Sit back and gather ’round the living room for tonight’s listening pleasure, as the Petaluma Radio Players have a new story to tell — not for the prairie home, but for the homes out West, right here in Wine Country.
Riding a podcast-fueled wave of audio appreciation, the local audio theater troupe is winning listeners and national recognition with their mix of mysteries, short thrillers and comedy, all broadcast locally on Sunday evenings and downloadable as podcasts on their website for a lifestyle choice that offers a break from screen time.
A big break came to the group this month when the National Audio Theatre Festivals chose their piece, “Be Bold, Be Bold,” by Houston playwright Donna Latham, to join the silver division in their annual HEAR Now Festival’s 2018 Podcast Palooza. And the troupe’s performance of the Sherlock Holmes comedy, “‘The Misadventure of the Disobliging Cadaver,” by U.K. author Vince Stadon, was nominated in the platinum division.
Supervising producer Ralph Scott said it was an honor to receive the national recognition. “We’ve only been on the block for less than four years,” he said. “There’s a lot of other competition out there that has many, in some cases, decades, more experience than we do.”
Scott and associate producer Kendra Murray, who said their ages between the two of them are “over a century of living on this planet,” broadcast their programs on radio station KPCA-FM, or 103.3 in Petaluma, on Sunday evenings from 6-6:30 p.m.
Since starting three years ago, they’ve read through more than 160 plays, and Murray had the opportunity to direct “Be Bold, Be Bold,” a project she was very excited to take on. Talking with writer Latham throughout the process, Murray said the writer was quite prolific in her praise of the troupe’s dedication.
“We are mostly volunteers,” said Murray. “All the people in our troupe have other jobs in their lives. We do this because we love it, and while it is work, it is certainly a pleasure.”
The players really enjoy being thespians on some level. Bringing these plays to life with their voices and post-production effects, whether it’s through digital means, a suitcase with knobs, clothing closures or other noises, and getting everything recorded right there with others: they adore the whole process.
It started back in June 2015 when founder Linda Jay walked into WORK Petaluma, a coworking space, during a Tuesday morning coffee special, and placed two scripts down on a table that her own parents had written for “The Shadow” in 1944, offering them to be read.
“I don’t think she realized that single event would be a pivotal event that would launch a thespian troupe,” said Scott. “The one thing we all have in common is a love of theater.”
In a world of screens — on phones, tablets, laptops, televisions — creative audio is making a comeback. Podcasts are seeing an explosion on iTunes, what Scott calls an unspoken desire for people to have an intimate experience with the nonvisual medium.
“With the advent of podcasts, you have the ability to listen on the fly,” said Murray, “on a flight with earbuds in, in your car. Everybody’s got a commute, even if it’s just across town.”