Hearing Things: Paul Fleischman's 'Seedfolks' has been adapted for radio, to be performed live at Sonoma County Library.
Live and on the Air
Partnership blooms between Sonoma County Library and KRCB Radio
By Sara Bir
The radio play is no longer a common format, but it is hardly a dead one. Stories still do come to life over the dial, but it takes a lot of work. Just ask the crew from KRCB Radio and the Sonoma County Library who have come together to bring the book Seedfolks to the airwaves--live from the Central Library in Santa Rosa on Jan. 31.
"Seedfolks" is not the first such collaboration between the Sonoma County Library and KRCB Radio; the journey that is making "Seedfolks" happen began in 2001, when the two institutions broadcast the radio play "Seek."
Both plays are adapted from books by California-born young adult writer Paul Fleischman, who won a Newbery Medal in 1989 for Joyful Noise, a book of poetry written in two voices. "He has an aural approach to his work; it's all about what you hear," says Cathy Signorelli, a writer and Sonoma County Library employee who adapted both of the radio plays. "He has a unique approach to how things sound, what he calls the 'listening gallery.'"
This was especially apparent in Seek, a novel about a boy who searches for the father he never met--a DJ--by roving the radio dial. The story was perfectly suited to a radio format, because it is told through a collage of 52 different voices.
With 12 actors voicing 52 characters, "Seek" was a challenge to produce. "The radio station was so enthused about having this creative project, because they'd never done it before," Signorelli says. After two days of nonstop working, the KRCB technicians finished the sound effects literally minutes before the play was to be broadcast.
After overcoming such last-minute obstacles, there was one additional hurdle that no one could have predicted: "Seek" was broadcast on Sept. 14, 2001, and the nation was still very much in shock from the terrorist attacks.
"We really agonized over whether it was appropriate to put entertainment on the air at that time when people were definitely tuned into their radios more than usual," recalls Signorelli. But instead of canceling, on the day of the event they made the decision to just go for it. The community came out to the library and tuned in to their radios.
So with the wiring already in place in the library and with the lessons gained from producing "Seek," the crew returning to produce "Seedfolks" has a better idea of what's in store. Initially, this second collaboration was going to be an adaptation of Laurie Anderson's book Speak, but the book "seemed like it would be kind of a hard thing to do on the radio," Signorelli says.
Since "Seek" worked out so well, they decided to go with another one of Fleischman's books. Like Seek, Seedfolks employs multiple narrative voices; it's a collection of vignettes from 13 people who take part in the transformation of a desolate lot in urban Cleveland into a neighborhood garden. Encompassing agriculture, garden, and community, "Seedfolks" makes a good fit for this particular partnership between the library and KRCB. "It just sort of reeks of everything Sonoma County is about," Signorelli says.
"Seedfolks" marks the second in what is hoped to be a future of such cooperative ventures between the Sonoma County Library and KRCB Radio. "I think it's a wonderful collaboration, because it brings to the air--to anybody who wants to listen--literature in a very dramatic way," says Tom Trice, director of the Sonoma County Library. "It's both a real and a symbolic linking together of libraries and what they stand for, and the broadcast media and its inherently democratic nature."
"I just love the collaboration of it," Signorelli says, "and that's a real reflection of Seedfolks, as well."
'Seedfolks' will broadcast live from the Central Sonoma County Library in Santa Rosa on KRCB Radio, 90.9 FM and 91.1 FM, on Friday, Jan. 31, at 7pm (those wishing to attend the broadcast may show up at 6:30pm). Forum Room, Central Library, Third and E streets, Santa Rosa. Free. 707.527.0831, ext. 527.
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From the January 30-February 5, 2003 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.