The HEAR Now Festival Celebrates Audio Fiction in Kansas City, by Gladys Caines Coggswell
Welcome back to Stories from the Field and the lates post in our Show-Me Folk blog. The blog is our dedicated space for staff, student workers, traditional artists, cultural experts, consultants, and community scholars to share photo essays on an array of topics in Missouri’s traditional arts and folklife.
Our latest blogger is Gladys Caines Coggswell, who rarely needs an introduction in Missouri. Gladys is an educator, a storyteller, a master artist, a community scholar, a vocalist, and a writer. MFAP staff first met Gladys in her role as an apprentice in the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, when master jazz vocalist Mae Wheeler took on an apprentice in 1988. Over the years, Gladys not only found her singing voice but her narrative voice and was soon recognized as a master storyteller. You can learn more about Gladys at MFAP’s online exhibition Master Artists/Master Teachers; at the Missouri Arts Council’s Touring Performers Directory; and on her own website. An award-winning artist and author, Coggswell more recently accepted an honorary doctorate from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Last spring, Dr. Coggswell was a featured artist at the 5th Annual HEAR Now Festival, a production of the National Audio Theatre Festivals and kindly wrote to share more with us about this Kansas City event. We’re publishing her story today, as the festival has just announced it is accepting submissions for the June 7-10, 2018 Festival in Kansas City, MO. Festival producers invite you to submit your best example of recorded audio fiction, narration, and story-telling, or, suggest a short play, sketch, or audio concept for their live performance programs. Visit www.hearnowfestival.org for complete submission info.
The HEAR Now Festival Celebrating Audio Fiction in Kansas City
by Dr. Gladys Caines Coggswell
HEAR Now: The Audio Fiction and Arts Festival recently wrapped up its fifth successful year in Kansas City, MO. This exciting event is similar to an “annual film festival.” It invites audio fans, producers and performers to come together and showcase their work. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned professional, you will find a place at the HEAR Now Festival. Here you will find comfort in a non-threatening and encouraging environment.
People love to listen to a well-told story, a tall tale, comical stories, fairy tales, and tales of magic and folklore. Well, guess what? This isn’t changing. People still love stories, and the festival is a 21st century avenue for telling and listening.
Sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the HEAR Now Festival is an outgrowth of other audio programs that got their start in the late 1970s in Columbia, Mo., at community radio station KOPN. Since the days of the Midwest Radio Theatre Workshop, the artists involved with creating the art have helped to manage the program. In 1999, with MAC support, the workshop became the National Audio Theatre Festivals (NATF), and expressed a desire to keep its programs within the state of Missouri. As NATF evolved from workshop programs in a four-day festival, stakeholders identified Kansas City as the perfect place to host the annual event. Festival features include Celebrating Mark Twain, workshops, audio plays, dramatic podcasts, audiobooks, storytelling and much, much more. The festival always closes on Sunday morning with a brunch and award ceremony.
“The multitude of friends and resources here have all helped to make the Festival a success these last five years,” says NATF Board President and Festival Program Chair Sue Zizza.
With her dynamic leadership, I believe HEAR Now will continue to grow. Sue is an award winning audio producer, director and educator who says that she absolutely LOVES this work and art, which is one of the reasons she helped to start HEAR Now. Sue teaches sound recording and sound design at NYU (Tish Film School) and has been in this business for almost thirty years. Sue’s company, SueMedia Productions, has a reputation for producing high quality stories in sound.
“Another reason for launching the HEAR Now Festival was due to the lack of a platform emphasizing audio fiction. I attended numerous film and TV festivals, and they promoted their art form. I knew there was a need and a desire for audio fiction, and five years ago, HEAR Now began.”
Along with Sue, Festival Director Cynthia Allen, (also an NYU Faculty member) helps to ensure community involvement and direction for many of the live shows and listening sessions.
“We have had a wonderful ongoing relationship with many important venues throughout Kansas City like the Public Library, Simpson House, Prospero’s Books, and the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and the Holiday Inn Country Club Plaza,” explains Sue. “Cynthia manages that aspect, and many others, to ensure the Festival can offer exciting and engaging programs annually.”
Many helpful connections for performers can be made. Angela Williams, a Missouri Folk Arts Program storyteller, drummer, and community scholar has been a participant for the last two years. She says that she is always amazed at the marriage of new technology with the more traditional aspects of audio. There is much to be gained from both. This festival is beneficial to everyone—from young ones to adults, middle aged and seasoned audio performers. “I like the fact that there is always something I can learn and grow from. I’ve even considered entering one of the writing contests that is open to all,” says Williams.
This past June a special Virtual Reality demo (CVRTAIN) was open throughout the festival weekend for any registered participants. One only needed to sign up for a session, and as long as there was an opening, there was a chance to “be on stage.” This new component gave folks an opportunity to combine performance and sound in a unique way.
At HEAR Now, you will laugh, cry, or cheer at the performances—maybe all three. It’s a happy time; a fun time; a time to let go of your cares and woes during this festival, which lasts for four glorious days. And, everyone is welcome – fans and creators alike.
Each year the HEAR Now Festival offers a PODCAST of featured artists that is readily available online following the festival. Afterward, the festival podcasts are added to a Podcast Archive at www.hearnowfestival.org, making the festival accessible to anyone online long after the festival closes. Festival photos and sound highlights are also available at www.hearnowfestival.org, as well as audio from podcast workshop sessions.
The National Audio Theater Festivals (NATF) will present the 6th Annual HEAR Now: Audio Fiction & Arts Festival, June 7-10, 2018. Each November, festival producers begin accepting recorded submissions and live performance ideas for the upcoming June. Anyone and everyone is invited to apply with ideas for the next year’s festival. You can write to firstname.lastname@example.org