The Sonic Society

Showcasing the very best in new Audio Drama

Welcome To The Sonic Society!

Each week Jack Ward and David Ault are pleased to showcase the very best Modern Audio Theatre (Radio Drama) from around the world. From the days of Old Time Radio in the early 20th century until the modern age of broadcasts, podcasts, and streaming simulcasts, audio plays are movies for the mind!

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Episode 590- 1% Wonderful

Posted By on February 12, 2019

It’s an alien attack on the Sonic Society this week as the exciting new series from The Other 1% presents a double-feature. David and Jack think about NADSWRIM and Mutual’s kick off on March 1st!

The Famous Jack Benny Show

Posted By on February 7, 2019

This is a long episode from The Wallbreakers but extremely informative. We at Sonic Echo love the Jack Benny Show and have one in the can, but in the meantime check out the depth of one of radio, television and stage’s masters and progenitors of the situation comedy.

Episode 589- Turn on the Lamp

Posted By on February 5, 2019

At last on the Sonic Society Andrew Wardlaw brings us the stunning Lamplight Radio Play series with the episodes “Are You Sure What Side You’re On?”, “The Mime” and “There Comes a Time” as Jack and David prepare for a great trip to a new home in March!

Right Number, Right Radio Play

Posted By on February 4, 2019

It’s always a joy when someone else uncovers a secret pleasure so many of us have enjoyed.

Devon Strolovitch from PRI identifies Sorry, Wrong Number as one of the gems of the Golden Age of Radio Drama. Our only beef is the line: “Often, even during the golden age of radio, these were formulaic, poorly produced stories.”

I’d say that that the Golden Age produced no more formulaic, poorly produced stories than there are today. Every age has its stinkers and its gems. Regardless, have a wonderful listen to this amazing tale one more time!

 

Who is Jack Ward in the Audio Drama World Anyway?

Posted By on February 2, 2019

Today is my birthday.

Birthdays have a unique power- like Christmas and New Year celebrations- to force us to look back through our lives and consider some goals, high points, low points, lessons learned, lessons still to be learned and, if we turn around, the horizons yet ahead of us.

Seventeen years ago, my friend Andrew Dorfman was involved in an online Internet radio station called the “DV8 Network”. He was beating the bushes, talking to friends about content. Andrew and I were CBC radio fans and loved their shows like Nightfall and Johnny Chase- Secret Agent of Space. Andrew suggested I write and produce a radio drama of my own- an Internet Radio Drama.

I was entranced with the idea.

I had zero clues as to how difficult it would be to make a show with a modern-day computer. I remember and wince when I think of working on reel-t0-reel editing as I did at the campus radio station in Guelph CFRU 93.3 FM. But this was different. These new shows would be digitally edited, and Andrew said he was keen to try his hand in production. I had already written two scripts in my university salad days: “Spaceways- Starring Biff Straker” and “Graves’ Shift- Starring Phillipa Graves“. One was a parody of Buck Rogers and the other was an old-time detective story with a tough as nails “Private Jane” as Phillipa used to call herself. Detectives who call themselves private dicks are engaged in wishful thinking, she would muse.

One thing led after another, and the DV8 Network folded. But this idea still burned in my head. It simply wouldn’t go away. I wanted to write radio drama. Instead of just one script, I wanted to write a whole series. So, Andrew and I went to Dalhousie University’s radio station CKDU 88.1 FM and proposed a new show. As an eternal fan of the Twilight Zone, I called the show Shadowlands Theatre. We had a Tuesday night slot from 9 PM until 10:30 and we chatted live and played our favourite Old Time Radio shows, while in the background, we worked on new scripts. We tossed Halifax proper with deerstalkers and magnifying glasses searching for local actors. We’d cover the interview room of CKDU with blankets and sleeping bags, like new parents terrified of injuring our growing toddler. And we had a ball. I wrote six of the Seven Deadly Sins Scripts and not much later sold them as a book through a small publisher. We had a massive release of the first Shadowlands original show- Right Number, Wrong Party (my nod to the famous Sorry, Wrong Number) in an evening held at The Universalist-Unitarian Church playing the live recording over speakers while guests nibbled cheese and sipped wine from long-stemmed glasses straining to hear. We experimented with live radio drama at the Shoe Shoppe Restaurant, trying to compete with dinner orders and bartenders fixing drinks with hand-held mixers. We STILL had a ball, even though the live performance had so much interference from crossed power cables that it was unreleasable.

Less than a year later, I was sitting across from the Program Director at CKDU. She told me that I had to think bigger. That all across Canada, there were campus and community radio stations looking for this kind of spoken word content. So, I called long distance to over a dozen stations from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia and parts in-between, pitching my show to affiliates. Everyone came back with interest and fascination EXCEPT for one thing.

No one wanted the old time radio. They were looking for original programming because if I had the rights, they didn’t have to pay licensing fees. I was at a crossroads. I could keep happily going as I was, or move forward into an uncertain future with a different model. I know one thing. There was absolutely NO WAY I could produce a brand new hour and a half show every single week myself and still keep my job. And similarly, there was no way such a move would pay for itself. But, I love the medium so much, and CBC wasn’t making radio drama anymore. I ached to introduce new listeners to a new generation of radio drama. It didn’t HAVE to be my work.

 

Thus The Sonic Society was born. 

We went back to CKDU with a new show proposal after researching that indeed there were other people out there making new radio drama too! Andrew and I were tickled pink. I scribbled down about a dozen different names for a new show and a new company we’d run. We had picked up (briefly) a third member in the group from film and television production- Chris Turner and the three of us decided upon “The Sonic Society” as the moniker for the radio show, and “Sonic Cinema” would be our company name (which I still adore). We continued our Tuesday night slot, but now it was only an hour in length. I emailed requests regularly and connected with almost a dozen groups out in the Internet who were making radio drama like we was. They were mostly streaming their shows directly from websites or allowing mp3 downloads. All those emails and messages began for me, some of the most meaningful connections of my life, and with people that I would never meet. I delved. I poured over the shows people sent me. I learned everything I could from their writings, their styles, their introductions, their credits, and their music. I roped in one of my oldest friends from my hometown of Fergus, Sharon Bee, and she became our composer and musician for most of our music. Meanwhile, Andrew and I still created our own shows. At this point, The Sonic Society was able to be heard live through the CKDU streaming service and we had fans all around the world. One of them would change our destiny forever.

Danielle Cutler, out of Gilbert, Arizona, who is an awesome voice actor, and radio personality in her own right, suggested we try this new thing called podcastingI was sceptical, but if Dani wanted to run the podcast, great! In fact, she often contributed on the show herself. Amazingly, the podcast took off! And we became part of the Radio Memories Network, thanks to Dennis Humphries.

Eventually, we were looking at other shows to write. People loved Fan Fiction, especially Star Trek, Star Wars, and Doctor Who and we wanted to do something a little different. We settled on the beloved series, Firefly. Our original scripts composed of six episodes were titled Firefly: Old Wounds, and we got attention from a massively popular podcast at the time, The Signal. We were the first Firefly fan fiction, and suddenly we had new fans to audio drama. Like I said before, that was my favourite part- more people listening to more audio drama. That’s when I first realized we replaced the word “radio” with “audio”. For years, we wondered what to call this medium- “pulp audio”, “audio cinema”, “audio plays.” It was a regular theme we asked the listeners as to what they prefered. Everyone struggled with the term because audio theatre wasn’t limited to just radio broadcasts anymore. Audio Drama was in free flight. But she was a very young bird, and everyone expected podcasts to fall out of the skies at any time.

This was also a time of great change in my life. Firefly and the new series The Dead Line Anthology had worked Andrew and me to the bone, and he was looking for an exit from the audio drama world and into comedy. After 22 years, my wife and I separated and I found myself working with a new co-host and a new direction. Gone was Sonic Cinema, and the new company was named Electric Vicuna Productions– a strange name and a personal joke admittedly. But, with my love of Rod Serling’s writing style, I continued with various anthology series beyond The Dead Line- The WaveFront Anthology, Consortium Comics, Darker Musings Anthologies, and now Action Adventure Audio Theatre are all continuing today. The massive personal and professional change brought with it an explosion of ideas and opportunities. With a new co-host, I connected with well over a hundred companies and individuals back then, and I even acted a lot in other people’s shows for no other reason than they asked me and I was a fan.

The blur of years continued. The shows piled on. A few side comments during our intros about various different things the audio drama community needed started to manifest from our listeners. Marccus Beatty created the now defunct Audio Drama Chat which was the premier place to go and share audio stories before social media took over. The Audio Drama Directory was created by Jeremy Yenser from another comment we made on the show, and it became the “yellow pages” for audio drama. But as time went by, Jeremy was called to other projects and was unable to keep up with the requests.

In 2009, I created, with the help of John Bell from Bells in the Batfry, the Audio Drama Ratings System after numerous listeners requested for more warning as to what shows would be appropriate for their children in the car to hear.

 

 

I created some extra shows on our feed- Sonic Speaks became a vehicle for interviews with audio drama creators and shapers and Sonic Echo was my attempt to try to share the very best of OTR. We had some misfires of course. Sonic Workshop took too much energy to properly be effective, and Sonic Gold, only last a single season as it took too much effort to keep running.

 

 

Always looking for better ways to collaborate, I asked people if there were a shareware product for scriptwriting that we could all use. One of our fans, Chris Moody, a technical genius and fan of the show pointed out that Celtx out of Newfoundland had some good opportunities, and I contacted them. They were more than interested and together we created the Audio Play script section for their desktop software- something I still use today.

 

I had lived through and watched the twilight of the Golden Age of Modern Audio Drama. Five years after audio drama had new life on the Internet, “The Silver Age” began. These Silver Age or 2nd Age represented people, like me, who had loved old time radio originally but were inspired by the new audio creators and producers to make their own. Rob Paterson had said so publicly many times that his show Kung Fu Action Theatre came from listening to the great productions on the Sonic Society. The dynamic Dick Dynamo and many others looked to Decoder Ring Theatre, or Broken Sea Audio, or Darker Projects as grist for their own creative mills.  For a while, audio drama was becoming a little more crowded. I no longer had to run an entire series of a single show, but I could sample more and unique companies. But, there were a lot of losses too. So, many personalities who were attracted to the idea of making money on the web popped up almost monthly in Audio Drama Chat to announce that they were going to “bring back radio drama!” Quietly, the old guard chuckled and waited patiently as they saw those people disappear into other pursuits like gold prospectors who had worn their boots through and lost their pans downriver.

Meanwhile the Sonic Society ticked on. I tend to avoid awards and competitions. My focus has always been about getting the word out more than trying to “be the best”. But we were nominated for a Parsec Award and that got us some more listeners. When I met David Ault his performance and that of the other actors and producer, John Bell, in my full remake of “Soul Survivor”, I felt I owed it to them to try. We got Ogle Award in 2010, and I flew to Minneapolis. The amazing Jeffrey Adams from Icebox Radio picked me up at the airport and we sped to the convention. It was a scene out of a movie, I didn’t even go to my hotel room, and came in through the back doors to a packed auditorium with the speaker at the microphone saying, “Soul Survivor written and produced by Jack Ward!” I handed Jeff my jacket and luggage and made my way up the stairs, dumbfounded. During CONvergence after a conversation I had with Eline Hoskins of the astounding Audio Epics I ran up to my room and started The Audio Drama Radio Drama Lovers Facebook Group which has been the premier place to talk modern audio drama since the demise of our beloved Audio Drama Chat forum and has nearly 2000 members to date. I created an Audio Productions Group and Audio Scriptwriters among others. All poised to bring more folks together to share, to talk, and to explore our favourite medium.  Three years later. we won a silver Mark Time Award at CONvergence for Alone in the Night because I adore Michael Stokes production skills.

After the success of NANOWRIMO I was startled to find there wasn’t a writing period for Audio Scriptwriters, so I christened the month of February NADSWRIM– National Audio Drama Script Writers Month. An opportunity to encourage more writing in the community.

It wasn’t long after the 2010 award when we began our summer session of Sonic Summerstock Playhouse (Our annual salute to great old time radio scripts where modern showrunners take their actors and perform classic shows) that I hit another big life change. Another relationship was over, and my divorce papers came in nearly at the same time. Broke and alone, I moved in with my sister for a couple of months to regroup. All my belongings were in a storage locker with the exception of my three cats, my clothes, a haversack of books, and the Sonic Society computer. From the end of my bed, I took stock of my life and had one pain-soaked season. It was almost the end. I had no energy or passion to continue, and yet, it was the only thing keeping me going. Bill Hollweg and David Ault kept me grounded, and the Sonic Society was later in releases, sometimes being as late as three weeks, but always catching up somehow. I wrote no new audio dramas beyond the introductions for the shows. I didn’t know where the show was going. Or even if it should.

Rebirth.

One conversation from David Ault led to a question that changed my life again. “Can I co-host with you?” I was dumbfounded. I never thought about even asking. David Ault is the most sought-after, popular audio drama actor of the modern age. He’s also a wonderful friend. And he was genuinely interested. So, the Sonic Society began another stage. And it was fun again.

The return to writing was a little slower, and through the years now it seems to be picking up faster and faster. My first script was Tulpa and was produced by the incredible Bob Arnold from Chatterbox Audio Theatre Live. I still remember him asking if we’d tell our listeners about their live Halloween Show Contest. I wouldn’t have written a script if Bob didn’t ask me personally to try. That’s always my Achille’s heel. I never want to let someone down. There’s been other setbacks and losses. We had lost David Chambers, one of our local actors to cancer and Seth Adam Sher. In 2017, Bill Hollweg also passed and I was invited to the release of his ashes by his daughter. I was touched beyond words, and joined and met Lothar Tuppan, his wife Jan and Jeffrey Billard in Texas. This forged one of the strongest bonds in my life, and they are all my family. We decided to add to the Sonic Summerstock Season a memorial of Bill’s work and that led to us rekindling my earlier Sonic Echo to a monthly show where Jeffrey, Lothar and I discuss and praise some of the great shows of the Golden Age. From that summer session, I decided to get us all together in 2020 at Halifax during the world’s first fully audio drama convention- Mad-Con.com.

2014 launched a huge changeup for the world of Audio Drama. The podcast Serial and Welcome to Night Vale hit the big time (Nightvale began in 2014) and people were looking at creating something they called podcast fiction (I dubbed early as “podficts”) to tell stories. A central narrator speaking to an audience with enhanced sound effects and “clips” of conversations and the like added to the show for colour created a new craze of audio drama. This was the rise of the current 3rd Age or The Bronze Age of Audio Drama. Born from the Nightvale and Serial stardom these producers and creators hadn’t really heard of the audio dramas before, or even the old-time radio precursors. With the downturn of the Silver Age, people were certain that podcasts were headed the way of the dodo. Everyone wanted to have video content on youtube until these new shows turned up. Suddenly, the new lifeblood has kept the Sonic Society hopping. We’re only able to air a small portion of the vast number of shows out there. New stories come and go faster than falling stars, and some remain brilliant long after they are over. But the age of Audio Drama seems to have finally come of its own. And I couldn’t be happier. This work we’ve all been a part of over these past two decades is finally becoming appreciated by another generation.

So, it was this past Christmas (a more lonely one I can not name) that I pondered how I could give back some more. I couldn’t ever pay people for lending their shows to the Sonic Society. I was operating on a shoestring budget like most people. I just hoped I could get everyone who showcased their episode on the Society would gain more followers and fans. But, I started to think of a new plan…

As Blackadder might have said, “I had a cunning plan.”

I began running the numbers. The plan had to fulfill the following elements:

  • It had to pay people for their shows (even a little)
  • It had to pay for itself (I couldn’t go more broke doing this)
  • It had to pay for the business functions to run without me (I needed an accountant to pay the bills and an assistant to operate the monthly functions)
  • It had to come supported with a Board (we have five members)
  • It couldn’t lose current subscribers
  • It had to give me the time to continue to make audio drama myself as a member

And from that was born The Mutual Audio Network.

The more I looked at the plan, the more I realized this would be a wonderful fit for my life’s work. It would help build a network of likeminded audio drama enthusiasts who could get even a little back from their hard work producing original content. It would be a single place where listeners could find new audio drama, and it would curate and build a massive archive of modern audio drama for new listeners to come.

The more I thought of it, the more I realized that it was something I could manage, organize, and facilitate. It was, almost entirely, an extension of everything I wanted the Sonic Society to achieve.

So, now, after 16 years, I’m looking at this startup little network, and thinking this is going to be a really great opportunity for the next 16 years. And I couldn’t think of anyone else who’s been doing what I do, this long, other than me. And while you may think this is a huge post, I haven’t begun to scratch the surface of all the stupendous moments that these past sixteen years have given me. I can’t express my love for Matt Leong whose dedication and artistic skills have added so much to the life of this show. Or how moved I was when Mark Bruzee asked me about starting Leap Audio, and how thrilled I was for that voice to reach the community, or how members of the band Bread emailed us to play their eighties rock opera “Cosmo and Robetta” or how almost every member of the original Firefly cast called in and left a shout out on our phone line. The memories just keep coming.

This is what I love most about Audio Drama. As Spock would say, “There are always possibilities.”

Off unto the Next Frontier. 🙂

 

Episode 588- Green Imposters

Posted By on January 29, 2019

Tonight David and Jack introduce two features “Imposters” by Geoff Best from Spool Productions and the pilot episode of Greenhorn Tales from J.D. Sutter.

The bold new venture Mutual Audio Network is announced!

Episode 587- A Quattro of Autro?

Posted By on January 22, 2019

Tonight Jack and David offer four episodes of Your Three Stories by Aaron Corbett from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, including “Bear versus Human”, “The Money King”, “The Search for Gold”, and “Travelling Machine of Time”!

Jack Benny on Television versus Radio

Posted By on January 20, 2019

Tales of Our Miss Brooks

Posted By on January 19, 2019

Episode 586- What Message are Possessions?

Posted By on January 15, 2019

Tonight David and Jack return with more 11th Hour productions with New Message and Possessions and end with the wacky comedy of Doctor What- Episode 7: Roost of the Cyberhens from Protectorate Productions.