In Your Mind’s Eye: NWA Audio Theater heads to Fairy Tale AcademyIn Your Mind’s Eye:

In Your Mind’s Eye: NWA Audio Theater heads to Fairy Tale AcademyIn Your Mind’s Eye:

Will Cinderella marry the Prince? Will the Big Bad Wolf survive the encounter with the Three Little Pigs? What will happen to the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe? These and other pivotal questions will be answered when Northwest Arkansas Audio Theater presents “Legends From the Fairy Tale Academy” July 27-30.

An original work by multiple authors, “Legends” tells three main stories, each including choose-the-adventure-path decisions for the audience, says director Eden Miller. “Cinderella” was written by Scott Anderson; “Huffin’ and Puffin” (the Three Little Pigs) by Dan Borengasser; and Laurie Harlan Anderson’s “Like It or Lump It” is a home improvement show for Fairy Tale Land people featuring The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.

“Legends from the Fairy Tale Academy” started with Anderson, Miller says. “We started exploring this idea — then called ‘Fairy Tale Academy’ — when we were reading and writing on Zoom between the spring of 2020 and the spring of 2021. Seven different people contributed short pieces to the script; the efforts of five have been included in ‘Legends.’

“The basic format could be called an anthology: a series of different stories linked together by the common theme of being based on well-known fairy tales and nursery rhymes, and the framework of being co-presented by NWAAT and KFTA, the media outlet of the Fairy Tale Academy.

“In between are one interlude of ‘breaking’ news about Humpty Dumpty from KFTA, and four ‘commercials’ from Fairy Tale Land sponsors — Godparents Inc. Wish-Wording Consultants, Rapunzel Hair Care Products, Three Little Pigs Construction, and Little Red’s Cloak Shop,” she adds.

And it all happens in an hour.

“Generally, audiences react very well to audio theater,” Miller says. “They are accustomed to the concept of listening to audio books, so making visuals in their own minds is not a novel concept. However, doing so takes a bit more effort than watching shows with lots of action and spectacle; this is why a playing time of not much more than an hour seems to be ideal for audio theater. Even in the ‘Golden Days of Radio,’ most shows were no more than an hour; some were as short as 15 minutes.”

NWAAT was born in 2016 as an offshoot of the Arts Center of the Ozarks, Miller explains, intended as a way to “mine some of the wealth” of radio scripts and create theater in a way that required less memorization, less scenery, less elaborate costumes and props and no fixed location.

“Audio theater can do it all with voices, music and sound effects,” Miller says. “We always plan the shows as if they were to be entirely heard and not seen — but then incorporate a few visual elements anyway on the premise that our live audience is our ‘live studio audience’ as used in broadcasting in the golden days of radio. They watch the actors, musicians, and sound effects artists bring the story to life.

“Sound equipment is the one indispensable technical element in audio theater,” she adds. “President and sound master Scott Anderson — who wrote and is directing our next show, ‘The Invisibility Hour’ — has been building our portable sound system from the ground up since 2017, which has made it possible for us to take any show almost anywhere.”

Miller says audio theater is fun for actors — “we read from scripts, so there is no need to memorize or to fear going ‘dry’ [and] it doesn’t matter what you look like, as long as you sound right”; fun for sound effects artists who create the sounds live during performances; fun for music director Laurie Anderson, who puts together “pre-show music, intros, outros, mood setting, jingles for ‘commercials’ and PSAs, character backup [and] scene changes”; and a challenge for the director.

“The director has to do what any director does: plan, organize, coordinate, instruct. prioritize, provide an artistic vision and style,” Miller says. “Timing is always crucial in theater; in audio theater, it is vital because the voices, music, and sound effects must mesh perfectly in order to tell the story well; the director must keep that in mind.”


‘Legends from the Fairy Tale Academy’


7 p.m. July 27 at Immanuel Baptist Church, Springdale ($5-$10)

7 p.m. July 28 at First Presbyterian Church, Springdale (donate non-perishable food items)

2 p.m. July 29 at Fayetteville Public Library (free)

2 p.m. July 30 at The Medium in Springdale ($5-$10)

INFO — Search NWAAT on Facebook

BONUS — A raffle of original artwork by Eden Miller will follow the July 30 performance.

Categories: Cover Story