Elaine Lee’s TransMars Tango

TransMars Tango provides a fresh and original take on transgender issues.” –radio drama starring Phil Proctor (Firesign Theatre) & Robin Miles (Maya’s Soul), directed by Brian Price with music by Patrick Conway, Julia Thro and Dwight Frizzell.

TransMars Tango Review:

“Billed as a comedy about a trans-gender detective on Mars, TransMars Tango proved extremely entertaining listening – not so much for the plot, but for the dialogue, which positively crackled with wit. Author Elaine Lee certainly knows a lot about how to create dramatic interaction between characters of different genders and different vocal registers, as well as sustaining the element of surprise. Many audio dramas have plots that are easily grasped and often prove hackneyed in structure: Trans Mars Tango had me hooked throughout its 30-minute running time, simply because I could not anticipate the way in which the story would develop. I will not spoil future listeners’ pleasure by disclosing too much of it – suffice to say that it provides a fresh and original take on transgender issues.” — Radio Drama Revival, July 2012
The Echo of One Hand Clapping – Notes on Audio Publishing and Production, by Brian Price
In the last ten years all the signs of cheaper digital equipment and Internet distribution have pointed audio theater producers in the direction of podcasting and recording original productions (or parts of plays) remotely, e.g., one actor records their lines in Texas and another records in Australia and they email MP3s of their parts to the producer/editor in Canada.  Small inspired groups working hard.

So, why bother with big live theater productions?  Well, I got my answer when I was invited by NATF to be a guest director at a 2011 Workshop.  In a five-day week a two-hour live audio theater show was produced including 3 original plays that totaled 60-70 acting roles and who knows how many hundreds of sound effect cues.

In the play I directed, TransMars Tango by Elaine Lee, we had eleven actors on stage playing 25 separate roles.  We had 5 live foley (sound effects) artists on stage with a three-piece band plus an actor/engineer running sampled sound effects from a laptop.  There were like six guys out in the engineering truck recording all this.  Phil Proctor of the Firesign Theatre and recent Audie Award winner, Robin Miles, were in the cast.  We shot missiles, played the Conga and most likely broke the space/time continuum.  It was BIG.  It was in the tradition of BIG.  It shouldn’t have even been attempted on stage.  And it’s the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

I think the National Audio Theatre Festivals has always seen its main mission as upholding the tradition of the BIG BIG RADIO SHOW.  Back in the golden age the likes of Norman Corwin and Orson Welles had full orchestras and full time production staffs at their disposal.  They did big productions about big themes.

Even in the late 1980s producers like Yuri Rasovsky and David Ossman were receiving grants of a $100,000 to $150,000 to do big shows like the 50th Anniversary of War of the Worlds.  Nobody could possibly even consider asking for that kind of money nowadays.

But the show and idea of BIG goes on.  That’s a good thing.  Bringing together a large group of people every now and then and producing something you couldn’t possibly produce on your own is expanding, liberating.  It’s ridiculous.  I still think they’re all crazy at NATF, but that’s ok, maybe I am, too. –Brian Price http://www.greatnorthernaudio.com