Broadcasting the Bard

On May 11, the Robinson Players theater group and WRBC made Maine radio history with the state’s first broadcast of an original production of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

The play, the Robinson Players’ dramatic premiere on radio, featured Professor of English Sanford Freedman in the title role and was directed and produced by Matteo Pangallo ’03, of Salem, Mass. He was inspired by a 1994 BBC recording of the play featuring Sir John Gielgud, Dame Judi Dench, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, and other British actors of similar horsepower. “I was stunned by how powerful and effective the production was,” Pangallo explains. “It forced me to listen and imagine the world of the play. Because of that, it was far more believable than any stage version could have been.”

The May broadcast wasn’t live radio a la Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre. Broadcast on May 11, the performance was recorded in March in Pettigrew Hall, with Tahsin Alam at the sound board. Post-production was an arduous, professional-grade process whose dozen or so steps included editing for length, consistency, and pacing, and the addition of sound effects and music. “A segment that lasts five minutes in the final version can take up to half-an-hour to edit and mix!” Pangallo notes on the production’s Web site, (The site also offers information for ordering the two-CD recording of the production.)