles of Bertold Brecht and Antonin Artaud. [Guide listing for Jan 12, 1979
This was broadcast on at least six occasions on KRAB, for which I think I am partly to blame as I purchased a copy when it was released and loaned it to the station several times. In addition to the four air dates listed above, it was also aired Jun 9, 1966 (morning repeat); and Jan 29, 1975.
Collection of C Reinsch
The Investigator, a play for radio - KRAB Jul 26, 1966; Jul 10, 1968; Oct 13, 1971
"THE INVESTIGATOR" or Is God a Commie? A heavy, nasty and excellently produced anti-McCarthy (Joe) satire. From an immaculate conception, he dies in a plane crash and goes to heaven. Where he once again begins anti-communist investigations - in the course of which deporting (“From up Here to down there") Mr. Socrates, John Milton, Spinoza, Voltaire, and J. S. Bach. And, in the end, subpoenas the "Chief".
Written by Reuben Ship and produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1954, it stars John Drainie in the lead role. Much of the inspiration for the play came from Reuben Ship's own experiences as a victim of House Committee on Un-American Activities. For more information about the play and Ship see A Palpable Hit: A Study of the Impact of Reuben Ship's The Investigator
Collection of C Reinsch
Chandu The Magician - KRAB Dec 1970
For a short time in 1970 KRAB broadcast a portion of the 1948 radio serial, Chandu The Magician. It can be found in two program guides from Dec 1970, but it does not appear in 1971, although two (more?) episodes were aired in Jun and Jul of 1979. Three episodes were recorded off the air, though, and we have them here. It seems that it was decided to edit the commercials out of the programs. Perhaps that was the reason for abandoning the plan to broadcast the entire series. Where did these transcriptions come from? Preceeding Chandu on Wednesday nights was "BY THE LIGHT OF THE DIAL- Old radio shows with David MacDonald". Perhaps David was the source?
Hear episodes 1 to 3 courtesy of the Internet Archive. These include the commercials.
If you are desperate to learn the fates of Chandu, Dorothy, Bob, and Betty, the Internet Archive has them all. On the Internet Archieve list, episode 7 of the series above is labelled "18 48-07-06 Dorothy is Rescued". You weren't expecting that were you?
Recordings of episodes 4, 5 and 6 courtesy Will Estill, WE0016
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley - KRAB Dec 10 and 11, 1971; Produced by the CBS Radio Workshop, 1956
Dec 10, 1971 - Part One of CBS Radio Workshop's program, with Aldous Huxley, author of the novel from which it is adapted, as the narrator: ". . . a fantastic parable about the de-humanization of human beings. In the negative utopia described in my story, man has been subordinated to his own inventions. Science, technology, social organization, these things have ceased to serve man; they have become his masters."
Dec 11, 1971 - Part Two. "A quarter of a century has passed since the book was published. And in that time, our world has taken so many steps in the wrong direction, that if I were writing today, I would date my story not 600 years in the future, but at the most 200. The price of liberty and even of common humanity, is eternal vigilance," says Aldous Huxley, author of the book, and narrator of the radio play.
It is now sixty years since Huxley revised his original estimate of the date in which he placed the Brave New World (2540) from 600 years to "at most 200" years in the future (2156). With 140 years to go, his revision appears still too optimistic. Our Brave New World will surely complete its transformation well before the centuries end.
Brave New World was produced by the CBS Radio Workshop, and first aired Jan 27, and Feb 3, 1956. As CBS prepares to abandon its radio division, it seems appropriate to share this in the KRAB archive.
Produced and Directed by William Froug; Music composed by Bernard Herrman; Hosted by William Conrad; Narration by Aldous Huxley
Cast: Bill Idleson, Charlotte Lawrence, Doris Singleton, Gloria Henry, Herb Butterfield, Jack Kruschen, Joseph Kearns, Lurene Tuttle, Parley Baer, Vic Perrin, Byron Kane, Sam Edwards
Recording courtesy archive.org
The Breadline Theatre does Three Stories by H P Lovecraft - KRAB Jun 14, 1971
THE BREADLINE THEATRE: Stories of H. P. Lovecraft - the sixth Breadline production, this time co-ordinated by Raymond Jarvi and Ivars Mikelson, engineering by Bill Seymour.
The Breadline Theatre was one of Greg Palmer's productions. Between 1971 and 1972 the players included Susan Marshall, James Mish'alani, Kirby Duffle, and Ivars Mikelson, Charlotte Richie, Janet Hews, and Sverre Arestad. The director (and occasionally performing) was Raymond Jarvi, with technical assistance from Greg Palmer and Bill Seymour.
Recording courtesy of the Jack Straw Foundation, JSF inv L0664
Not Insane or Anything You Want To, by The Firesign Theatre - KRAB Nov 6, 1972
There is no guide description. It wasn't scheduled in the guide. Jean Shepherd was scheduled, but the tape from WOR was not in the slot for this day, so someone decided The Firesign Theatre might be a good substitute. Believing it had language that might offend some listeners (The short-term license renewal hearing was the previous year), Phil Bannon set up a six second delay.....and away we go.
Here we have side 1 of a then newly released commercial LP. While the LP was stereo, KRAB was not, with the result that, heard over the air, it was a bit harder to make out what the Firesign crew was up to.
It was the day before the presidential election. If you listen through to the end, at about 20 minutes in, after Phil Bannon apologizes, sort of, for not playing Jean Shepherd, you will hear him announce that Phil Ochs performed earlier that evening at Kane Hall "over at the University of Washington" and that KRAB was there recording an interview and a song, which we will hear now. No we won't. No we won't. The tape just ends.
But we do have excerpts from a great reminiscence by Dan Mortensen who worked at the concert that night. The complete story can be found (click) here.
I got to work with Phil once.
It was the night before the 1972 election, and for some reason there was a free concert for the occasion in Room 120 of Kane Hall at the University of Washington in Seattle. I have no idea who put it on or why.
Kane 120 was an unlikely choice of rooms, as it is a classroom with about 450 fixed chairs with writing surfaces. There is no stage, although the front of the room does not have chairs, and the fixed chairs are mounted in tiers, so the back of the room is about 20' higher then the front. There are just fluorescent lights and dimmable room lights, but not specific stage lighting, which was why someone asked me to come. The PA system is built in and was and is terrible, and the room has a hollow echo to it (all brick walls and concrete floor). There is a room next door that is more of a concert space and not quite twice as large, but this event was in 120 and not next door.
I think I'd heard of Phil Ochs but had not seen him before. The UW staff guy doing sound, Don Zonker, was running up and down the stairs getting ready for the show; the back-and-forth was because the PA was definitely not a concert PA, definitely a classroom PA, and he had to add parts here and there to make it work. I was paying attention to what I was doing, and was glad I wasn't helping on sound (a hopeless task in that room with that gear), so I don't know what he was going through, but he was working at a fever pitch to get ready.
Longer story shorter, as showtime approached, people started coming in. And coming in. And coming in.
Pretty soon, all the seats were filled, and people kept coming in. By the start of the show, not only was every seat filled, but also all the spaces between the seats. And all the cross aisles in every row were filled. All the aisles were filled. The edge of the projection booth window (which ran the full length of the room) had people sitting on it, except where Don had to look through. The flat area at the front of the room was filled. I have never seen a room that full of people. It would not surprise me if 1500 people or more were in that room.
Phil did a really great show, and had the audience in the palm of his hand. We were all aware that George McGovern had had an uphill battle that would be resolved the next day, but nobody there knew how far uphill it was. There was hopeful optimism in the crowd, and Phil was hopeful and optimistic, too, and encouraging us to continue to fight the good fight. We really felt like there was a possibility things were going to change.
We learned the next day how badly our asses had been kicked.
Phil's actual death was a shock, and I didn't really know until reading one of the bios what a sad case he was, despite which or maybe because of, he wrote and performed some really great music.
Now, back to Firesign Theatre - "Not Insane" takes place in "Radio Prison". It stars Philip Proctor, David Ossman, Peter Bergman, and Phil Austin. You can learn slightly more, and buy a complete stereo copy if inclined, by clicking here.
Recording courtesy Will Estill, Tape 4, Side 1
The Sell Out by Friedrich Dürrenmatt (NPR Earplay) - KRAB Oct 22, 1976
This writer, best known for The Visit and The Physicists, here portrays a horrifying and grotesque world of corruption. And, as if that were not sufficient, he suggests that the only possible reaction to this evil society qone mad is to laugh at it's macabre machinations. Join us. Then stay tuned, after a brief intermission we will have "After Liverpool" by James Saunders. It's another commentary on the continuing problems of communication failure, this time in the form of a voice montage.
The Sell Out was adapted for radio by Hans Houseman and translated by William R Elwood. "After Liverpool" has not yet been found.
Recording courtesy Mark Zacharias
J.B. by Archibald MacLeish (NPR Earplay) - KRAB Nov 25, 1976
Thanksgiving Special: Those already familiar with Archibald MacLeish's famous Broadway play will understand why we have scheduled it for Thanksgiving Day. The rest of you are in store for a surprise. This is a radio adaptation written by MacLeish himself and starring Robert Lansing, Nancy Marchand, Keene Curtis and Donald Davis in a retelling of the Old Testament story of Job. (Ed. note: This is an excellent production, with some nice stereo effects.)
Well, you won't hear the "nice stereo effects", as our copy is mono, but it is still good radio.
Collection of C Reinsch
A Visit With John Howard Griffin (NPR Earplay) - KRAB Jan 28, 1977
An autobiographical sound portrait with reminiscences by John Howard Griffin, author of Black Like Me, and readings from his works. Produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Another program appropriate to the anniversary of Freedom Summer.
Collection of C Reinsch
Dinosaurs by John Antrobus (NPR Earplay) - KRAB 1976 (Deathwatch)
An improvisation in which John Antrobus visits the local museum where Spike Milligan is in charge of the Dinosaur Gallery. Dinosaurs appears to have been originally produced by the BBC.
Collection of C Reinsch
The Barthelme story from which this is adapted is a favorite (Guilty Pleasures, Delta (Dell Publishing) 1963-1974). Unfortunately all we have is a brief excerpt during which two astrophysicists are discussing the subject of recently acquired photographs.
Collection of C Reinsch
A little more about the closing of Earplay
The following comes from a 2002 interview of Tom Lopez of ZBS Media (Fourth Tower of Inverness, Moon Over Morocco, etc) by Roger Gregg of Ireland’s Crazy Dog Audio Theatre. The full interview is available here.
GREGG: When I spoke to Yuri Rasovsky, he described things happening for American radio drama the 70’s, and then it’s demise and you and he seeing the writing on the wall.
LOPEZ: The thing was that the money wasn't there for radio drama. NPR was formed around ‘71 or 72 - we predate NPR by about a year. Earplay came into existence and I think they lasted about 8 years to about ‘79. And they literally got all the money. CPB, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, would give them whatever, big, big chunks of money, and then the National Endowment for the Arts would match it. I think Yuri would occasionally get a little money from them, but no one else was getting anything. They got everything. They just sort of wiped the slate clean. And they came up with a proposal sometime in the later 70s which was when they brought in this well-known producer from the BBC. He travelled around. He said ‘What we need to do is something like STAR WARS’, which had just come out. ‘And we need to do that on radio’. Which they did and was quite successful.
GREGG: This was the series directed by John Madden ?
LOPEZ: I think so. …. The thing is that they put forward a proposal…. That is Earplay, NPR. The proposal was that they would have 3 centres producing radio drama. One doing classical, one doing popular, one doing serious drama, I believe. … And it was starting off with 1.1. million and then it would increase to about 2 million. We looked at this proposal and were horrified. We said ‘If this thing happens, we’re screwed. Nobody else in this country will ever see any kind of money for producing radio drama’. And so we put up a stink. Yuri joined in and maybe a couple others. The National Endowment listened to us, CPB wouldn’t listen to us. And the National Endowment agreed and that year didn’t fund Earplay at all. They got zero. And they collapsed. Which surprised us because we didn’t say get rid of the guys, we just said this is unfair and that the money should be distributed around. So we were quite surprised that they were just wiped out totally.
GREGG: Perhaps secretly, unbeknownst to you, the National Endowment was just looking for a pretext to pull the plug?
LOPEZ: You’re right. It wasn’t secret. Their ratings had gone way down, that is, their station coverage, they didn’t have ratings for public radio back then. …A lot of stations were complaining about their material. For various reasons. I think one of the things was that they kept using more and more BBC productions and less and less producing. But that’s my speculation. It definitely was dwindling with less stations. So it was a good reason to spread the money around which NEA then did. Not a lot but certainly it helped some of us.
If you possess any souvenirs (program guides, tapes, or photos) or have a story about your experience with KRAB you are willing to share, please email email@example.com