Saturday, March 19, 2011
OTR In School
At the end of January this year , I had the pleasure of giving an Old Time Radio presentation to the students at Fremont Middle School.
Of course, the picture above is not a picture of them, it just sits well on a blog about OTR. If you guys send me a picture of your classes, I'll be glad to put it up here.
Their teacher, Mrs Begg, wanted something to "get the students excited about Old Time Radio", as she was planning on using OTR in the classroom. OTR can, of course, encompass history, science, speech, acting, music, literature, even shop (hey, somebody's got to build those prop doors and stuff, right?).
So I brought a huge assortment of our sound effects equipment (which is always a crowd-pleaser), a giant 16" transcription disc, an old Zenith table radio, and a few pictures of TOTM and Orson Welles...what do you mean, that doesn't sound exciting?!?
We went over the War Of The Worlds broadcast, which almost none of them had heard of. War Of The Worlds equals Tom Cruise, these days (argh!). I think that maybe they thought I was putting them on - that so many people believed the show was real, but once I pointed out that there were very few avenues for 1938 listeners to do any fact-checking, it seemed a bit more likely.
*sigh* Even the rotary-dial telephone on the sound effects prop table seemed like a device from another planet to some of them.
I also brought a set of scripts for a TOTM comedy ad, "Fancy That! Home Hair Waving System By LyeCo", all pre-highlighted for the kids to do a (dreaded) "COLD READ". They weren't the least bit phased by a cold (totally unprepared) read, as evidenced by this recording:
Some of them are ready to go pro right now!
I did leave them with a bit of mystery too, discussing the famous Lights Out show "The Dark", in which is heard the horrific sound of BODIES BEING TURNED INSIDE OUT. I mentioned how, when I started in the hobby, I had heard of the show and the awful sound effect. And when I went to a Chicago nostalgia store to purchase the tape, the saleslady lit up, "Oh, yes, this is the famous one with the bodies turned inside out. Did you know that they used ______________________ to get that sound effect?"...which, of course, had ruined it for me - every time I heard the show, I didn't hear bodies being turned inside out, I heard the actual sound effect, which was a pretty goofy thing if you knew what it was. "What was it?" "Yeah, how did they do that effect?"..."Come on, if I told you, then I'd ruin the show for you, too. I don't want to do that." I heard a few kids talking to one another after the class, saying they had to find that "Inside Out" show. Cool.
This was great fun for me - I think that the kids really enjoyed learning about this nearly-lost artform. Mrs Begg says she'd like another presentation for her summer school classes in June...it would be our pleasure!