COURIER LIFE, APRIL 16-22, 2021 39
OUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO THE BOROUGH OF KINGS
BY KEVIN DUGGAN
All we need is radio drama!
Fort Greene’s Irondale Center
launched its fi rst ever radio play with
an adaptation of the 1939 “Mother
Courage and Her Children” by Bertolt
Brecht on April 15. The performing
arts organization has recorded
the tale about a mother surviving the
horrors of war, bringing a COVIDsafe
audio drama to listeners around
the borough and beyond.
“As an ensemble, we learned that
the radio version of Mother Courage
is not a poor substitute for live performance
but is an exciting adventure
into a very new medium which serves
much the same goals that we are trying
to accomplish with our live, fully
staged plays,” said Jim Niesen, Irondale’s
The play tells the story of a mother
and her children making their way
through war-torn Europe during the
Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century,
making do by selling goods to
soldiers along the way — but she ultimately
has to pay the price of losing
her children to survive.
Five actors play almost 30 different
roles with the format inspired by
vaudeville, German comedy and Depression
era screwball comedy. The
three-act performance is roughly two
hours and 20 minutes and immerses
listeners with sound effects and an
original score infl uenced by jazz,
country western, and new age.
To get in the spirit of performing
for sound only, the cast listened back
to old radio plays performed by Hollywood
actors to study their method,
according to Irondale’s executive director,
who also stars in the production.
“You learned a lot from them, especially
about timing and that microphone,
which became almost a
physical extension of your body,”
said Terry Greiss. “So much of what
you were doing physically had to be
Greiss and his fellow vocal thespians
rehearsed for months via Zoom
and recorded their parts remotely
while on a conference call with each
other, the stage manager, and the director.
“It was very bizarre because we
couldn’t be together,” Greiss said.
“I’m at the theater by myself, I’ve got
blankets over my head because the
room tone was too noisy.”
Meanwhile, his wife Vicky
Gilmore, who plays the reading role
as Anna Fierling, who’s nicknamed
Mother Courage in the story, was recording
in another room of the S. Oxford
Some parts of the story are very visual,
so they added a narrating story
teller dubbed “Brecht’s Ghost” to talk
over those scenes and fi ll in the gaps,
according to Greiss.
The play is the fi nal of three Brecht
wrote in exile from Nazi Germany in
the 1930s, and Irondale staged the
previous two productions in-person,
“The Life of Galileo” in 2019 and “The
Good Soul of Setzuan” just before the
pandemic hit in early 2020.
“Mother Courage” will be available
to stream online starting April
15, and listeners can buy a ticket for a
48-hour window during which to listen
Once it’s safe to do so, Greiss wants
to bring the play to the stage, to wrap
up their “Brecht in Exile” trilogy, but
he’s become hooked on audio theater.
“I hope this becomes a genre that
we can all continue to explore deeply
and get good at,” he said.
Hear all about it!
Irondale theater launches fi rst radio play, adapting Brecht
“Mother Courage and Her Children”
at Irondale tickets available online at
www.irondale.org, (718) 488-9233.
Stream available April 15-May 1. Anytime.
Irondale’s performance of Brecht’s “The Good Soul of Setzuan” from early 2020. Photo by Gerry Goodstein