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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Check, check, 1, 2, 3

By Julia Phillips

After the mics are set up in the KMRE radio studio, the air fans are turned on to keep the studio space as cool as possible, because 10 people will soon squeeze into the room to produce a radio show.

Actors arrive and start highlighting their parts while the sound team checks the audio levels.

“Levels,” which is when actors speak into the microphone at the average volume and tone they’ll be using for that script, is the first thing they test. The sound team adjusts the audio input to the appropriate level, and recording for Viking Radio Theatre begins.

Radio theatre is an acted performance broadcast on the radio and can be done live or prerecorded.

“The whole point of Viking Radio Theatre is to take this medium that was popular in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s and bring it into today,” production director Walter Lutsch said.

Viking Radio Theatre started four years ago when Lutsch heard Western had a radio station.

“In our early years, we didn’t have a studio,” Lutsch said. “We were borrowing microphone equipment from ATUS and reserving a library study room. And cramming six or seven people into this room, plus the sound tech and all the equipment.”

The club members are not only influenced by TV and movies in their storytelling, but also how those mediums are produced.

“The whole point of Viking Radio Theatre is to take this medium that was popular in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s and bring it into today.”

Walter Lutsch, production director

Today, they record their shows before broadcasting them, but when radio drama started in the 1920s, it was done live.

Lutsch said recording allows them to make the show sound better before its broadcast.

Lutsch is in charge of the show as a whole, but there’s a director for each episode. They have their own multi-chapter stories, which are TV shows they’re telling in audio form, Lutsch said.

According to their website, they have weekly production meetings where they audition, rehearse and listen to upcoming scripts.

“One script is ‘Sergeant USA’ which is Captain America,” Rutledge said. “Another one is a soap opera and one I wrote is influenced by Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock murder mysteries.”

The club is currently working on a series called  “Lost Souls,” which the executive producer of the club, Kallan Gustafson, came up with.

Illustration by Shannon DeLurio

Lost Souls is about a generational spaceship, where some people are put in cryostasis so they can preserve their knowledge while other people continue in the normal process of time, Lutsch said.

While pop culture can influence radio theatre in positive ways and give the club ideas, it can also have negative influences.

In the past, Rutledge has had people submit scripts that read a lot like Doctor Who fanfiction. Rutledge said, in some submissions, only the names have been changed, but otherwise it’s the same as fanfiction she’s read.

Rutledge will take over as production director next year and hopes to upload their recordings as a podcast.

“People are really busy and they want to be able to listen to something while doing the dishes or working on homework,” Rutledge said.

Becoming a podcast will allow the club to reach a broader audience and be more accessible in the future.

The club has a mystery dinner from 5-7 p.m. Friday, May 19, at the Majestic Ballroom. There will be a live radio performance, a catered dinner, swing dancing, mock-casino gaming and an interactive mystery at the event.

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