Early Ampex reel-to-reel
Radio drama in the USA, following WW2, began its decline under the dominating new medium of television, but it was during that same period, in Europe, that radio drama developed to become a major artistic medium, ranging from popular drama in all its forms to serious acoustical experiments. BBC productions were regularly heard on American non-commercial stations, such as the Pacifica network, but because of the language difference, the accomplishments of other European radio artists were largely unknown here. German radio (West Deutsche Rundfunk, WDR Köln) was one of the leaders of this new art. Literary, theatrical and musical artists, world wide were commissioned, including American artists such as John Cage, and were brought to Germany to create works with German directors in their highly developed acoustic studios.
It was with this regard that our Hörspiel/USA project was encouraged and supported as a way to bring these accomplishments to the attention of artists and audiences here in America. Funding was received from the Goethe Institute of San Francisco, WDR Köln and our National Endowment for the arts. At the time, BARD was associated with Pacifica station KPFA, in Berkeley, Erik Bauersfeld directed its Drama & Literature Department. American German scholar, Robert Goss. spent time at WDR Köln auditioning over ninety productions and selected the dramas for production from his translations. At meetings with The Goethe Institute and WDR Köln Hörspiel producer Klaus Schöning the project took shape. Schöning became our dramaturge and arrangements were made for a series of nine programs consisting of productions in English and several original German productions by special permission from WDR Köln.
The German directors for three of the WDR productions, collaborated with our own producer and directors to guide and co-direct. Fantasy Studios in Berkeley became our central production studio. Danny Kopelson at Fantasy with James Mckee (Earwax studios in San Francisco) were our principal sound designers. The programs were broadcast on Pacifica KPFA beginning in October 1984 and additional productions followed. Everett Frost, director of Voices International, and foremost in America as a radio drama producer, extended the presentation of Hörspiel in 1991 – 1992 with a series of works, including those already produced by BARD, and three additional BARD Hörspiel productions. Frost’s series, Soundplay, was distributed nationally by Pacifica Program Service in Los Angeles.
Archived on this web site is a listing of the BARD Hörspiel productions. Each of the programs contained interviews with directors and dramaturge Klaus Schöning. The programs are 90 minutes long. WDR arranged for the broadcasts to include several original German Hörspiel along with the ones produced by BARD. This provided an extended view of the range of work produced in recent times in Germany. The titles of these inclusions are listed here, but cannot be distributed by BARD without negotations with WDR .
Included with the Hörspiel/USA series were many discussions with authors and directors of the works presented. Klaus Schöning provided these supplements and added several important documents of his own which were broadcast and remain in our BARD archives.