Mission Statement:

Audio drama is one of the most intimate and expressive dramatic mediums, rivaling theater and film in poetic, visual, and narrative qualities. Many people are unaware of this - a stigma lingers that "radio drama" is a scratchy, cartoonish thing of the past, as if people thought that cinema ended with silent movies, unaware of all the great films made since that time. In reality, audio and radio drama is the great frontier of modern theater - with subtle, intimate performances and powerful, gripping stories.

My aim is to promote a discussion of the art, sociology, theory, and future of this remarkable artistic form. The current state of audio drama is precarious, but through careful consideration of how content is presented, distributed, and interacted with, I believe that the radio and audio drama community can grow and prosper and reach an even wider audience.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Bagman by John Arden

One of my favorite plays in its own right, The Bagman is also an important play in terms of critical discussion. Elissa Guralnick features it in her book Sight Unseen,where it plays an interesting contrast to John Arden's later masterpiece of radio, Pearl. There are three reasons you should listen to this play.

1. Because Guralnick discusses it in her book.
2. John Arden's later masterpiece Pearl is in thematic dialogue with it.
3. It's brilliant.

A surreal modern parable, the play combines song, verse, and drama into a cohesive exploration of a theme – the responsibility of an artist in relation to society. It's a provocative and important question. Does the artist have a duty to reflect the truth of the world as he sees it? Does the artist have any real power to make a difference?

The star of the play is Alan Dobie, a fine British actor who gives a tense performance (which is his specialty) and is a direct stand-in for Arden himself. I love the unsettling dream-logic of this play, and the unusual specific imagery of the little wooden people. Perhaps they have a cultural correlation to some real, traditional form of amusement, but in this case the sentient wooden people in the sack are creepy and mysterious. They are powerful and helpless at the same time. They are beyond the author. And us.

I don't think that there is a very happy message in The Bagman. But it asks questions that are worth asking, even while the creative compulsion spurs artists onward.

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