VORG #43 Sept-Oct-Nov-Dec 2004

"Radio :30" by Chris Earle

As Voice Over Actors, we’ve all experienced that uneasy feeling when you’re in a session and you can’t hear what they’re saying in the engineer’s booth because the talk-back is closed. Then comes the instant when the talk-back button comes on, only to hear chuckling and laughter or worse. Most of us experience paranoia at that moment – while we’re expected to give a performance. Chris Earle created an award-winning play out of such moments. A Toronto based actor, playwright, and Voice Over veteran, Earle has seen this unique drama played out first hand. Using his own personal VO experiences he created “Radio 30”, the story of RON (played by Earle), a slick radio commercial ‘Announcer’. The play is set entirely in the studio with a never seen, only heard co-star, director/engineer MIKE (actor, Robert Smith).

The Voice Over Resource Guide spoke to Chris Earle following his Opening Night performance of “Radio :30” at the prestigious New York International Fringe Festival. “The whole show went great and to a full house. I couldn’t be more happy.” We hope his play finds a future venue in Los Angeles.

The following is an excerpt from “Radio :30” in which RON participates and bares witnesses to every Voice Over Actors nightmare.

RON: I saw a guy die in here once. Not physically. But I think it was the kind of mental meltdown that you never really recover from. He was an older guy. A real old-fashioned “Voice of God” type of announcer. (Imitating the Voice of God.) “All for just 4.69.” It was the kind of voice that used to sell everything. A famous voice. You’ve heard it. Rich. Authoritative. Clients loved him. A total pro. Very respected. But his type has been out of fashion for quite awhile. Now it’s the voice of . . . a friend. (Ron stands, adjusts mike, and acts out the story.) So this guy and I were doing a session together — this was well after the guy’s heyday, right, but he’s still doin’ O.K. Still working. So we’re doin’ this thing. I’m being the quirky guy and he’s coming in at the end with the big announce. Pretty straightforward — here’s the product, here’s the price — think how much you’ll save (as God), “but hurry — or there might not be any left.” And this young geek from the agency — he’s maybe 12 years old, but already dressing like a teenager — starts to mess with the old guy’s read.
MIKE: (As the unseen Agency Geek.) Um, could you maybe be a little more casual, more... natural?
RON: (As God.) Gotcha.
MIKE: Like, just say it like you’re talking to a friend. Not so announcer-y.
RON: (To audience.) Which is ludicrous, right? Because that’s what this guy is. It’s what he’s always been. So — God tries to do the friendly, intimate, off-the-cuff thing, and it’s just not working. (As God attempting a friendly read.) “But hurry — or there might not be any left.” It doesn’t sound . . . sincere.
MIKE: Um. You know what? Go back to what you were doing . . . before.
RON: (As God.) Gotcha. (To audience.) But it’s too late. He’s done something to God, made him question his whole approach to the read, who knows? Maybe question his whole approach to life. And then it happens. It was just a little stumble. A little extra sound — a mouth sound — on the word “participating.” “Available at participating retailers.” A click or a smack or something. Tongue against teeth.
MIKE: We got a little glitch there. Let’s do it again. This is “Big Savings” — take seven.
RON: “Available at participaking retailers” — whoops. Sorry about that.
MIKE: This is “Big Savings,” take eight.
RON: “Available at partishipating——” Hmn. I really should stop drinking at breakfast. Heh heh.
MIKE: “Big Savings,” take nine.
RON: (To audience.) And I can see it happen — I can feel it. That moment. When his confidence just — whoosh — evaporates. (Into the mic.) “The way only confidence can.” (As God.) “Available at partspating — oh, this is silly. (Throat clear.) O.K., here we go. Here’s the one:
MIKE: Take 10.
RON: Available at parstipulating (Beat.) Availabuh (Beat. God tries very hard.) Avai——
MIKE: (Beat.) Um . . . do you want to come out for a minute? Get some water or . . . something? (“God” shakes his head.) I think maybe you should come out — take a little break. (“God” shakes his head again. Beat.) Ron? For this next take, could you please do the announcer lines as well?
RON: (Beat.) Now I guess I could have said, “No,” but what good would that have done? They needed the lines. He couldn’t do it. So I did it. With God still in the booth with me. He wouldn’t come out. Just stood there, staring at his script. (Into the mike softly, warm and friendly.) “Available at participating retailers.” (Beat.) And whenever the spot would come on the radio, I swear I could hear — right after the word “participating” — a little, tiny—— (He gives a tiny, tiny sob into the mic.)