Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Shadow Knows I Don't Go to Glen Allen

Not many evenings come with a secret decoder.

In order to get one, I had to go out of my comfort zone to the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen.

Naturally I did it without ever getting on the highway.

I was taking my partner in crime to see his first live radio play show by the On the Air Radio Players who were presenting "Return of the Superheroes."

Notice the plural; we weren't just getting Flash Gordon, we were also getting The Shadow and Superman.

The audience was warned to turn off their devices lest they cause anachronistic sound in the recording.

We were taught to clap on cue which some newbies found difficult to do despite a green light saying "Applause."

All three shows were circa pre-World War II, spanning 1935-40. A lot of the audience was about the same.

That would be back in the days when newspapers were viable, so the announcer tells listeners to look for an ad in "your Hearst Sunday paper."

Meanwhile on an alien planet, Flash fought off Ming the Merciless while his lady love fought off an order to marry.

"As for you, Earth woman, you shall love me or die!" he told her.

Fret not; she held off for true love, even if he was a bit flashy.

One of the best part of live radio is the sound effects crew who slam doors, walk shoes, ring bells, type on typewriters and do whatever is needed to covey the action aurally.

During a scene of Singing Jim getting beat up in "The Shadow: The Blind Beggar Dies." one sound woman put on a chest pad and beat herself silly simulating the blows.

Their timing was impeccable..

The Superman episode we saw was the one where he met Lois Lane, who was clearly unimpressed with Clark Kent.

There were infra-gamma rays and top-secret discoveries.

And even though it was the latest of the three, the sexism was rampant.

Editor Perry White says to Lois, "On your way, girlie!"

He sends Lois on an assignment to get an interview with "some lady scientist," clarifying that it wasn't news, just a human interest story.

Ha! That's before they knew that she had built a destruction machine that had been stolen.

This was where Perry should have learned never to underestimate the power of a woman. Even if it was 1940.

The episodes were a blast to listen to because of the serious voice talents doing it.

Affecting different accents (the Bronx, German, Irish), sexes (a woman played  a young boy), personalities (character versus lead), they made each of their multiple parts completely believable.

And then in the blink of an eye (okay, an hour) it ends and the credits are read and we clap until our arms want to fall off because it takes so long for the applause light to finally go off.

And that secret decoder? We were too busy laughing to even try to figure out the hidden message.

Hopefully it wasn't any more instructions for earth women.

We've got all we can do to deal with that last one.

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