“On Narration”

“This message has been brought to you by HartLife, All the life you’ll ever need.”

Ansel Burch: Writer and Narrator

That sentence is how I ended up narrating the annals of HartLife. We gave no small amount of thought to the narration of the show when we got started. At first, we didn’t really have one. Scenes picked up at the beginning of the dialogue with some stage directions to give the idea of what was going on. This worked well due to our early format of having a staged version which was to then become a radio play. Once we decided to leave the staging out things became more difficult to get across. In an older incarnation of season one we had a ghostly character whose purpose was to broadcast counter corporate messages over pirated radio frequencies. She was our first Narrator. While that was going on, I did some research.

If you go looking for great radio plays you really need look no farther than the Green Hornet radio series from the 30’s through the 50’s.  They did some stellar work in setting the scenes, integrating action and I also really enjoyed the addition of music to the show. For my money, that was the kind of show I wanted us to produce.

I didn’t stop with the Green Hornet though. Thanks to the vibrant community of podcasters who play the classic radio dramas of that age I was able to check out X Minus One, The Superman series, Space Patrol, some great westerns, and the NBC Author’s Playhouse. All told, I wanted the sort of third person narrator that came out of that style. My narrative voice became overwrought, invested in the characters and aware of the divide between the listener and the action.

From there we embraced the style even more details like consistently calling people by name, giving them nicknames and describing them dramatically also came into play. The biggest job though was corporate sponsorship. You only have to listen to space patrol for about two minutes to find out who funded their work. Our Fair City wasn’t brought to you by a cereal company or a motor oil conglomerate which encourages you to have your dad get his car lubed. Our Fair City was brought to you by Hartford Life, the fictional company in the show. This gave us a chance to establish a purpose for the show and set the stage for the corporation. Just as the old narrator (originally voiced by Tara Shile who now plays Mrs. Rourke) painted HartLife as evil, this new Narrator plays their party line most of the time.

Now I supply his voice and I could not enjoy it more. I look forward to bringing you even more of the glorious history of Hartford Life.

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