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A classic Dashiell Hammett script comes to life in radio play at Pellissippi State

Pierce Torano, Josh Leslie, Caryss Johnson, Alexander Guadagno, Lux Boone work on recording a radio play during spring 2023
Pellissippi State students Pierce Torano, Josh Leslie, Caryss Johnson, Alexander Guadagno and Lux Boone, from left, work on performing and recording a radio play now available on the college’s YouTube channel.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and renovations to a performing arts space has led to a collaboration between two different groups of students. 

Pellissippi State Community College presents Radio Noir: “The Attitude Caper,” a radio play available through April 30 on the college’s YouTube channel. The play stars Theatre Arts students, but was recorded, edited and mixed by Audio Production Engineering students. 

Recording a radio play was a creative solution to not having use of the college’s Clayton Performing Arts Center, which is undergoing renovations. 

“We took the bad situation, which is not having the CPAC for the year, and we’re trying to turn it into something good and useful for our students,” said Theatre Arts Program Coordinator Charles Miller. 

Theatre Arts students and faculty teamed up with students and faculty from Audio Production Engineering to record the performance of Radio Noir: “The Attitude Caper,” a 75-year-old script by Dashiell Hammett, author of classic hard-boiled detective novels like “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Thin Man.” The story features detective Sam Spade, made famous by Humphrey Bogart in the 1941 film version of “The Maltese Falcon.”  

“It’s a fun little show: Sam Spade doing a theatrically related mystery, which is kind of cool,” Miller said. 

Theatre Arts students recorded the play on site in Pellissippi State’s Bagwell Center for Media and Arts on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus.  

“Working with mics and only with their voices — no body language, no facial expressions — has really shown our students just how precise they need to be with their vocal acting choices,” Miller said. “It also highlights vocal technique weaknesses — things like breathiness, poor enunciation, lack of pitch choice, etc. One does not always get this with a regular production; at least, not to the same degree.” 

After the recording, Audio Production Engineering students brought the performances to life with sound effects and a musical score.  

“This play was super fun to work on!” said Pellissippi State Audio Production Student Alexander Guadagno, who used Radio Noir: “The Attitude Caper” as his capstone project, as he graduates in May. “Working with the Theatre Arts students and being able to lead a team through the process of producing Radio Noir was a great learning experience for me. I’ve learned a lot about the post-production process and creating a project from scratch including recording and processing of all Foley or SFX [sound effects] used in the play. I’m very proud of this and thankful for the opportunity!” 

Audiences can access the radio play, which is closed captioned, through the college’s YouTube channel.