Left of the Dial

Fred Crafts brings back the golden days with Radio Redux

Bill Hulings and Jane Brinkley in Radio Redux’s Alice in Wonderland<

From screwball comedies to hardboiled gumshoes to fantasy, science fiction and holiday fare, Radio Redux brings the past into the present.  

“We’re exploring great stories, great literature, and we want to expose that to our audience” says Radio Redux artistic director Fred Crafts. “It’s our mission to preserve and advance radio theater.” 

The company opened its current season with Radio Days: Comedy Capers, and offers a variety of shows throughout the year, including Alice in Wonderland, A Cowboy Christmas, The Maltese Falcon and Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds

Scripts are plumbed from the golden age of radio, echoing productions that were broadcast throughout the 1930s to 1950s by companies like Lux Radio Theater (eponymously named for its sponsoring toilet soap), Mercury Theater on Air and the Screen Guild Players.

“All of these stories are vivid, with colorful characters, rich language, spectacular landscapes,” Crafts says. “They fire the imagination. We’re about working the audience’s minds.” 

Crafts suggests that Radio Redux operates kind of like a great book does: It gives you a framework and you fill in the details. “Listening is a great activity for a human being,” he explains. “Most things are handed to you, and that’s just the way it is. But Radio Redux is like a paint-by-numbers or a coloring book. The audience has to work with us.” 

Crafts was born in Eugene and grew up listening to radio in the 1940s. One of his earliest memories is listening to Straight Arrow, a western adventure series that featured a golden cave. “I just loved that golden cave,” Crafts recalls, noting that his cave probably looked different than the ones the minds of other listeners.

“If a story is well presented to you, it tickles your imagination” he says. “You want to work with it and you get swept up in it if it’s really well done. It takes you beyond yourself.”  

Crafts likens the feeling of being transported by radio theater to driving somewhere and not really realizing how you got there, but finding you’ve just arrived. “I started doing that when I was a kid,” he says. “Listening to radio shows, the voices, sound effects and music sparked my imagination. I remember the Lone Ranger, with his big, deep voice.”

Crafts didn’t travel much as a child; his family mostly stayed in Eugene. But through books and radio — through wondrous and engaging stories — he says he developed a lifelong affinity for the arts and culture, as well as for the big world out there.

Now retired from a career in journalism and broadcasting, Crafts estimates that Radio Redux has presented 40 shows since it began in 2009. 

And at a Radio Redux performance, the focus is squarely on the story. “I don’t want to gimmick it up with a fancy set or a whole lotta costumes,” Crafts says. “I want you to work your imagination.” 

This season’s shows center around themes of transformation, hope and possibilities. 

For more information on Fred Crafts’ Radio Redux, visit radioreduxusa.com.