Don’t Close Your Eyes: Live Radio Theatre

Question 1: How did DCYE come about?

Ryan Cassavaugh
Not sure where to start on that one. It came from our love of old radio.

Keith Suta
We each grew up listening to cassette tape recordings of old-time radio programs. For me it was The Shadow, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee & Molly...Richard Diamond, Private Detective...

RC - We knew the Verge, then the Equinox Theatre, was dark in the summers. Keith cornered Bennett [Drozic, Board Member] at a party and pitched the idea of us doing a run of summer radio plays to keep the theater operating year round.

KS - It wasn’t as much to have the theater operate year-round as it was an opening in the production schedule that I could grab for our own uses. Our deal was pretty much “We’ll write all the plays: You keep all the money!”

RC - I am fairly sure Keith pitched the idea to the theater before he pitched it to me, because he knew I’d be easy to convince. Turns out, the theater was fairly easy to convince as well.
     “You keep all the money” is always a good selling point.

KS - Ryan had the “in” at the theater, having written and produced many children’s shows there, so I knew his was the name to exploit... We’d been friends for a few years, and had met in situations where we were sharing material we’d written -- so I think we’d wanted to work together for a while. This just happened to be it.

RC - It’s worked out so far.

KS - When my friends and I started doing The Coffee Show back in 1992 on KGLT-FM, it was in order to write and perform live radio comedy sketches, much like ones of old-time radio -- so I think it’s something that I cannot and will not ever be able to get away from.

Question 2: Who is in charge of sound effects?

RC - It’s a collaborative effort over all, Keith and I write the effects into the script and are very instrumental in figuring out how to get the sounds we are trying for.
But our effects crew, Wren Goodman and Kyle Suta are in charge of performing the effects during the show.

KS - When we started the shows, we worked with our friend, Rob Robinson, who is an electronic musician, and he activated digital sound effects on stage during the shows. He was only available that first year, however, and we since moved to two performers per show, executing everything live. We very quickly realized that analog sound effects would be more reliable, and much more visually interesting.

RC - It is much more interesting to the live audience to see how sounds are made, then it is to see recordings of actual sounds activated.
    Part of why we call the show “Don’t Close Your Eyes” is because we want the live show to be a real view into how the show is made. Where each sound comes from.

KS - It ties us more firmly back to old-time radio, as well. Even though they were using sound effects from tapes and record albums even back in the 1930s, we all have that image of someone making horse hooves sounds with coconuts.

RC - When people file into the theater they see the table loaded with all manner of items - a door, a pile of rocks, a box of macaroni - and it engages people in wondering what sounds they will make and how they will be used in the story.

KS - We also called it “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” because it’s really fun to see one actor doing multiple voices in an episode... Which leads us to:

Question 3: How many voices are involved in the project?

RC - All of them!

KS - Sometimes more!

RC - The way we write the scripts, writing each one in the week preceding its performance, means we never know how many characters there are going to be, how many voices we’ll need, or how many actors we will need to make those voices.
We’ve done shows with as few as three actors, and as many as eight or nine in some of the larger end-of-season shows.
     Most times, actors are performing more than one character in each show.

KS - Actors with a particularly large part may only do one or two voices per week -- others may end up playing four, five, or even more! I think my all-time record was five actors playing 26 different roles!

But as Ryan said -- each week’s script is entirely new and different from the others. Both to keep the energy and spontaneity of old-time radio, but also because if it were a linear story, no one would come to week four if they’d missed weeks one through three. So we trade off writing a new one-hour episode each week, in a different genre, with different sound effects, music, and casts!

RC - We are lucky to have some really great voice actors who perform with us, and we are always adding new people. We’ve been really fortunate in the people we’ve worked with over the past five years.

- We have lucked into finding people who understand the very specific demands of performing voice acting in a “radio theatre” context! Plus they’re all fun folks!

Question 4: Is there a theme for this year’s series?

RC - Since each show is independent from the others in the run, we generally don’t have a theme going in. It limits our ability to chase whatever story unfolds to us, and when you are writing week-to-week, you really need the freedom to chase down the ideas as they come. After it’s all over, there may be a connective thread the emerges, but not going in.

KS - I don’t think we’ve ever had a theme to the seasons. One week you’ll find a funny cowboy show, the next week a suspenseful thriller, the week after that... Who knows?

RC - Not us.

KS - I should add that the shows are appropriate for the entire family. We might have the occasional spooky show, but I usually get feedback from adults we’ve scared about how un-scared their kids were!

RC - It’s camp-fire-story level spooky.

KS - If that. The thread that usually runs through all the shows is that Ryan and I love making people laugh. Humor always comes to the fore.

RC - They are, by and large, comedies at heart -- even our most serious offerings are peppered with jokes. It’s the most immediate reaction you can get from a live crowd, laughter. So we never stray far from jokes.

Question 5: What can a new audience member expect from the show?

KS - More than their money’s worth!

RC - I do think people new to our shows always leave a lot more entertained then they expected to be. By far, most new people who come to a show, come back the next week.

KS - Seeing a radio theatre play is different from a “regular” play -- there are no costumes or sets... Our actors stand in front of microphones with their script pages. Our sound effects table is covered with the weird items that will be used for foley.
    All of that, plus the audience’s imaginations, will come together to make one hour of adventure and fun!

RC - The stories are big, roaring, wild adventures, with jokes and excitement. It’s remarkable to see it play out with the effects and the multi-voiced cast.

KS - Each play is written in one week. We have a read-through with actors on Monday, we gather sound effects, rehearse on Thursday, then perform Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Verge Theater. The next week, the process begins again! It’s exhausting and incredibly rewarding!

RC - And that frantic energy spills over into the performances. They are wildly engaging to watch. I still get excited to see a new show go up each week,

Question 6: Anything else you’d like to add?

RC - An unlimited budget.

KS - I guess I would cap it off by saying that this is our sixth year! Ryan and I have written almost 50 new plays and we look forward to sharing seven new shows during this crazy, high-write creative experience with everyone from June 10 through July 23. If you have a Friday or Saturday free for an hour, please join us at the Verge Theater on North 7th Avenue!

RC - After five years, heading into our sixth, I am still as enamored with the process as I was at the beginning. I am ready to do it again!

KS - Yeah! Let’s start NOW!

RC - Done.