Icebox Radio Theater

News, events and doings surrounding the Icebox Radio Theater of International Falls, Minnesota.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Icebox Radio: Best Week Ever?!

This isn’t the usual time for a blog update, but there is so much happening all at once I felt like passing it along.

First, The Scoop Sisters: New School Blues went off without a hitch (well, I missed a cue or two) last night at the bandshell. We avoided bad weather, our engineer Stephen (Boy Genus) Anderson overcame several technical difficulties before, and during the show, and the cast (Vicki, Karen, Aela, Rachel, Justin, Piran and Veryan) were stellar.

And the cast had some extra distractions to deal with, too. A cameraman and reporter from Fox-21 News in Duluth were their doing a story on the theater, and this show. The cameraman was moving right in close, shooting over our shoulders, etc. The story is scheduled to air on Monday night, at 9pm as part of the news’ ‘Small Towns’ segment.

Next, one of our plays, ‘The Thing on the Ice’ is featured this week on another podcast called ‘Decoder Ring Theatre’. Decoder Ring is probably the most popular audio theater podcast going with many thousands of downloads a month. Decoder Ring does two of their own series (The Red Panda Adventures and Black Jack Justice) from Fall to Spring, then fills in with other programs during the Summer. We were lucky enough to be one of those programs this month, and that exposure is helping us break all kinds of podcast download records, and gaining new audience. Thanks Decoder Ring!

And finally, the theater got the news this morning, that the Marshall N. Knudson Family Community Fund, a local foundation, has awarded us a $2,000 grant for the coming podcast season. This grant will go toward setting up a studio space for the year, and (ready for this) paying the actors. There’s still a lot of work to do, but the coming year is looking better than ever!

How’s that for a week, huh?

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, July 27, 2009


Last week, I got up the motivation to tackle a project I’ve been putting off for some time. Five years ago, several very, very nice people associated with the IBRT put together a float for International Falls’ 4th of July parade. Part of that float was a large wooden sign with the theater’s name and (then) website address. That sign is the same one that people local to The Falls know and love as the now weather-beaten, banged up edifice that pops up in front of my house from time to time, with a reader board indicating when the next show or audition will take place.

Well, that original sign has seen better days. And our website changed to a different domain four years ago. But I just never quite got my act together enough to replace the sign until this month. That’s why this past week, you could have found me leaning over a sheet of plywood in my backyard, carefully trying to letter the exact same information (with updated web address) on a brand new sign.

First, I am no visual artist. This one task took close to four hours of labor, starting with painting the plywood it’s three coats of white, followed by hooking my computer to the library’s video projector, then arranging the letters just so, then tracing them in pencil. Finally, I took brush and blue enamel paint can in hand and struggled with the process of lettering ‘Icebox Radio Theater’ and ‘’ around my squiggly-lined letters.

I dripped, I splattered, I tried different brushes, I had to run to the store with work gloves on because (as it turns out) enamel paint only comes out with Mineral Spirits, and my hands were covered with a uniform blue goo that seemed to acquire a stronger grip with each attempt to wash with soap and water. But, in the end, I managed to create a sign that looked like a reasonably talented sixth grader had knocked it out in one afternoon. But it was not an unrewarding experience. I did improve as I went forward, and by the end I had learned a few brush strokes that rendered the result acceptable.

The thought that occurred to me as I went through all this is was perhaps I was living out a model for the emerging performing artist. In the future, all of us will have the chance to write, or direct our own movies and radio shows. Some of us might even start online television stations. And when that happens, somewhere someone will be applying an over-loaded paintbrush inexpertly to a sign. Big theaters hire professional sign painters. Small theater’s make do. I was forced by necessity to do something I didn’t particularly want to do. But it served a purpose, and furthered the project. Shows must be publicized, after all, otherwise they’re not really shows. They are rehearsals. I will never be an artist, but I can – given enough time – produce a not-horrible sign. And for tonight, anyway, that is enough.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, July 13, 2009

Welcome to another blog post of the Icebox Radio Theater. This is a significant post in that it is the first time I have tried to keep a regular schedule of blogging, which will hopefully lead to more interest in the this blog and the theater in general. You’ll notice today is Monday. Since we already podcast every other Monday, I figured it made sense to do a blog update on the Monday’s we’re not podcasting. This means that you guys can always count on something from the IBRT every single Monday of the year.

SHOW NEWS: We are only two weeks and two days away from our next live show. As is tradition, we will be performing at the Bandshell at Smokey Bear Park as part of the Wednesday Concert in the Park series. The show is free, and for those not able to make it, we’ll be broadcasting on the streaming station Icebox Radio starting at 7pm on showdate, which is July 29th. Many thanks to Jim Bujold and Dynamic Technologies for making the Internet stream possible.

After the last live show in May, the IBRT brain trust got together and talked about how the spring show, and what direction the theater should head. Though we felt the show itself was fine – one of our best, as a matter of fact – audience response seemed to be a little tepid. I felt that perhaps the variety show concept is getting old hat and we needed a change of pace. So the live show at the bandshell this month will be not be a variety show, but a play; a mystery play as a matter of fact.

We’ll be doing ‘Scoop Sisters: New School Blues’ an hour-long play staring those three ladies of mystery our podcast listeners will remember from last November. In this show, teen Mary is butting heads with a particularly difficult teacher at school, and Mel and Jasmine look into it to discover the teacher is not all that she appears to be. When federal agents appear to warn the Scoop Sisters off the case, even more crazy investigations ensue.

We are not abandoning the variety show format, only taking a break. The idea why is twofold. First, variety shows take a lot more work and coordination, and I felt everyone deserved a break from that. Plus, it can difficult to get cast and crew to open up two solid weeks of rehearsal time during vacation season. In preparation for last year’s CONvergence show, we never had the whole cast together until the final few days of rehearsal. Second, as I said, the audience at our last variety show was a little quiet. And we did get several comments to the effect that though the show had good bits too it, it wasn’t really a whole show. Again, I don’t feel that’s the fault of the production since that particular show was one of the most consistent, tight and funny shows we’ve ever done.

The problem with being in show business is that you’ve always got to stay one step ahead of the audience. And my best guess right now is that the summer time, the out of doors, and the relaxed atmosphere of the bandshell show will be conducive to live performance based on ‘Story’. Rather than razzel-dazzeling them with lots of skits and songs, we’re going to invite the audience to pull up a chair and listen to a mystery. There will be suspense, there will be humor, and (if I do my job as director) there will be a couple of great performances from our talented cast.

Today is my 43rd Birthday, and as I look back, I begin to think the move to International Falls and founding the IBRT was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. It’s been a very fun ride so far, and I feel blessed to be on it. Thanks to everyone who’s come alongside the theater and helped us lo these past five years.

Thanks for the download, and Keep Listening!

Labels: , , ,

Monday, July 06, 2009

It is vacation’s end.

I’m sitting in our backyard, taking a few minutes to begin to fill you all in on what’s up with the IBRT. But my mind is still drifting back to the previous two weeks (near enough) when my family and I were away from home, traveling over 4,000 miles, re-connecting with family and friends living back on the west coast, and finally making lots of new friends and contacts at our yearly pilgrimage to CONvergence, a sci fi convention in the Twin Cities. It was a wonderful time. My parents celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary at a huge party, followed by three days of family time at the Oregon Coast. Then Diane, Rachel and I met up with Stephen at CONvergence for four more days of fun and weirdness. As I sit here waiting for our vacation laundry to finish, I find myself infusing the entire trip with meaning.

If it seems strange to be philosophical about all that, you should know I come by it naturally. My birthday is in July, and it’s not unusual for someone in his mid-forties (as I am) to wax poetic about life, the universe and everything as the big day approaches. Plus, CONvergence is a very special event too me. It is, first and foremost, recreation. But the story of the Con and I is a little bit more complicated than that.

I first visited Minneapolis in July of 2003. After working for a year or more at developing my craft as an audio theater producer, I worked up the courage to submit two short pieces I’d done to the Mark Time Awards. Audio theater has no Oscars, and in those days, the Mark Times were about it as far as recognition goes. And low and behold, I won second place. After working in a garage studio for virtually no recognition, the award was vindication that yes, I could do this. And Diane saw that clearly enough to suggest that we could afford the plane ticket from Portland to Minneapolis for the convention.

So I went out to pick up a pat-on-the-back in plaque form. The fact that the ceremony happened to take place at a science fiction convention mattered to me not one whit. I had heard of such things, even heard they were growing in popularity, but they weren’t my thing. I was a serious artist, interested in some day easing, or even relieving the financial burden my wife had taken on by re-establishing audio drama as a viable art form, and maybe getting slightly rich. But costumes and parties and arguing over Kirk vs Picard? Not for me.

And then I went.

About four days later, I was back in Portland, trying to explain to my family what I had just gone through. The phrase I coined then is now still the best way of describing my feelings: It was like breathing pure oxygen. The amount of creative energy in that hotel was astounding. Sure, some of it was focused in some weird places, and I’m certain that after I had trundled off to bed, there were activities the family pastor wouldn’t have approved of, but there was also an unbelievable level of artistic freedom and a genuine sense of community. That, as Diane and I had often discussed, was something sorely lacking in our home town of Monmouth, Oregon. We had felt it so acutely we were commuting 40 minutes out of town for church. And my attempts at starting a community theater proved so frustrating, I switched to an art form I could create in the privacy of my own garage. But on the day I got back from my first CONvergence, none of that seemed to matter.

Driving back from the airport, I prattled on to Diane and the kids about the panels I’d joined, the concerts I’d heard, and the incredible movie room with couches for seating and all the free popcorn and soda you could stomach. We talked about going there as a family, how much fun it would be, how we all liked games and movies and stories of the fantastic. And we did not talk about the fact that four plane tickets, plus hotel, plus convention membership fees would have represented far, far more money than we had ever paid out for a vacation. Up until then, family getaways consisted of driving to one grandparent or the other, giving the kids GrandmaGrandpa time, and letting someone else worry about meals and grocery bills. Even as I chatted away about the possibility of a return trip to the con, part of me knew I was being humored. There was just no way.

That was in July of 2003. In August of that year, Diane heard about a job in International Falls, Minnesota; not exactly next door to Minneapolis, but at least in the same state. She brought it too my attention for the expressed purpose of having me poo-poo the idea so that she could forget all about it. Maybe it was my CONvergence experience, or maybe it was the subconscious need for a stronger community than we had, but when Diane did bring the job to my attention, I disappointed her. I said it sounded ‘interesting’. The drill was repeated with both sets of grandparents and our kids. Always, the results were the same. Everyone thought it sounded, ‘interesting’.

From there, the dominoes fell. On December 29th, four Adams’ and two cats flew into the International Falls airport on a cloudy, cold day. We were a full week ahead of the moving truck, and ate our meals around a cardboard box table on four folding chairs bought at the local K-Mart. A few weeks later, I was walking around my new home town on a bright, bitterly cold day, thinking our one complaint about Monmouth had been answered. Monmouth lacked a feeling of community. International Falls had it in spades. It had character and quirkiness. People didn’t lock their doors, left their cars running while unlocked for trips to the store, and didn’t always show up on time. They were all conservative, but strong Union Democrats. They worshiped hunting, fishing and hockey (not necessarily in that order) And they took an almost perverse pleasure in being able to tell people, ‘Yes, I live in the coldest spot in the nation. My home is one of our country’s extremes.’

And when I got there, no one seemed to be telling this town’s stories.

That was the genesis of the IBRT. Somewhere in those first few months it occurred to me that CONvergence was now only a days drive away. I packed up the last show I ever produced in Oregon (a sci fi story inspired by the CON) and this time, won first place at the Mark Time Awards. Truth be told, that second CONvergence was a disappointment. My expectations were simply too high. But the next year, my son joined me. The year after that, daughter Rachel came along. And they year that followed, the fantasy hatched during that car ride home finally came to pass when Diane joined in. All of us were at the CON.

Audio is a growing part of CONvergence. The Mark Time Awards are still going strong, though I haven’t managed to win one since 2005, and this year, six panel discussions were held on subjects connected to the art form. Our streaming radio station, Icebox Radio, broadcast live from the CON for the first time this year. And next year, some of us are getting serious about an audio ‘Party Room’ to promote the art form and let everyone there know just how much fun telling stories through sound can be. Did I mention we did a live show at CONvergence last year? Well, scan down through the posts to read about that.

I will be 43 in a few days. I have been blessed beyond measure. Furthermore, I am blessed by God with the ability to recognize His blessings as they happen to me. Nothing – I mean nothing – is better than that. I hope everyone at the CON this year got home (or is getting home) safe and sound. And I hope everyone connected with the IBRT will forgive me this brief indulgence. As I said, I get a little philosophical around CONvergence time.

Thanks for the download, and Keep Listening!

Labels: , , ,