Willamette Radio Workshop brings classic shows to Vancouver theatre

Go to the movies — check out, for example, that re-re-re-re-re-reawakened Force — and the experience is all about opening your eyes wide. Even wider-than-wide: 3-D technology can pull you right into picture so you’re literally dodging and weaving spaceships and blasters, not to mention Han Solo’s vastly worried, planet-sized mug.

Some people still prefer closing their eyes. Before the advent of television — and then movies and then video screens in every corner of our lives — the highest technology for mass communication and entertainment stimulated the ears only. The listener’s own imagination had to provide the pictures.

“Radio is collaborative,” said John Barber, an associate clinical professor of creative media and digital culture at Washington State University Vancouver. “Movies in your mind are more powerful than movies on the screen.”

Screens leave nothing to the imagination, Barber said, and render viewers totally passive. But back in what was known as the Golden Age of Radio, dramatic presentations blended the talents of voice actors with captivating sound effects designed by so-called Foley artists. “And you would marinate all of that in your own imagination,” Barber said. “You were much more actively engaged.”

Now, as a university researcher and teacher, Barber has found a way to bring both magic and science to audiences at downtown Vancouver’s Kiggins Theatre. He is the moving force behind “Re-Imagined Radio,” an ongoing series of live radio-drama performances featuring the voice talents of the Willamette Radio Workshop and sound-effects specialist David Ian.

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The Columbian