Live radio-drama revival shows are almost universally dorky. I've tried to sit through those California hippies of the Firesign Theater and the Twilight Zone–flavored tales of Imagination Theater on KIXI AM radio (which are so starchy and square, it's almost adorable), but no dice.
Some Seattle theater-makers, however, have magically figured out how to borrow those dangerously dorky radio-drama techniques—Foley sound effects, actors reading in funny voices from music stands—and make them work. We have playwright Scot Augustson to thank, in part, since his Sgt. Rigsby and His Amazing Silhouettes project has become a cult favorite over the years for putting shadow puppets, live-radio tropes, and Augustson's filthy intelligence in a blender and mixing up some of Seattle's wittiest, dirtiest theater.
So it makes perfect sense that Augustson is one of the anchor artists of Sandbox Radio Live!, a quarterly series where quality Seattle theater people put on a live radio show in front of an audience to record for a podcast. (To name-check some favorites: Charles Leggett, Leslie Law, Paul Mullin, Annette Toutonghi, Darragh Kennan, Jose Gonzales, Sarah Harlett, and dozens more.)
The crew started performing Sandbox Radio in the summer of 2011 and has assembled a "best of SRL" for this year's Bumbershoot: a poem by Augustson read by Richard Ziman, the bump and jump of Sandbox music director Jose Gonzales on piano, the comically dark "Notes from the Workplace" written by Vincent Delaney and starring Todd Jefferson Moore, and a taste of "Markheim"—a noirish serial by playwright Paul Mullin, inspired by a Robert Louis Stevenson story, about a world-weary angel-detective who has no love for the devil but isn't exactly thrilled with God.
Listening to the Sandbox Radio podcasts is fun and all, but the real juice is at the live shows, where you get to watch seasoned theater pros open the throttle and have some fun with new material and with each other. It's a little more polished and put together than the rattletrap-by-design 14/48 festival, but Sandbox still has that loose, raw energy of slipping around on brand-new one-off material. It feels like artists at play.