From Volume 1, Issue 3, 2017
Paul McCusker, a renowned author and producer of audio dramas and books takes time to talk with EOF. He discusses the imaginative creation of the audio drama in the same wistful way he writes. You will be drawn in to the wonderful magic of the audio drama and in particular one of his most famous dramas, “Adventures in Odyssey”.
EOF: I’m sure everyone knows you’re very prolific and a well-known author and also an audio drama producer (I hope “producer” is the right word). Perhaps you can tell the reader a bit about your journey and what led you in the direction of audio drama.
MCCUSKER: It’s funny, my journey, creatively, started at a very young age. As far back as I can remember I was always writing and doing poems or drawing things. I have some stuff (my mom kept all this stuff) that I did when I was four, five, six. At the point when I was able to put words together,I just started doing that as a matter of creativity and it’s funny, because I was only thinking recently about how my grandparents had this small, portable reel-to-reel with all these little tapes that they had and how I would put that together. I would assemble it and actually create little audio dramas. Honestly, it was because I didn’t have a camera and it was just something to do to be creative; but this would have been when I was seven, eight, nine years old, something like that. So really, the whole desire or passion to express myself creatively goes way, way back. I’m a bit of an opportunist; I don’t know how else to say it, but pretty much the directions that I have gone creatively were in some ways determined by opportunity. For example at my church, Grace Baptist Church, which was my formative church for me when I was growing up, they were very arts minded and I had an opportunity to start writing dramatic sketches through these productions that we would do. These short sketches led to one-act plays and then full-length plays and then that connected me to Focus on the Family where they were centered around audio because it’s a radio broadcast. Then Dr. Dobson had said, “Let’s create a program for kids.” I got pulled in that direction, which then led to the opportunity to do novels and to do other sorts of things. So, it all flowed together out of that initial passion. My journey, the way the river has gone, is kind of around rocks and down tributaries and down into other directions in order to lead me to do what I’m doing now.
What do you feel it is about audio drama that makes it a good vehicle for delivering God’s message to His people?
Somebody did sort of this spectrum, a graph or whatever showing that when it comes to how we engage with the arts, whatever that may be, there are varying levels of engagement in terms of what our brain does. So, for example, reading. When you think about it, reading is probably the hardest because we take these symbols on a page (or however we are reading), convert those into words, which go into paragraphs, which goes into a lot of different things and out of that, our imagination turns all of those things into something we visualize and then something we think about and something we feel. That’s a fairly intensive experience. Then on the far end of the spectrum, on the other side, would be movies where everything visually and auditory, everything, is sort of spelled out for us. It requires less of us, which doesn’t mean it’s less engaging, it just requires less of our engagement. For me, the power of audio drama and the use of sound, as we know from music and things like that, is just a powerful way to communicate God’s message. if that makes sense. And then in the middle, we have audio because audio is sound alone. What we are doing is that we’ve got voice and sound effects and music communicating and engaging us and our imagination in a way that requires more of us, but not as much as reading. I think it becomes intensely personal because you’ve got something whispering in your ear, in a way. It’s sort of like somebody leaning and whispering and the intensity of that. For me, the power of audio drama and the use of sound, as we know from music and things like that, is just a powerful way to communicate God’s message. To communicate a story and all the things that we need to have in order to make the Bible real; to make our experience with God, and in particular our relationship with Christ, real in a way other than straight reading or watching something. Does that make sense?
Yes, I think it does. I never really thought about it in that way before you mentioned all that, especially like when you read a book and then your mind’s eye developsall the characters and then you see the movie and you think, “That’s not what I envisioned.” Audio drama is the halfway mark; you are doing less work because you are listening, but you still have your mind’s eye developing it so it does make the written word more real.
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