New theater companies are not uncommon in Charleston. But when a company wants to showcase something the Charleston audience has never seen before, it demands attention. Shortwave Kitsch is one such company, bringing a unique production to various stages in Holy City. When Shortwave Kitsch officially debuts The adventure begins on August 27th at Flowertown Players it will be the first live radio play in Charleston.
“Probably six, eight years ago I was looking for a job,” said Brandon L. Joyner, actor, author and one of the four founders of Shortwave Kitsch. “Just something different. I have listened to Exciting adventure lesson and Garrison Keelor onward Prairie Home Companion. I figured there was a space between them.”
Radio plays emerged in the early 1920s. Full audio productions with actors and sound effects would bring full-length stage plays and original stories into the living rooms of the masses via their radios. Radio plays have found a new life in the podcast age. Shortwave Kitsch takes this a step further by using this audio performance tradition and mixing in live elements. Viewers in the theater see two “radio plays” performed by actors with live music, sound effects, and songs. Live performances will be recorded and released as a podcast in 2023.
Actors, much like their forerunners a hundred years ago, will be in the books. The live shows and the podcast episodes they become offer very different experiences for audiences. The physical audience gets a live theater show that’s almost a behind-the-scenes experience, complete with the knowledge that it will be part of a podcast.
The radio plays written by Joyner try to thread the needle between the bite Exciting adventure lesson‘s Irreverent Comedy and Popularity of Keelor. Joyner has written six ongoing series in different genres. Each shortwave kitsch show consists of two series, each with one episode. The first show offers an adventure story Call the doctor and science fiction/spy story Additional intelligence. Hard-boiled detective stories, westerns, mysteries, old Hollywood horror and more are in the works for future kitsch installments.
“We’re trying to represent all the genres of yesteryear,” Joyner said.
Kitsch co-founder Maddie Casto added, “The coolest thing is that each of us brought our own strengths to the project, which I really love.” Casto is an actor, Kitsch’s social media manager, and a singer with her own vintage act, Vintage vibes Other founders are: Brooke Rash, the company’s foley artist, and Kristen N. Granet, who runs the business.
The team came together reading scripts during the pandemic and discovered they had this drive to write those stories. A chance meeting at a funeral led to Pedro Toro joining the production as composer and musical director. Toro and Joyner wrote original songs for each kitsch show, and Toro composed the episodes.
Shortwave Kitsch opens at Flowertown Players, but it won’t live there permanently. The company plans to relocate and perform on as many stages in Charleston as possible. The hope is to bring these shows to every corner of Charleston.
Joyner and Casto are joined by a cast of great local talent. Tiffany Parker Copeland, Michael Catangay, Luciana Marcial-Vincion, Chad Estel, Miguel Rabsatt, Michelle Junga-Murphy and David Joyner complete the cast for Call the doctor and Additional intelligence. Many of these cast members will play recurring characters in future episodes. With monthly shows featuring two of the six ongoing series, viewers can look forward to hearing from these characters again and again.
The monthly shuffling of episodes also serves another purpose for Kitsch’s long-term goals: to make it easier for actors to commit to productions. The leads remain the same in each series, but then individual monsters can be played by any actor at any time.
“Just like in the 1940s, we won’t have big rehearsal times,” Casto said. “We rehearse the night before the show. The actors know well in advance what show they’re on and who they’re playing, all that stuff, but we’re going to sit down the night before and read it through a few times. Get all the kinks out, and the next day is the show.”
Shortwave Kitsch hopes to not only reignite interest in an old style of theater, but to bring the Charleston theater community together in new ways. They hope the reduced rehearsal schedule and variety of venues will allow them to work with talent from across Charleston.
“It’s going to be like this beautiful cross-fertilization of all theaters in Charleston,” Rash said.
It’s an ambitious project, but one the team is incredibly excited about. It’s the culmination of nine months of work and Shortwave Kitsch hopes you’ll come and join us.
“We want to celebrate this with you, and it just doesn’t work without an audience,” said Joyner.
Casto added: “That’s part of the magic of it. The reason we are making this possible is for our audience.”
Shortwave kitsch The adventure begins opens August 27th at Flowertown Players with shows at 2:30pm and 7:30pm. Visit shortwavekitsch.com for more information and tickets.
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