American Radio Drama 1921-1922
[OTR Digest post by radio historian Bill Jaker, circa 1998]
I'm always cautious about "firsts", but I know that in 1921 a couple of
agriculture professors from West Virginia University were invited to KDKA to
deliver a talk on farm extension courses and showed up with a script for a
playlet entitled "A Rural Line on Education". At first KDKA refused to let
them ring a telephone bell, asserting that it would defraud the audience into
thinking that they were hearing a phone call and not a radio program. The
professors prevailed by reminding KDKA that its patriarch, Frank Conrad, had
played music on his station 8XK from phonograph records, which a listener
could mistake for live musicians. Not much happens in the play -- it's just a
chat on the phone between two farmers with an operator making frequent,
somewhat comical, interruptions -- but it was specially written for the audio
medium at a time when the people at "the pioneer broadcasting station of the
world" had never heard of such a thing. ...
[By radio historian Bill Jaker, date unknown]
Radio broadcasting as we know it today began only seventy miles north of
Morgantown at Westinghouse station KDKA. WVU faculty members traveled to
Pittsburgh to appear on the pioneer station in its earliest days, and may have
been responsible for the first use of sound effects.
Agricultural education professors H. B. Allen and Paul C. Rouzer were invited
to appear on the "National Stockman and Farmer Hour" in 1921 to discuss
vocational education courses. They arrived at KDKA's East Liberty studios with
a playlet entitled "A Rural Line on Education." This was to be an overheard
phone call between two farmers, beginning with a bell ringing two longs and
three shorts. Their chat about agricultural education was interrupted a couple
of times by others wanting to use the party line, they hung up, and Stockman
Sam did a final pitch.
But the KDKA engineers objected to ringing the bell on the grounds that Allen
and Rouzer were there to make a speech and not fool the public into thinking
they were overhearing a phone conversation. "Finally they relented," Dr. Allen
wrote in a 1963 letter to KDKA, "and my buddy and I took turns or worked cheek
to cheek before the 'knothole' in the little cubical box." ...
[November 12, 1921 Chicago Tribune]
OPERA CARRIES 1,500 MILES BY RADIO PHONES
50,000 Hear 'Our Mary' Via Wireless.
Radio-telephony extended the scope of the Chicago Grand Opera company 1,500
miles north, east, south and west yesterday.
Mary Garden, Edith Mason, and Conductor Giorgio Polacco played to the biggest
house of their careers--more than 50,000 persons scattered from New York state
to Kansas and from southern Kentucky to northern Minnesota--via wireless.
And, shortly after the beginning of the test, radio messages returned from the
four points of the compass to the roof of the Commonwealth Edison company--the
point of actual wireless transmission from Chicago--reporting "QSA," which
means to the radio wise, "Signals clear and loud."
How the Trick Was Turned.
The demonstration yesterday was preparatory to a season of grand opera by
wireless beginning next Monday with the opening of the Chicago opera season.
The test was made under actual opera conditions and consisted of an opening
address by General Director Mary Garden, an orchestra selection led by Giorgio
Polacco, and Miss Mason's rendition of an aria from "Madame Butterfly."
High up in the wings above the auditorium stage a small instrument caught the
music and carried it by wire to the roof of the Commonwealth Edison company,
where it was dispatched by radio to a widespread audience.
For days the notice of the test had been going out over the wireless to the
radio operators, and when the announcement, "This is station K. Y. W.,
Chicago," was sent, all were "listening in."
In THE TRIBUNE plant a score or more heard "Our Mary" present the Chicago
Opera company to the world.
Tap Opera by Radio.
No longer will it be necessary to dress up in evening togs to hear grand opera
and no longer will grand opera consist of phonographic selections in towns 500
or 1,000 miles from Chicago.
All that is necessary is to acquire a radio telephone outfit, tune it to the
required wavelength of 360 meters, and then enjoy grand opera just as it is
sung and at the moment it is sung in Chicago, for the appliance will hang
above the Auditorium stage through the season.
[November 13, 1921 Chicago Tribune]
... The season will be initiated tomorrow night with "Samson et Delila,"
Saint-Saëns' biblical opera. It will be sung by Lucien Muratore, Chicago's
idolized French tenor, and the famous Peruvian contralto, Marguerite Alvarez,
in the name parts. Other rôles will be presented by Hector Dufranne as the
high priest, Paul Payan (his American debut), Desiré Defrere, Octave Dua,
Lodovico Oliviero, and Jerome Uhl. Giorgio Polacco will conduct ...
[November 17, 1921 Chicago Tribune]
Hi Cost of Opera was smashed last night, hundreds of miles were annihilated,
and the thrilling music of Puccini's "Madame Butterfly" was served by science,
free of cost.
Radio did the trick--radio-telephony--and wireless fans from Watertown, N. Y.,
to Kansas City, Mo., and from Minneapolis to Covington, Ky., "tuned in."
In the home of Attorney Robert Davis, 3915 Pine Grove avenue, a most
enthusiastic audience of relatives and neighbors "heard it all, as clear as a
bell" due to the efforts of the two young sons, Callis, 16, and Robley, 13,
who constructed the radio receiver.
Every night during the opera season the amplifier over the Auditorium stage
will deliver the throbs from below to the roof of the Commonwealth Edison
company's building, where they will be transmuted into radio impulses.
And there is an added feature for the "stay-at-home" opera lovers. In the
intermissions an announcer from the Auditorium will tell briefly the story of
the opera, act by act.
[Excerpt from Lawrence Lichty and Malachi Topping (eds): _American
Broadcasting_ (New York, Hastings House, 1975)]
RADIO DRAMA: THE EARLY YEARS
by Lawrence Lichty
ACCORDING TO THE best available materials in 1944 Donald W. Riley reports that
WGY, Schenectady formed the first group "for the specific purpose of putting
on plays." The first radio play on WGY was "The Wolf," by Eugene Walter,
broadcast on August 3, 1922. All three acts of the play were given without
cuts. Music was played between the acts just as in the legitimate theater. WGY
broadcast plays as a regular weekly feature beginning in October [sic] 1922.
On April 12, 1923, KDKA broadcast the complete performance of "Friend Mary"
from the stage of a Pittsburgh theater. In the same month, WJZ, Newark,
broadcast "Merton of the Movies" directly from the stage of the Court Theater
and also carried the first installment of "The Waddington Cipher," a detective
story. But Professor Riley notes that KDKA might have "heralded radio drama
with its experimental programs prior to the granting of its license" November
On November 9, 1922, about a month after the first play had been presented on
WGY, a program that was a "near drama" was broadcast on WLW. On this program
the one-act play "A Fan and Two Candlesticks" by Mary MacMillan of Cincinnati,
was read before the microphone by Miss MacMillan, Fred Smith, and Robert
Stayman. According to the Crosley Radio Weekly, this reading "got over so
well" that it was "decided to continue the broadcasting of playlets and one
act plays." More important, this article noted, "It is believed that the radio
play has specific requirements such as simplicity and brevity, which must be
given the most careful consideration."
The following week, on November 16, 1922, Mary Sullivan Brown was presented on
WLW "reading from the Balcony Scene of Romeo and Juliet." Fred Smith had heard
plays broadcast on WGY, and decided to try them on WLW. On November 24, 1922,
WLW broadcast its first real dramatic program. The play was "Matinata" by
Lawrence Langer and was presented by permission of Stewart and Kidd, the
publishers. According to Crosley Radio Weekly:
We realize the radio play can only be made effective if it is put over in such
a way that it may be readily visualized by the radio listener. With this end
in mind, we are, for the present, having some of the parts taken by those of
the Crosley staff who are accustomed to talking over radio, and who can work
in effects which would not occur to professional players.
WLW next presented a drama on December 15, 1922--a play entitled "What the
Public Wants." On December 22, "The Shadowed Star" was presented with a cast
of five. On January 5, 1923, another one-act play, apparently unnamed, was
presented and directed by John R. Froome, head of the drama department of
Cincinnati College of Music.
On February 6, 1923, a play written by Mr. Froome and starring himself and his
student Emil Lewis was broadcast from WLW. Another original drama written by a
Cincinnatian, Belle McDiarmid Ritchley, was given in the same month. It is not
known whether these plays were written especially for the radio and for
presentation over WLW or whether they were merely adapted for WLW. Either
might qualify as the first plays written especially for presentation on radio.
On April 3, 1923, "When Love Wakens" (note the W-L-W), an original play
written especially for WLW by station director Fred Smith, was broadcast.
By October 1923 about one year after its first drama, WLW had presented
twenty-five different dramatic programs. In addition to presenting a drama
about every other week, Mr. Smith and other WLW staff members were innovators
of a specialized dramatic form for radio. In September, 1922, according to Mr.
we began to think of plays for radio. But we were always of the opinion that
the most effective production would be the one-act play. So far as we know
there was no broadcasting station sending out one-act plays at the time.
During the fall we put on several with good effect.
Since this was pioneer work we made discoveries as we went along. We did
incidental music to give atmosphere in a place where part of the action took
place at a dance. It then occurred to us that an artistic hour of
entertainment would be the production of a foreign play with music of its own
country surrounding it.
These combined music and drama programs included plays by Benavente,
Maeterlinck, and Ibsen. Mr. Smith's stay in Europe had developed in him an
appreciation for European music and drama. In presenting these plays he
condensed and adapted them for radio, and he added a "descriptionist" (now we
use the word narrator) to give a synopsis of the play up to "the scene to be
radioed." This reduced the play to the brevity Mr. Smith felt was needed to
hold the attention of the radio listener, and reduced the cast to two or three
actors. The fewer actors the less confusing for the listener to separate the
The next logical step--as we have seen--was to write plays especially for
radio presentation; probably "When Love Wakens" was the first of these. Mr.
Smith added background music and even included vocal and whistling numbers as
part of the plots. When he started writing or adapting plays for WLW he then
began to use the dialogue to carry all the action and eventually the
"descriptionist" was eliminated. Sound effects were added. On one play the
sound of an elephant walking was needed; Powel Crosley, Jr. made the sound by
pounding his fists into the table.
To describe the radio dramas, Mr. Smith and Mr. Stayman coined the word
"radario" (from radio and scenario), even applying for a copyright. But the
word never caught on. The most frequently used term for radio dramas in the
early days became "sketches."
Mr. Smith even tried musical comedy plays. The first of these was "When Madame
Sings," written by Alvin R. Plough, associate editor of Crosley Radio Weekly.
This was a story about a great opera star who would not appear before a radio
microphone because her powder puff had been mislaid and she would not disgrace
herself with a shiny nose. A second "musical playlet," entitled "When Betsy
Ross Made Old Glory," was presented June 13, 1923--the night before Flag Day.
On September 26, "The Magic Journey," a specially written play for children
was broadcast. It was written by T. C. O'Donnel, editor of Writer's Digest,
who contributed a monthly play for children to Child Life magazine. The cast
included "the most talented students from the Reulman School of Expression."
Dramatic readings were added to the WLW daytime schedule on September 6, 1923.
Fred Smith read stories with piano background from the "classics."
On October 4 came the announcement that Helen Schuster Martin, of the Schuster
Martin Dramatic School, henceforth would direct all of the radarios. Further,
she would form a WLW "stock company" of fourteen actors to be called the
"Crosley Radarians." The staff included Thomie Prewitt Williams, of the
Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, as musical director. Soon William Stoess,
later WLW music director, provided music for the dramas. Mr. Stoess developed
background music and montages and was recognized as one of the first to
"develop this new art" as early as 1923. By the fall of 1923, the Radarians
were presenting dramas every week on Thursday evenings at 10:00 p.m.
The nationally distributed magazine, Writer's Digest, and WLW held a contest
beginning in May 1923, for the three best radarios. The winner received $50,
second $30, and third $20. All three plays were broadcast on WLW. This was one
of the earliest national contests--maybe the very first--for dramatic radio
scripts. Donald Riley reports that WGY held a contest "as early as 1923" but a
more exact date apparently is not available. E. P. J. Shurick says that WGY
held a national contest in the spring of 1925. In October 1923 WLW held a
second contest for the best original radarios. Thus radio drama evolved at WLW
from fall 1922 to fall 1923, and it was evolving at other stations in the U.S.
at about the same time.
[February 4, 1922 Bridgeport Telegram]
RADIO OPERATORS HEAR GOOD CONCERT
Local radio operators listened to one of the finest programs yet produced over
the radiophone last night. The program of entertainment which included some of
the stars of Broadway musical comedy and vaudeville was broadcast from the
Newark, N. J. station WDY and the Pittsburgh station KDKA, both of the
Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing company.
The Newark entertainment started at 7 o'clock: a children's half hour of music
and fairy stories; 7:[35?], Hawaiian airs and violin solo; 8:00, news of the
day; and at 8:20 a radio party with nationally known comedians participating;
9:55, Arlington time signals and 10:01, a government weather report.
G. E. Nothnagle, who conducts a radiophone station at his home 176 Waldemere
avenue said last night that he was delighted with the program, especially with
the numbers sung by Eddie Cantor.
The weather conditions are excellent for receiving, he continued, the tone and
the quality of the messages was fine.
[February 4, 1922 NYT]
TWO PLAYS BY WIRELESS.
"Tangerine" and "The Perfect Fool" to Be Sent Through Air.
Experiments in transmitting entire musical comedies by wireless telephone will
be conducted soon by the Westinghouse Company through their radio station in
Newark. "Tangerine" and "The Perfect Fool," both current Broadway musical
plays, will be the first to be thus sent through the air.
The "Tangerine" company will go to Newark on Sunday, Feb. 12, and Ed Wynn and
his company will go a week later. In the case of the latter experiment all
other broadcasting stations will be silent and the Chicago plant will be used,
if necessary, to relay the waves to the coast. If weather conditions are
favorable, however, it is hoped to cover the 3,000 miles directly.
[February 12, 1922 Los Angeles Times]
MILLION TO HEAR MUSICAL COMEDY.
WIRELESS TO BROADCAST NEW YORK'S LATEST MELODY SHOW.
This evening at 8 o'clock the largest audience which ever heard a musical
comedy in the annals of the theater will hear Carle Carlton's supermusical
production "Tangerine," now current at the Casino Theater [in] New York, when
for the first time in the history of the world an entire musical comedy will
be presented to 1,000,000 persons in America and on the high seas at the same
This epoch-making event will be made possible through the Westinghouse radio
broadcasting station at Newark, N. J., and will enable entire families in
every State in the Union to sit by their firesides and hear Julia Sanderson,
Frank Crumit, Jenette Methven (the South Sea vamp) and the Tangerine Quartet
sing "Sweet Lady," "Listen to me," "The Isle of Tangerine," "Love is a
Business," and the other song hits of the production, and to laugh at the
comedy quips of Richard Carle, James Gleason, Allen Kearns, Harry Puck and the
balance of the comedians of the big cast, as though from front-row seats at
the Casino Theater.
The entire cast of principals and chorus, together with the Casino Theater
Orchestra under the direction of Max Steiner, will journey to Newark this
evening and, under the personal direction of Mr. Carlton, give a performance
in the wireless recording-rooms of the Westinghouse Company. The performance
will then automatically be open to every radio station within a radius of 5000
[February 19, 1922 Los Angeles Times]
HELLO, LOS ANGELES! HERE'S "PERFECT FOOL!"
Whole Theatrical Performance in New York City is to be Made Audible Here.
Have you a radio phone? Then listen in today, for an epoch-making attempt is
to be made to project, through the aid of music and spoken words, an entire
theatrical performance in New York City so that it will be audible in Los
Angeles. It will mark the most convincing performance of the newly perfected
and well organized broadcasting stations, several of which are located in this
city. It will mean the broadcasting -- a newly significant use of the word --
of talent, musical and oratorical, from city to city, State to State and East
to West. Soon one may sit at home and hear the nation's best as from a
Officials of the Westinghouse Electric Manufacturing Company, who are
arranging today's est, [sic] are hopeful that under favorable atmospheric
conditions and with the addition of certain devices which they are installing,
the entire play will be sent broadcast [sic] to every portion of the United
During the performance all other broadcasting stations will be silent after
8:30 p.m., New York time, when the curtain will go up. The play selected for
the experiment is "The Perfect Fool," presented by Ed Wynn and his company at
the George M. Cohen [sic] Theater. Mr. Wynn is especially anxious for the
success of the test, as his father-in-law, Frank Keenan, will be listening in
at a receiving instrument in Los Angeles. A record of all points at which the
performance is heard, in excess of 1500 miles from New York City, will be
[February 19, 1922 The Mansfield (OH) News]
YOU CAN HEAR ENTIRE SHOW BY RADIO PHONE
NEW YORK, FEB 18.--If you have a radio phone and want to hear one of
Broadway's musical shows Sunday night just tune your set at 8:30 p. m. Eastern
time for "W. J. Z." on the 360-meter wave length. Then you will hear the
overture, opening chorus and dialogues and songs which comprise one of the
while way hits. Nothing will be missing but the scenery.
This is the first time in history that an entire theatrical production will be
broadcasted by wireless. A newspaper and an electrical company are behind the
[February 1922 NEA wire service story in various papers, with photo of Flo
Newton; Danville Bee (11); Appleton Post-Crescent (13); Port Arthur News (19)]
New York. - "Woe unto the bald-headed row!" Farewell to the opera glasses and
For, in time to come, there is a hint that the Broadway girly-girly shows will
be heard and not seen--will be coming into the office and home via wireless.
This because of the radiophone.
The stunt has already been tried--and it succeeded.
Flo Newton, star of "The Perfect Fool," a Broadway musical outburst, journeyed
with the whole cast over to a broadcasting station. The performance was
produced before a silent audience--a shallow horn.
One of the actors explained the setting as the play progressed.
Folks on the other end of the radiophone heard the harmonious singsong of
ensembled chorus girls, and the patter-patter of dancing feet.
On clear nights this broadcasting station reaches points as far as the Pacific
[March 15, 1922 Charleston Daily Mail]
(Westinghouse Station, Newark) ...
7.30 p. m. Mozart's musical comedy, the "Impresario" (Kiehbiel's English
version) will be broadcasted under the personal direction of Willlam Wade
Hinshaw, president of the Society of American singers of New York. Percy
Hemus, celebrated American baritone, will be supported by famous all-American
cast. The entire opera will be produced. The cast of characters is as follows:
Emanuel Schickaneder, director Vienna opera, house, Percy Hemus, Phillip, his
nephew, a young baritone, Francis Tyler, Mozart, the composer, Thomas
McGranahan Madam Hofer, Mozart's sister-in-law, prima donna, Regina Vicarino,
Mlle. Dorothea Uhlic, singer of Linz, Hazel Huntington, accompanist to
Schickaneder, Gladys Craven.
[March 26, 1922 Lincoln State Journal]
Among the Movies.
Frederick James Smith, New York correspondent of the Los Angeles Times,
reports a radio scare in the camps of motion picture and theatrical producers.
The radiophone is becoming too popular for the health of the business.
Motion-picture and theatrical producers, he says, are viewing with
considerable alarm the remarkable vogue hereabouts of the radiophone. Everyone
in and about New York is talking radio. Wireless telephone sets can be
purchased for as low a price as $15 and every New York apartment has its
receiving instrument. You see wireless aerials on nearly every apartment
Large radiophones are set up as demonstration instruments in the biggest
business buildings. In the lower floor of the New York Times building, for
instance, is one with a huge amplifier. This floor is crowded every hour of
the day with listeners.
The motion-picture and theatrical men think that the radio has done its bit,
at least towards the present bad business in New York theaters. Everyone is
sitting home "listening in" on entertainers performing over in Newark or even
as far away as Pittsburgh. Their songs, recitations, etc, are "broadcasted" at
specified hours of the day and night, along with hourly news reports.
The entertainment promoters view the radio as such a menace that a number of
stage productions have ordered their stars not to talk into the radio.
Has the radio a chance to supplant the movies as the entertainment of the
masses? Will the silent drama be succeeded by the talkie? We doubt it, but
there is no question but that the wireless telephone is hurting theater
business in the New York district.
Moreover the radio bids fair to eliminate the phonograph on the farm. Why buy
expensive records and machines when one radio instrument will bring you the
world's news and entertainment without added cost? ...
[March 29, 1922 Charleston Daily Mail]
Ed Wynn Tells New Joke to the Ether
In recognition of the first complete theatrical performance ever broadcasted
by radiophone, Ed Wynn, he of "The Perfect Fool"-- now playing in New York,
told the ether a brand new joke last Sunday night at WJZ.
"I'm going to quit the stage," Wynn informed the radio active waves. "I've hit
on an invention that will make me a fortune."
"No? What?" whispered the other, incredulously.
"A non-refillable baby-buggy," snickered Wynn.
Great merriment from Eastport to San Diego.
Nothing was omitted from "The Perfect Fool," except the scenery and a ballet
number. The latter, Wynn explained, was too scantily clad to be sent through
the air on a winter's night.
[April 1, 1922 Washington Post]
Play Producers Think Radio Will Not Hurt Theaters
New York, March 28.--What effect will the broadcasting of musical comedy hits
have upon the musical comedies themselves--if any?
Will the fact that Henrietta can hear the score of "Sally" while washing the
family dishes and that Henry can listen to Al Jolson singing "Bombo" while
shaving, keep these two away from the box office, thus injuring the stage
Most of the big producers of musical comedy agree that there is no possible
danger of the broadcasted play injuring the regular performance. The only
doubtful voice comes from Mr. Lee Shubert, who holds a theory that which is by
no means flattering to radio.
"The radio machine," says Mr. Shubert, "is in no state to do justice to the
musical comedy. For instance, if a family were to hear Frances White one of
her songs over the inadequate apparatus now used they might get a wholly
erroneous idea of her voice and stay away from 'The Hotel Mouse.' After it is
perfected it can do no harm, but at present it is a very poor advertisement
for musical comedy."
Charles Dillingham holds a more optimistic view. "The radio, like the
phonograph, has only increased the interest in musical comedy and, in fact,
all musical performances. I regard it as a valuable ally. Anything that brings
more music into the homes is going to uplift not only the shows themselves but
the entire morale of the American people."
Florenz Ziegfeld is now searching for new scenic effects at Palm Beach, but
one of his cohorts in the office quotes him as quite undisturbed by the "radio
menace." "How can anything that excites interest in a given show keep people
away from the box office?" he demanded. "Moreover," he added cryptically, "Mr.
Ziegfeld's shows are not altogether planned as an appeal to the ear.
Occasionally, you know, you get an eyeful!"
Altogether, it looks as if the good old stage would struggle on for a few
years longer in spite of its echoes from the air.
[April 21, 1922 Chicago Tribune]
... Performers who will appear at a broadcasting studio without payment are
becoming harder to find as the novelty wears off. ...
... Ask Restriction of Actors.
The Actors' Equity league is demanding that its members be paid for their
services--and in Chicago and other cities many vaudeville managers are asking
their artists to sign contracts which will forbid them from taking part in
[April 22, 1922 Charleston Daily Mail]
(Westinghouse Station, Newark) ...
8 p. m.[to 9.30 p. m.]--"La Traviata," an opera in three acts, by Giuseppe
Verdi, will be performed via radio under the personal direction of Charles D.
Isaacson of the New York Evening Mail. The performance has been rehearsed,
coached and conducted in radio technique by Maestro S. Avitable, who has
sponsored and directed many operatic ventures in New York.
[June 3, 1922 NYT]
Plea for Those Who Balk at "What Public Wants."
To the Editor of the New York Times:
The high wires on the roof of a great-powered radio plant, etched against the
sky, give a sense of the infinite--the same sense that church spires never
fail to bring--and that many a church service does not. A sense of the future
is in these wires, too, a feeling that we are on the threshold of stranger
things than either philosophy or physics ever dreamed of.
But when--oh, when--will this new super-power be used as the vehicle for other
things than the commonplace, the trivial? "Ain't It a Shame to Steal on
Sunday?" upon one radio program last week must, of course, have had wide
appeal, and I am aware that most radio sets are installed in homes because the
males of the family want to hear the baseball scores at a minimum expenditure
of time and strength. But when may some of the rest of us who balk at "what
the public wants" listen in? Surely we should be allowed our turn. "Bits of
the World's Best Literature" radioed the other evening sounded like a step in
the right direction, but many of us would like a longer stride. When will
Julia Marlowe (or a voice like hers, if such a voice there be, which I very
much doubt) read us Shakespeare by radio? Thousands would enjoy it and through
it the millions might be converted to Shakespeare--propaganda of a very safe
and sane sort. The result might even cast doubt upon Mr. William H. Brady's
classic of the theatre-ticket broker who said: "Honest, Bill, I can't sell
What a triumph if we could sell Shakespeare by radio!
Brooklyn, N. Y., June 1, 1922.
[July 1922 - This wire service story appeared in the July 19, 1922 Lima (OH)
News (under headline: ACTING BY RADIO IS A WEIRD SENSATION) and the July 23,
1922 Charleston (SC) Daily Mail (under headline: PRESENTING A PLAY OVER THE
WIRELESS IN NEWEST WRINKLE)]
Acting by one person over the radiophone isn't new any longer. But presenting
a play by the entire company is more recent.
It's harder than acting the parts on the stage, say those who have tried it.
That's because they cannot tell whether the play is "going over." There is no
audible applause, as in the playhouse. There is no visible audience. It is all
a weird, uncomfortable sensation.
Yet, once they have tried acting by radio the players like it. For there is no
perspiring behind hot footlights, no quick changes, no need of makeup.
Among the first who tried "acting" a whole play by radio were Grace George and
Herbert Hayes. They sat near a microphone in a San Francisco broadcasting
station and recited their parts. They could not tell whether they had only one
person or a million for their audience. But by the letter of appreciation that
came in later they believe it was nearer the larger figure.
Encouraged by the enthusiasm shown in the reception of plays by radio, a San
Francisco newspaper has tried the stunt of broadcasting its serial story. Fred
V. Williams, newspaper writer, began his latest product in serial form. Cards
from radio fans throughout the area have proven to the newspaper that this
form of broadcasting was popular.
[accompanying photo caption:] ACTING BY RADIO. (ABOVE) GRACE GEORGE AND
HERBERT HAYES. (BELOW) FRED WILLIAMS BROADCASTING A SERIAL STORY.
[September 2, 1922 The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, IN)]
Will Give Dramatic Productions By Radio
Dramatic productions by radio have become a possibility as a result of
successful experiments made recently at WGY, the radio broadcasting station of
the General Electric Co. at Schenectady. N. Y.
Eugene Walter's play, "The Wolf" was presented through the courtesy of the
author and the invisible audience found the story of the invisible players so
interesting that many letters have been received at the G-E station
proclaiming the success of the play and expressing the hope that others may
The play was produced by a cast headed by Edward H. Smith, who has been heard
frequently in readings by the WGY audience. "The Wolf" was presented in three
episodes and the scenes, period, costumes and the story of "before the play"
were described briefly preceding the performance. By means of the description
the attentive listener at his receiving set constructed his own scenery within
the limits of his experience and imagination. The actor in the radio drama
must rely upon the voice to convey emotion and action, yet so well was "The
Wolf" produced that those who listened gained a vivid picture and followed the
play with thrilling interest to the end.
To the man who can attend a theatrical production at any time the radio drama
may lose something, the story may need the eye to give it full force. There
are thousands in rural districts, many invalids, the blind and inmates of
institutions to whom all entertainment provided by a broadcasting station is
the only relief from monotony. To such as these the dramatic performance via
radio has a special appeal. The actor who is accustomed to get his inspiration
from the intent and appreciative faces over the footlights can get the
required inspiration by picturing the thousands of ears attuned to his voice.
He can not hear applause but the letters of a day or two later, many of them
pitiful messages from those who have lived in the same room for months and
years, will more than compensate him for the lack of handclapping.
WGY expects to offer other dramatic productions during the next few months. In
presenting "The Wolf" Mr. Smith, who played the part of MacDonald, was
assisted by the following:
Frank Finch as Jules Beaubien; Horace Roberts, Baptiste LeGrand; Viola
Karwowska as Hilda McTavish; Henry Miller as Huntley, and James S. B.
Mullarkey as Andrew McTavish.
[September 21, 1922 The Youth's Companion]
THE YOUTH'S COMPANION "OVER THE AIR"
For fifteen weeks now The Youth's Companion has been supplying radio broadcast
programmes to some of the most widely heard radiotelephone stations in the
country. The programmes, which are announced under the names "The Family
Circle" and "Under the Evening Lamp," consist of leading articles, stories of
adventure, humorous stories, anecdotes, poetry and Department Page clippings
taken from the columns of The Companion and arranged for reading "over the
air." Have you heard any of them? What do you think of them? What kind of
stories do you like to hear by radio? Write to the Department Editor, The
Youth's Companion, Boston, Massachusetts, and tell him your impressions. He
will be pleased to know what you think about The Companion broadcasts and, if
you have not already asked for it, to send you free of charge your copy of the
radiotelephone map and list of stations that has been prpared for subscribers.
The list of Companion broadcasts at the time of going to press is given below.
New stations are being added all the time, and the entire country will soon be
Station WGI, Medford Hillside, Massachusetts. Fifteen minutes every Monday and
Station WBZ, Springfield, Massachusetts. Half an hour every Saturday evening.
Station WJZ, Newark, New Jersey. Half an hour every Saturday evening.
Station KDKA, East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Half an hour every Saturday
Station KYW, Chicago, Illinois. Half an hour every Saturday evening.
Station WGY, Schenectady, New York. Fifteen minutes twice a week. Announced by
Station KLZ, Denver, Colorado. Fifteen minutes twice a week. Announced by
Station WWJ, Detroit, Michigan. Fifteen minutes twice a week. Announced by
[October 1, 1922 Current Opinion]
HOW OPERA IS BROADCASTED
RADIO BROADCAST records that the actual broadcasting of a complete opera was
not undertaken until last March when Mozart's "The Impresario" was presented
at the WJZ station at Newark, New Jersey. C. E. Le Massena, who was associated
with the enterprise, says, in describing the event, that when the date had
been fixed William Wade Hinshaw, manager of the opera company and president of
the Society of American Singers, assembled his forces and with a dummy
microphone practised broadcasting in his New York studio.
This opera, having to deal with principals only and a pianist, presented no
difficulties as to chorus or orchestra; therefore, as soon as the singers
understood how and when to move, the hard work was done. As a preliminary
measure, however, Mr. Hinshaw journeyed to Newark several days in advance of
the performance and delivered a lecture by radio on "Opera Comique," thereby
preparing his invisible audience for the novelty in store for them. He
explained the meaning of this kind of entertainment, recited the plot, told
about the artists who would sing the various rôles, and made a strong plea for
better music and a deeper appreciation of good music such as Mozart composed.
He decried jazz and the modern dance music as unhealthy and immoral, and
asserted that pure, wholesome opera comique would do much to turn the world of
music back to normalcy.
At Newark, we read, the recording [sic] took place in a small room, about 10 x
40 feet, on the second floor of the Westinghouse plant. At one end is a grand
piano. On one side is the electrical apparatus which conveys the message to
the amplifying station on the roof. On the opposite side is the switch and a
set of head phones, also a phonograph and an orchestrelle. In the center is
the portable microphone into which the sound waves are directed.
The company arrives and is shown into the sanctum sanctorum. They take
their places. The announcer explains that they are subject to certain radio
traffic regulations, as other broadcasting stations are also operating and it
would be discourteous to begin until the exact hour announced, when the air
lines are free. Now the usual running time for "The Impresario" is an hour and
forty minutes, but in the tabloid version for broadcasting twenty-five minutes
have been eliminated. Even an hour and a quarter in this musical straitjacket
is enough to tire any artist. Movement is prohibited, whispering is little
short of criminal, and even too deep breathing is forbidden. The announcer
cautions all regarding these details and asks if they are ready. With a final
admonition of "Sh-h," he closes the switch and then speaks into the
microphone, while the members of the company stand silently by, with eyes
dilated, enwrapped in a new experience. "This is the WJZ station at Newark, N.
J.," he begins, "broadcasting Mozart's opera comique 'The Impresario,' under
the direction of William Wade Hinshaw. Announcer ACN. I take pleasure in
introducing Mr. Hinshaw." Mr. Hinshaw silently slides into the position
promptly vacated by ACN and addresses his audience. Anxiety! Suspense! Yes,
100 per cent! The nervous strain is intense, and all are glad when he
concludes and they can do something. In most cases, radio singing and playing
inspires the artists to do even better than their best. That is why the radio
concerts are of such uniform excellence.
Mr. Hinshaw proceeds to introduce the several artists by name, requesting them
to speak and tell who they are and what characters they impersonate. This
done, the signal is given to the pianist to proceed, and the opera is on.
As each character appears, the singer steps forward, delivers his lines or
sings, as the case may be, then retires to make way for the next, who takes up
the thread immediately. When two or more are engaged in dialog or ensemble
musical numbers, the heads come together so that everything may be recorded
[sic] and no one be more prominent than another. At the end of the hour and a
quarter, the company is ready to draw a long breath and a handkerchief and
relax. It is fun, but, we are assured, it is hard work too.
Having no chorus or orchestra to handle, "The Impresario" was an admirable
composition with which to initiate the broadcasting of opera. Mr. Hinshaw
received numerous letters from many sections of the country, some from far
distant points, expressing the pleasure and satisfaction of the hearers. It is
declared to be an unqualified success.
[October 8, 1922 The Galveston (TX) Daily News]
DRAMATIC PRODUCTION TO BE PRESENTED BY RADIO
Special to The News.
Dallas, Tx., Oct. 7.--For the first time in the history of radio telephony in
the South, a dramatic production will be presented by radio Monday night. The
play will be broadcasted by the radio plant of The Dallas News and The Dallas
Journal, with the participants enacting the scenes as they are enacted on the
The production is one which members of the Dallas Rotary Club presented at the
weekly luncheon last Wednesday, and which was received with much enthusiasm by
those who saw it. The skit is in two acts. The title is "The Altruists."
[October 9, 1922 The Galveston (TX) Daily News]
8:00 to 8:30 p. m.--First time in history of radio, a dramatic presentation of
"The Altruists," a two-act skit given by the Dallas Rotary Club. The play was
written and will be directed by Leon Whittier of Dallas. The cast of
characters will include W. J. Lawther, John A. Rogers, Marshall R. Diggs, John
J. Foley, Miss Christina Funkhouser and Mike H. Thomas Jr. The prologue for
the radio play will he delivered by Ed G. Cole. Before and after the skit Mr.
and Mrs. James Bennett sing.
[November 21, 1922 Fayetteville Democrat]
WHAT YOU CAN HEAR TONIGHT
... From KQV, 10 P. M., musical program by Ruby McCurdy, contralto, Earl C.
McCurdy, accompanist; presentation of the one-act play "Tatters" by Mrs. B. B.
[November 22, 1922 Hartford Courant]
'THE LITTLE KANGAROO' REHEARSAL BY RADIO
A novelty in radio broadcasting is promised to those who will tune into [the]
320 meter wave length this afternoon, starting at 5:30 o'clock and running for
one hour, when WJZ at Newark, N. J., will send out direct from the Morosco
Theater, New York City, on special wire, the dress rehearsal of the new Oliver
Morosco musical comedy, "The Little Kangaroo," starring James T. Powers.
The program will officially be called "Back Stage at the Dress Rehearsal" with
Ned Weyburn. The entire company of seventy-five and the augmented orchestra of
twenty-five will be put through a strenuous hour for the radio fans.
"The Little Kangaroo" will appear at Parsons' Theater November 28 and 29.
[November 26, 1922 NYT radio column]
CHICAGO OPERAS GAIN FAVOR
It has been estimated that several million persons have enjoyed the Chicago
operas, broadcast by radio. A large audience in and around New York listened
to the music of "Aïda," played in Chicago and broadcast on the 400-meter wave
length of station KYW. The voice of Rosa Raisa was heard as clearly in New
York as in the Middle West. Since the opening of Chicago's opera season the
radio audience here has heard "Carmen," with Mary Garden singing the leading
part, "La Bohème" and "Parsifal." Two operas will be broadcast each week from
8 P. M. to 11 P. M., central standard time, and after the football season the
Saturday afternoon operas also will be broadcast. ...
Some scheduled drama (and other) broadcasts of 1922
WJZ 8pm "Tangerine" Broadway musical comedy
WJZ 8:30pm "The Perfect Fool" Broadway musical comedy with Ed Wynn (and Flo
WJZ 7:30pm Mozart's musical comedy, the "Impresario" (Kiehbiel's English
version) will be broadcasted under the personal direction of William Wade
Hinshaw, president of the Society of American singers of New York. Percy
Hemus, celebrated American baritone, will be supported by famous all-American
cast. The entire opera will be produced.
WJZ 8:15pm The opera "Martha," in English, by Flotow, will be rendered in its
entirety by the Bijou Opera Ensemble of New York and well known throughout the
East. The story of the opera will be given by J. Falk, director, who also will
describe each one of the four acts between the acts.
WGY Prologue to the Play, "A Man of the People," Dixon, reading, Miss
Elizabeth Jane Stahr.
WJZ 6:30-7:30pm C. E. Massena's operetta "Pandora" will be broadcasted under
the direction of the composer, who will give an exposition of the plot and
WJZ 7-8:15pm Music Temple of America presents "The Man From Paris," comic
opera in one act. Book by J. W. Castle and M. I. MacDonald, from original
version by Jas. A. Russell, music by Emma R. Steiner. Under the direction of
Fred N. Tracey, director.
WJZ Georgie Jessel of "The Troubles of 1922" will broadcast, with the
assistance of twelve artists, the comedy songs and monologues of three acts
from this play.
WGY 7:45pm "The Wolf" by Eugene Walter (WGY Players)
WGY 7:45pm "The Garden of Allah" by Mary Anderson (Robert Hichens) (WGY
WGY 7:45pm "Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford" by George M. Cohan (WGY Players)
WGY 7:45pm "The Man From Home" by Harry Leon Wilson (Booth Tarkington) (WGY
WGY 7:45pm "H. M. S. Pinafore" by Gilbert & Sullivan (WGY Players)
WGY 7:45pm "Paid in Full" by Eugene Walter (WGY Players)
WFAA 8-8:30pm "The Altruists" (two act play) by Leon Whittier of Dallas, given
by Dallas Rotary Club.
WJZ 9:30-10:30pm "The Merchant of Venice," a dramatic reading, by Mona Morgan.
WGY 7:45pm "Way Down East" by Lottie Blair Parker (WGY Players)
WGY 7:45pm "Are You a Mason?" (WGY Players)
WEAF 4:30-4:45pm and 5-5:15pm Entertainment from Shakespeare, with recitations
and facts, by Kizzie B. Masters.
WJZ 9:30-9:55pm "Interpretation of Shakespeare by Miss Mona Morgan, who is
considered one of the foremost interpreters of Shakespearian dramas. She has
been responsible for interesting many school children in these classics."
WJZ 10:01pm Continuation of the program by Mona Morgan.
WOR 2:30-3pm Synopsis of Shakespearian play -- "Much Ado About Nothing."
WGY 7:45pm "A Fool There Was" by Porter Emerson Brown (WGY Players)
WOR 3:40-4pm "Witchcraft," with renditions of the witch scenes from "Macbeth,"
by James G. McLaughlin.
WGY 7:45pm "The Mikado" by Gilbert & Sullivan (WGY Players)
WGY 7:45pm "Officer 666" by Augustin MacHugh (WGY Players)
WJZ 9:30pm "Julius Caesar," by Mona Morgan, interpreter of Shakespeare's
WGY 7:45pm "The Sign of the Four" (WGY Players) with Edward H. Smith as
Sherlock Holmes and F. H. Oliver as Dr. Watson.
WLW "A Fan and Two Candlesticks," one-act play by Mary MacMillan; read by
MacMillan, Fred Smith and Robert Stayman
WEAF 8-10pm Verdi's "Aida." The cast includes Carmella Ponselle, soprano; Anne
Roselle, soprano; Leon Rothier, basso; Dimitry Dobkin, tenor. The artists will
be supported by the Metropolitan Opera Company Orchestra of 100 pieces, led by
KDKA 9pm First act of "Aida" under direction of John Lawrence Rodriques.
WJZ 9:30-9:55pm "As You Like It," by Mona Morgan.
WJZ 10:01pm Continuation of the program by Mona Morgan.
WGY 7:45pm "H. M. S. Pinafore" [rebroadcast by popular demand] (WGY Players)
WOR 8:30pm "Cavelleria Rusticana," by the Puccini Grand Opera Company.
WLW Mary Sullivan Brown "reading from the Balcony Scene of Romeo and Juliet."
WGY 7:45pm "Seven Keys to Baldpate" by George M. Cohan (Earl Derr Biggers)
WJZ 9:30pm "Romeo and Juliet," by Mona Morgan, Shakespearean interpreter.
WOR 6:30pm Scene from "The Bat"
KQV 10pm One-act play "Tatters" by Mrs. B. B. Davis
WJZ 5:30-6:30pm "The Little Kangaroo" Broadway musical comedy rehearsal direct
from the Morosco Theatre
WGY 7:45pm "Madame X" by Alexandre Bisson (WGY credits J. W. McConaughy) (WGY
WJZ 10:01pm "Scenes from Henry V.," by Mona Morgan.
WLW "Matinata," a one-act comedy by Lawrence Langner, "presented by permission
of Stewart and Kidd, the publishers." (Presumably, this was adapted from the
author's multi-act play.)
WJZ 9:30-9:55pm "Hamlet," by Mona Morgan.
WJZ 10:01pm Continuation of the program by Mona Morgan.
WEAF 4:30-5:30pm Reading of Washington Irving's "Legend of Sleepy Hollow," by
Edward E. Doyle, with musical accompaniment by Alfred H. Wertheim, violinist,
and A. V. Liufro, pianist.
WJZ 7:30-8:15pm "Romeo and Juliet," by Mona Morgan.
WGY 7:45pm "Miss Lulu Bett" by Zona Gale (WGY Players)
WJZ 9:30-9:55pm Shakespearean program. ["A mixed Shakespearean program by Mona
Morgan, well known interpreter of Shakespearean plays."]
WJZ 10:05pm Continuation of Shakespearean program.
WGY 7:45pm "Smilin' Through" by Allen Langdon Martin (WGY Players)
WOR 2:45pm Reading of the three best stories of the WOR short story contest.
WHAS 4-5pm Dialogues from the first two acts of the Louisville Players' Club
annual play, "Diplomacy" by Victorien Sardou
WGY 7:45pm "The Wrong Mr. Wright" by George Broadhurst (WGY Players)
WLW "What the Public Wants," by Arnold Bennett. (Possibly an abridgment of "a
play in four acts" by Bennett.)
WGY 7:45pm "The Sign of the Cross" by Wilson Barrett (WGY Players)
WLW "The Shadowed Star," one-act play by Mary MacMillan (with a cast of five).
WEAF 7:15-7:45pm Reading, Dickens' "A Christmas Carol "with musical
accompaniment, by Charles Mills; Grace McDermott, violinist; Mary Burgum,
WGY 7:45pm "Nothing But the Truth" by James Montgomery (WGY Players)