Erik Bauersfeld, American radio dramatist and producer

Between 1960 and 1965 the Listener Sponsored radio stations of Pacifica Radio, KPFA (Berkeley) KPFK (Los Angeles) WBAI (New York City), presented a series of horror and fantasy dramas under the title The Black Mass. Credited with keeping alive the once great tradition of American radio drama, they were the creation of one of the most influential of American radio producers and dramatists, Erik Bauersfeld.

The Black Mass included over forty dramatizations of stories from Edgar Allan Poe to Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Henry James, and Ambrose Bierce. The series opened with Bauersfeld’s versions of All Hallows by Walter de la Mere, followed by such classics as The Diary of a Madman by Gogol and Dostoyevsky’s The Dream of a Ridiculous Man.

From 1962 to 1991 he was Director of Drama and Literature for KPFA, producing a wide range of daily readings from world literature, interviews with leading figures in Film, Drama, and the other arts. From 1991 to 2004 he was Director of Special Projects for KPFA. In 1986 he set up Bay Area Radio Drama and was President and Director of BARD. This non-profit corporation is still actively producing radio drama today. Under its aegis he was executive director of the Eugene O’Neill Radio Project, which realized key dramas by the iconic American playwright through a spectacular relationship with the theatre director José Quintero and sound designer Randy Thom, with sound production at George Lucas¹s Skywalker Sound.

The plays included the quartet of short sea-faring dramas SS Glencairn, and the full-length plays The Hairy Ape, and Hughie, (with the original New York cast, Jason Robards and Jack Dodson) all of which were broadcast on BBC Radio. Prominent in the series was also The Emperor Jones and in particular Lazarus Laughed, O’Neill’s drama never before heard in its entirety, with sound design by Peabody winning sound designer, Jim Mckee and music by the American composer, Lew Harrison. The plays were broadcast on National Public Radio in the States and several were heard in Germany and Australia as well as Britain.

Foremost in his international productions was the series Hörspiel/USA, in collaboration with Klaus Schöning and other directors at WDR Koln. The series presented American versions of German Hörspiel, that acoustically adventurous style of audio art. Closer to home he produced two series of original audio dramas under the title Locations. The authors and sound designers collaborated on original works which responded to particular Bay Area locations chosen by such writers as the blind poet Helen Cline – who guided Randy Thom and his microphone around a local supermarket – Millicent Dillon, John O’Keefe, Ed Bullins, Irene Oppenheim, Gary Soto, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and others.

Further work on the chilling edge of radio featured in the 1987 series Tales from the Shadows, 13 adaptations of bizarre tales of H.P. Lovecraft and others, including De Maupassant’s The Horla. The series was recorded and produced with appropriate acoustic design by his continued collaborator, Jim McKee of Earwax Productions.

Bauersfeld is a noted reader, for radio and audio books, and provided numerous film voices including that of Gardiner in the Steven Spielberg film AI and in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi he was the voice of Admiral Ackbar and Bib Fortuna. Currently Bauersfeld and Mckee are completing three hour-long audio compositions featuring the noted San Francisco poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Open Eye, Open Mind. The programs were recorded in various San Francisco locations and at Ferlinbghetti¹s wilderness cabins in Bixby Canyon, Big Sur. In April, 2007, the series will be offered for national and international distribution.

This piece was contributed by Ned Chaillet - to whom, my thanks.


By Eugene O'Neill. R3, 6 May 95 (Studio 3), rpt. 21 Jun 98, R3 Sunday Play, 50m. An experimental drama set in the late 20s. When Hughie, the night clerk in a low-grade Times Square rooming house dies, Erie Smith, a small-time gambler and full-time loser, discovers that he has lost his only friend in New York. With an introduction by Christopher Bigsby. Erie................Jason Robards, Night Clerk.........Jack Dodson, Directed by Jose Quintero. Recorded at Skywalker North Studios in 1993. Sound Design: Randy Thom. Produced by Erik Bauersfeld for Bay Area Radio Drama.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

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