Path Home Shows 2016 Show Archive December 2016 Show 1649 PleasureTown

PleasureTown

Nearly a century ago radio shows were replaced by television, but audio shows are making a comeback online through podcast recordings.
PleasureTown

PleasureTown

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PleasureTown Show

Show Details

Show 1649: PleasureTown
Air Date: December 4, 2016

 

Transcript

Rob McClendon: Well, in the world of broadcast, what was old is new again. The old radio serials that our parents and grandparents listened to are inspiring a new generation of artists. Our Austin Moore introduces us to an Oklahoman who created a podcast called “PleasureTown.”

Austin Moore: The first commercial radio station was licensed in 1920. Quiz shows, comedies, dramas, mysteries, westerns. There was something for everyone.

Radio Announcer: And that’s with a U.S. marshal and the smell of gun smoke.

Austin: This was the golden age of radio, when the medium dominated household entertainment. Then came television in the 1950s and radio was never the same.

Austin: Today, there is a resurgence in the art form. Podcasting, where audio files are recorded, but rather than being broadcast, they’re made available online, on demand. And that has given rise to a new age in oral storytelling.

Erin Kahoa: The barrier for entry is very minimal. You need to have a microphone, you need to have something that will record, and you need to have an internet connection. That’s it.

Austin: Oklahoma native Erin Kahoa is a podcaster and performance artist working in Chicago.

Kahoa: So, of course, there are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of podcasts. Some of them very high quality. Some of them maybe not so much quality. And diverse topics. You know, just anywhere.

Austin: But Kahoa doesn’t produce his podcast just anywhere. He and co-producer Keith Ecker created an idea so bold, it was picked up by Chicago Public Radio’s WBEZ, the station that created “This American Life,” “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” and the true life mystery podcast “Serial.” Their show, reminiscent of the golden era radio dramas, is called “PleasureTown.”

Nats PleasureTown: Around the turn of the last century, a group of folk built their dream, a town, where happiness was the main objective. But, as history has shown, death catches up to everyone. So stand ready and join us as we return to PleasureTown.

Kahoa: It is basically like the flip of the puritanical. People just, like, tried to live righteously, and our people are just trying to live on what makes them happy, and that can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

PleasureTown: I don’t even know exactly when it happened. But I know one day I woke up here and I was all right not knowing what day it was. I was all right not knowing who would I meet today. I was alright not having everything planned out for me.

Austin: Kahoa drew on his childhood in western Oklahoma to find the perfect setting for the fictional PleasureTown.

Kahoa: It was the clean break that Oklahoma history offers. From the land run to the Dust Bowl. It was about a period of 50 years. So, you know, this genesis starting from, you know, undeveloped land and the tragedy that drove a lot of people away.

PleasureTown: For once in my life, I was something other than a burden. And that was enough to make me forsake the truth and my brother and give myself completely to the game.

Kahoa: My co-producer and I play the founders of the town. Keith plays Claude, and I play Cyrus.

Claude: Classic us, I weep at the sunset, and you shield your eyes from the sunrise.

Kahoa: Claude was born in Mississippi, the son of a slave owner and hated everything about that. A womanizing individual. If there is a lady and a drink, then you are going to find him right there.

Claude: One gulp of whiskey, and I don’t care what you have to say. Short-term fix to a long term problem.

Kahoa: Cyrus is very intellectual, very, will think before he speaks.

Cyrus: Life is a test, and I’m studying civilization. Someone needs to understand how to run a city.

Kahoa: And so these two gentlemen meet with combined idea of that life should be happiness. It’s written in the Declaration of Independence. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So, like, well, let’s turn that up to 11 and see what happens.

Austin: This allows the show to explore modern issues through the safety glass of period fiction.

PleasureTown: If I don’t hope and fear, and, yes, dread for the future, then who will? Tell me that. Who will?

PleasureTown: You’ll get so weak, you’ll be helpless.

Kahoa: You know it’s like science fiction. That’s all science fiction is, is just a stained glass window of our current times. And just viewing it through a veil. So race, gender, ability, background. We try as best as we can to get a writer from that experience and then, of course, the modern issues are just going to come pouring out. Because that’s what’s on their mind. That’s what they are feeling. That’s what they are thinking. That’s what they dealt with that morning.

PleasureTown: I guess I always knew she’d leave me, somewhere deep down in whatever that place is where women can sense bad things coming. Bad things that could feel like empty if empty had a feeling. I always had that when I was around Floren.

Austin: Make no mistake. This is not casual listening. It’s not bubble gum for your ears. “PleasureTown” is immersive, crafted prose. It’s both art and commentary. But for Kahoa, it has also turned into an opportunity for a wandering Okie to leave an imprint on the world.

Kahoa: “PleasureTown” was supposed to be two shows and done. And here we are. Who knew that hedonism plus Oklahoma was going to be the thing that started the fire?

Music from “PleasureTown.”

Kahoa: Just to know that you were not only consuming the art, but your fingerprint is on it. That’s best case scenario for me.

Rob McClendon: So, Austin, where do they get the ideas for their shows?

Austin Moore: Well, the producers set the broad strokes and then pass out the individual stories to a group of writers. But this group really encourages the audience to participate as well. They’ve used them for naming landmarks, like say, a river, but they also allow them to submit story ideas and occasionally, actually produce that story. They do that because this is a group of people who came from the theater. They are used to hearing that immediate live feedback, that knowing if they’re doing well or not. And so between that interaction and social media, that’s how they gauge the direction of the show.

Rob: Hmm, hmm. I have to also ask, where did you get that old black and white footage at the front of the story?

Austin: Well, that is some archive footage out of NBC from the late ’40s. It’s a real hoot, and it’s available on our website if anyone wants to check it out.

Rob: All right, thank you so much, Austin. Now, if you’d also like to see more on the art of sound, just head over to our website at okhorizon.com, and look for the “Technology Behind the Sound” story under our value added section.