National Audio Theatre Workshop

Two men and two women at a swimming pool recording the water sounds

Henry Howard, David Shinn, Dianne Ballon and Rene Pringle recording water sounds, at the National Audio Theatre Workshop, West Plains, Missouri

For over 10 years, I worked as a member of the teaching and production staff at the National Audio Theatre’s annual Audio Theatre Workshop.  Participants from all over the country gathered to learn, create, perform and produce radio theatre in one week’s time with the expertise of audio theatre directors, audio book readers, sound effects artists, and recording engineers. 

Each summer, I taught digital editing workshops and produced live radio theatre that was simultaneously broadcast.  I produced an audio postcard of the workshop week: recording the sounds and stories from the artists, directors, participants, engineers and sound effects crew as we worked toward creating the final performance.

Many of the sound effects written into the script for each radio play were either performed live on stage or recorded during the week and mixed into the show. We were asked to record a variety of sounds.  Once someone ran down the hall and said, “Quick, there’s a Med-Evac helicopter about to do fly-bys!”  And out we went in full recording gear.  Who could ever afford to have a helicopter land and maneuver on cue? 

Here are some of the sounds from my audio postcards throughout the years, starting with “falling in the water sounds” for the play Darwin.

2009 National Audio Theatre

Creating the sound of falling in the water for the play Darwin.

2009 National Audio Theatre

Dwight Frizzell & Michael Henry’s Darwin.

2005 National Audio Theatre

Homefront & the BBC Announcer.

2004 National Audio Theatre

Sound effects artist Tony Brewer creates thunder.

2009 National Audio Theatre

Lewis & Clarke and paddling a keel boat.

2009 National Audio Theatre

Veterans' Project: Over There.

The University of Maine at Augusta

Dianne in the studio with students rehearsing and recording the script

Rehearsing and recording the script with students in the studio

For over 10 years, I taught directed-study in audio production and a course in radio theatre to students at the University of Maine at Augusta.  I worked with students to write a script, create sound effects, record, and mix the drama for radio.

We wrote scripts based on current events, such as, Comet Hale-Bopp crashing to the earth in a Maine farmer’s field.  Space missions always included the sound of the spaceship performed by our beloved 16-track analog reel-to-reel tape recorder.  The machine turns on with a low frequency clunk and emits the best 60Hz engine hum ever!

In November of 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in as Governor of California.   Because two of the students in the class did good impersonations of Schwarzenegger and Sean Connery, we wrote them into the script.

The following is an article I published about the radio theatre work in the newsletter of the Association of Independents in Radio:

See You at Midnight: A Crash Course in Radio Theatre

The Governator's Cabinet

Arnold Schwarzenegger picks his cabinet.