Radio storytelling by Willamette Radio Workshop
July 17, 2023
Season 11, Episode 07
Re-Imagined Radio presents a retrospective listen to Willamette Radio Workshop (WRW). Sam A. Mowry and Marc Rose share some stories about this radio theater/audio drama group based in Portland, Oregon. Mowry founded WRW in 2001 and continues to direct its efforts. Rose has contributed extraordinary sound designs to many WRW performances and productions. From origins to podcasts, with early performances, writing, music, sound design, sound effects, guitars, drama, comedy, experiments, collaborations, and more in between, Sam and Marc reflect on two decades of WRW radio storytelling.
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READ the "WRW Retrospective" working script.
A textual description of what is heard in this episode.
Written, Produced, and Hosted by John F. Barber
Sound Design, Music, and Post Production by Marc Rose of Fuse Audio Design
Promotional Graphics by Holly Slocum
Willamette Radio Workshop, abbreviated as WRW, is a collaboration of actors, writers, singers, musicians, and sound designers interested in continuing the legacy of Golden Age radio drama, while at the same time, pushing the boundaries of its future. Their live performances and studio productions span two decades and have attracted regional, national, and international attention, along with several awards. Their writing and performance workshops have attracted many participants and much attention. LEARN more at the Willamette Radio Workshop website.
WRW was founded in 2001, in Portland, Oregon, by Sam A. Mowry and, as he tells the story, "eight to ten other stage actors" interested to explore radio stories. Born December 16, 1959, in Pittsburgh, Mowry moved to Portland with his family in 1979. He worked at Portland's KBOO community radio while establishing himself as a professional actor and producer in the Portland theater scene. Combining his interest in acting and radio, Mowry developed a career as a freelance voice over actor, business name, The Voice of Sam. His distinctive voice is heard in several video games, video documentaries, and commercials.
Rose got started in radio theater with Dry Smoke & Whispers Radio Theatre—the tag line calls it "A Mystery SF Cinema in Sound Adventure"—which launched January 18, 1980, in Florida. It ran for five years on public radio stations in sixty markets and three countries and received grants from The National Endowment For The Arts and the Florida Fine Arts Council. The series also won a few Communicator Awards and a Mark Time Award for "The Shadow Man," an episode of Dry Smoke & Whispers, in 2003.
As a professional sound designer, Rose earned three Emmy Awards for his sound design. After moving to Portland, he met Mowry in 2001, and became involved with the fledgling WRW. Mowry appeared in Rose's "The Shadow Man," noted above, and many other productions since. Of special note is The Fusebox Show—the show for everyone . . . but not everyone will like it!—with seven years worth of quirky conversation and comedy. LEARN more at The Fusebox Show website.
The first public performance for WRW was October 30, 2001, when they staged a recreation of the 1938 radio drama "The War of the Worlds" using the script followed by Orson Welles and The Mercury Theatre on the Air. They had no microphones, says Mowry, and only rudimentary sound effects. But, more than one hundred people attended their midnight performance at Portland's CoHo Theatre. The troupe of eager radio actors looked at each other and asked, "What's next?"
Next was live performances on Portland's KBOO radio. Then performances at McMenamins, a chain of brewpubs, breweries, music venues, historic hotels, and theater pubs in Oregon and Washington.
Converting their two car garage into a home studio, Mowry and wife Cynthia McGean, a teacher, writer, and actress, began producing studio performances. That gave them a lot more control over the production, but lacked the immediacy of live performance, where, as Mowry says, "The beauty of a live show is it has to happen," and Rose adds, "What happens is not always expected."
Scripts submitted by community writers added another dimension to WRW's catalog. As did annual performances at Halloween and Christmas. By word of mouth and local press, WRW developed a following in Portland and other parts of the Pacific Northwest. And won several awards for their productions, some international.
Over two decades of presenting live radio/audio drama, WRW has evolved and adapted while staying true to their mission: encouraging listeners to engage with radio storytelling. Mowry and Rose share a number of WRW stories in this episode. They also look to the future which they hope will involve collaborations with more community partners. Listen to all this, and more, in this episode of Re-Imagined Radio.
In 2013, WRW partnered with Re-Imagined Radio to offer a live performance of "The War of the Worlds" at the historic Kiggins Theatre, in downtown Vancouver, Washington. That led to six years of collaborations before the pandemic arrived and closed down public performances. In 2022, WRW and Re-Imagined Radio renewed their collaborative partnership to offer a live performance of "A Radio Christmas Carol." For 2023, we are planning "The War of the Worlds" in October, and "A Radio Christmas Carol" in December. We're very excited about this. We hope you will listen.
D'Antoni, Tom. Sam A. Mowry: Coffeeshop Conversations #168 Live radio theater, what a concept!. Oregon Music News. 17 Oct. 2018.
Jones, Ken (host). Mr. Jones's Neighborhood - Sam Mowry and John Barber. KBOO. 24 Sep. 2021.
An on-air interview with Sam Mowry (Willamette Radio Workshop) and John Barber (Re-Imagined Radio), hosted by Ken Jones, for the program "Mr. Jones's Neighborhood."
Longenbaugh, John. Audio Drama PDX: Curated Nostalgia. Oregon Arts Watch, 11 Jan. 2018.
Our Staff. The Willamette Radio Workshop.
Sparks, Dennis. Willamette Radio Workshop—various venues—Pacific Northwest. All Things Performing Arts. 13 Nov. 2014.
Special thanks to Maureen Keller, Syliva Lindman, and Brenda Alling for promoting this episode of Re-Imagined Radio.
READ their Press Release
WRW Retrospective web poster by Holly Slocum (240 x 356)
WRW Retrospective cover graphic by Holly Slocum (820 x 360)
WRW Retrospective landscape poster by Holly Slocum (1910 x 1080)
WRW Retrospective square poster by Holly Slocum (2000 x 2000)
WRW Retrospective full poster by Holly Slocum (2000 x 3000)
Name: WRW Retrospective
Tagline: Two decades of radio storytelling by the Willamette Radio Workshop
Description: Re-Imagined Radio presents a retrospective listen to Willamette Radio Workshop (WRW). Sam A. Mowry and Marc Rose share some stories about this radio theater/audio drama group based in Portland, Oregon. Mowry founded WRW in 2001 and continues to direct its efforts. Rose has contributed extraordinary sound designs to many WRW performances and productions. From origins to podcasts, with early performances, writing, music, sound design, sound effects, guitars, drama, comedy, experiments, collaborations, and more in between, Sam and Marc reflect on two decades of WRW radio storytelling.
Program type: Episodic
Media type: Radio broadcast, live stream, podcast
Premier broadcast and live stream: July 17, 2023, KXRW-FM, Vancouver, WA, KXRY-FM, Portland, OR
Recording availability: Podcast
Recording specs: Audio, MP3, stereo, 44.1Hz, 320kbps
Recording name: rir-wrw-retro.mp3
Categories: Radio, drama, documentary, performance, story, non-fictional
Keywords: radio drama, storytelling, documentary, willamette, radio, workshop, Sam Mowry, Portland, Marc Rose
Script: Original script, research, commentary by John F. Barber
Producer/Host: John F. Barber
Sound Design/Music Composition: Marc Rose