In my heart I suppose that what I would like to be able to recreate, live on stage, is an episode of The Muppet Show.
I want to imagine I could invite students and community members to sit down in the Muppet Theatre, and take in a night of song, dance, puns and pie throwing gags, peppered with sincere and touching artistic performances.
Really I want to recreate the feelings I had watching The Muppet Show in the audience that assembles. There’s something about the humour of puppets that makes me feel more connected with humanity.
I’m not sure how that works. When I think of Trent Radio and I think of wanting to build community, that is the ruling image, Vaudeville puns from puppets.
I shouldn’t be surprised that this is the way my brain bends. The Muppet Show was referencing the vaudeville and variety shows of the 1920s, and early radio.
Early radio actors and hosts were lined up on a theatre stage and gave a performance to a live studio audience. The whole event would be sent out on the airwaves, coinciding quite interestingly with events happening down-the-street (artistically) at Vaudeville houses and variety theatres, which lent more towards burlesque acts and pie throwing.
We do something like this still at Trent Radio— try to bring people in, to listen and to feel, by tuning in at 92.7 fm. But it can’t end there.
Trent Radio is not a radio station. We have (and are very happy to have) a broadcast facility, but we’re more than just being able to broadcast. One of the things we do to bring community together is stage events at Sadleir House, your downtown student space at 751 George St N.
So, instead of the Muppet Theatre we have the Sadleir House dining hall. Instead of Kermit the Frog it was I hosting the “Trent Radio Revue”, trying to make community come alive. It was a night of song, piano, live radio drama, and, rather than pie throwing, pie eating. High concept and heartfelt.
The live drama was a play commissioned for our 2014 radio drama series. It was called The Effect of Flies Upon Flesh; a WWI-era home-coming-to-a-broken-home story written by Randy Lawrence and directed by Em Glasspool. It certainly upped the legitimacy of the evening, taking our audience on a forced marching tour through a family splintered by the effects of war, all performed live on stage via spending performances.
It was just like radio in the 1920s. Or as much as it can be.
Last night was an exhausting, busy night for me and I’m glad this is over. I hope everyone who came out had fun, met each other, and mingled to form splinter communities as is proper.
For myself, at least I got to tell some very bad jokes, and generally made the best Kermit the Frog of myself by running around making sure acts were ready, moving up and down timetables, and introducing acts with as much pun as I could sling. Thank you everyone.
Maybe someday we’ll have a real pie-throwing act. Maybe someday I’ll make the Sadleir House dining hall into the Muppet Theatre properly: curtains and trumpets and dance number and all.
As I grow nearer each year and each Revue to realising my admittedly silly muppet-directed artistic goal, I do feel like I’m bringing people together. Or, as much as they can be.
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, vaudeville, Trent Radio, and me.