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Back in the old radio days

October 13, 2005|Susan Carpenter

Today's baby boomer and Gen-X parents weren't alive during radio's 1930s heyday, but it's these TV-weaned parents who are bringing their computer-savvy kids to the Museum of Television & Radio to experience that long-gone era. Each Saturday, the museum hosts a Re-creating Radio workshop for 20 kids to do exactly that: act and produce the sound effects for a retro radio drama.

"Kids today are very aware of the new technology. What they don't know is where that came from," said Susan Swarthout, the museum's education manager.

In two hours, participants are brought up to speed. After a brief history of radio, they read a script and learn how to operate sound effects equipment, clicking together coconut halves (for horse hoofs) and slamming a door, among other things. Then they audition, rehearse and perform. Flaws and all, the audiotaped performance shows up in each participant's mailbox about a week later.

The copyrights haven't yet expired on many radio dramas, so just one of the handful of scripts used in the workshops is actually from the era -- "The Shadow." The rest are inspired by popular genres of the day -- science fiction, westerns, soap operas.

"For these kids, just to take them back [in time] is like visiting another country," Swarthout said. "They say, 'What? There were no video games? No TV? What did people do?' The idea of sitting around as a family with this one big radio and listening to the programs together, we don't do that anymore."

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Susan Carpenter

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Re-creating Radio workshops

Who: Ages 9 and older

Where: Museum of Television & Radio, 465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills

When: 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays

Price: $5

Info: (310) 786-1014 or www.mtr.org

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