The Theatre of the Mind

Happy Post-Thanksgiving everyone! Hope yours was deliciously food-comatastic and every conversation was thought-provoking and positive. 🙂

Every Thanksgiving I have to watch ‘Turkeys Away’ from the classic TV show WKRP In Cincinnati. Much like the MST3K Turkey Day Marathon has become, it’s a holiday classic before the traditional holiday classics, and something to put a lot of giggles into your day while waiting for the graze-fest to begin.

After I watched the episode (and man is it still a laugh riot after almost 40 years) I did a bit of a deep-dive into some WKRP history and trivia and in the process found something very cool: http://wkrp-relived.blogspot.com. Roy Penney goes episode-by-episode of the Complete Box Set DVD’s, does a quick rundown for the uninitiated, and adds some analysis and twinkly-eyed nostalgia for those in the know. This is another reason why the Interwebz® are worth rooting around every so often to find the gems in the ever-growing pile of dirt.

Anyway, as I was looking up his account of the Turkeys Away episode, I found this statement:

“The second important aspect is that the magic of this episode mirrors the magic of radio itself: it’s all about the theatre of the mind. Radio is a medium that paints pictures with words. We see it performed in spectacular fashion on three separate occasions, kicking off the second half of the show.”

Wow. Never thought of this before, and as an Old Time Radio nerd I really should have. In that sentence he encapsulated why I have loved this show after all these years, and have always considered it one of the best television programs both written and performed. So I popped in one of my AirPods, cued up Turkeys Away, and just listened to it as I would any other OTR show, and it totally works as an audiocast.

Yeah, there are a few sight gags that get lost in translation, but to hear a show that was designed for a purely visual medium work comedically as audio alone is a testament to the producers, writers, and the actors. I can’t tell you if that was the idea the writers had initially, but if it was then it’s sheer genius. Even if it wasn’t intentional, it’s still an impressive feat and just fills my mind with ideas on how I can implement this into what I do in Audioland. And of course, now I have to see how well some of the other episodes (and possibly any other series’ as well) work as ‘radioplays’. Like I don’t have enough to do already… 🙂

Regardless, it just fortifies the concept of ‘The Theatre of the Mind’ and why I am so compelled towards creating and manipulating music and sound. Not only because of the camaraderie and creativity, but because it’s such a perfect way to impact the most powerful resource we have as emotional beings – our imaginations. Being able to turn physical auditory vibrations into feelings of deep sadness, resounding joy, or unseen landscapes full of awe and wonder is a positively magical thing. Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy so eloquently put this into words some 150 years ago:

”We are the music-makers,

And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea-breakers,

And sitting by desolate streams.

World-losers and world-forsakers,

Upon whom the pale moon gleams;

Yet we are the movers and shakers,

Of the world forever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties

We build up the world’s great cities,

And out of a fabulous story

We fashion an empire’s glory:

One man with a dream, at pleasure,

Shall go forth and conquer a crown;

And three with a new song’s measure

Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying

In the buried past of the earth,

Built Nineveh with our sighing,

And Babel itself with our mirth;

And o’erthrew them with prophesying

To the old of the new world’s worth;

For each age is a dream that is dying,

Or one that is coming to birth.”

Our world here in music and sound is a powerful force, so how are you going to affect people with your Theatre of the Mind today?

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