The Skip Gives York College Students a Chance to Put a Play on Podcast
After the pandemic put stage plays on hold, Professor Suzanne Delle got creative in giving her students an opportunity to produce “Theatre for Your Ears,” plays that would be performed on a podcast.
Olivia Cottle ’22 often looks for ways to stretch her writing muscles. She has plenty of examples of poetry, journal submissions, and short stories. But, an audio play? That’s one form of writing she didn’t see coming until the pandemic hit.
The Professional Writing major at York College of Pennsylvania got an email from Theatre Professor Suzanne Delle, asking if she’d write a 10-minute play that could be part of a series called “Theatre for Your Ears.”
“It seemed like a great opportunity to write something new and explore a new medium,” Cottle says. “If we don’t see the pandemic as an opportunity to try something we’ve never done before, when else will we?”
Cottle had recently learned about a phenomenon called “skywave,” a radio technique used to make short wave radios be able to reach greater distances. Instead of aiming a signal toward a receiver that gets blocked after a certain point because of the curvature of the Earth, you can get around that by bouncing the signal off the Earth’s atmosphere, banking it to go around the curve.
The concept was interesting to Cottle and became the premise in her audio play, The Skip. The story follows a skywave radio operator called Mercury, who is a radio operator in the command center run by freedom fighters. The Skip is a series of audio logs documenting what Mercury does during their day. Eventually, they use the radio technique to send a high volume of information to destroy radio-controlled technology the government is creating.
The character, Mercury, was written in a way that the audio director could be flexible in terms of choosing a gender or getting creative with how Mercury is presented. “Directors love that kind of freedom,” Cottle says. “And it gave me a lot of freedom in how Mercury could develop throughout the piece.”
Putting it together
Kelsey Snively ’20 had just graduated as a Theatre major when Delle asked if she’d be interested in playing a part for the “Theatre for Your Ears” series. She took on a role that was a bit of a middle person between Mercury and their supervisor, Arcon. She did a lot of research in advance to learn about how people respond in war times, and she tried to lean into what might be important to each character based on their circumstances.
“Doing an audio play was definitely very different because I felt more disconnection from my other actors because I couldn’t see their faces,” Snively says. “It was a big challenge to me, but I learned to check in with people and try to lean into other cues or ways to develop the character.”
Now living in Beverly City, New Jersey, Snively is the Executive Director at the Haaf Family Arts Foundation Inc., working largely with kids outside of school to provide a concrete arts opportunity. Her experience working on digital-based productions showed her that accessibility in arts is incredibly important.
“The idea of live-mixing and live-streaming performances can have its pressure because you sometimes only get one shot at doing something,” she says. “But, it’s a huge step in the right direction of making performances more available to people. I think it’s one of those things we’ve learned in the pandemic that we’ll carry with us into the future.”
Want to listen to “Theatre for Your Ears”? You can find it on all major podcast channels or listen here on Anchor.