Jonathan Cook has been playwriting for over a decade, mainly specializing in short plays. Along the way, many of his short plays have been presented in play festivals around the world. His “Gather by the Ghost Light” Podcast is a platform to help fellow playwrights’ voices be heard. Not only can their works be seen on stage at theatres, but they can also be heard in an audio play format on the podcast.
Podcasts have gotten wildly popular over the years. It is an affordable avenue that allows writers like Cook to reach a lot of people. They are relatively easy to set up and produce. The tricky part is marketing your podcast in a way that will reach your audience. Cook’s connections with the different theatres that have produced his plays and the playwrights he has met through his work have helped to build his podcast audience a great deal since it first launched.
Jonathan Cook was one of many recipients who applied for and was granted the National Endowment for the Arts Grant through the Greater Augusta Arts Council.
As an extension the Arts Council’s mission in advancing the Augusta River Region’s vibrant cultural arts, the GAAC manages the responsible and systematic distribution of City Arts Grant. As the city’s local arts agency, the Greater Augusta Arts Council has been awarded National Endowment for the Arts funds from the American Rescue Plan to allocate funds individual artists who reside in the CSRA for arts projects they are planning to create July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023.
Grants were awarded to individual artists as stipends for specific programs and activities, as part of a recovery initiative to heal the devastating economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Helping to restore the local community’s cultural infrastructure, benefitting arts workers, artists, and audiences within the CSRA.
Jonathan Cook’s podcast “radio theater” project supports writers, voice actors, and more. It gives opportunities for arts growth in the Augusta River Region. Voice actors such as KJ Welcher and Michael Cameron Bailey, in the photo to the left, who played in the Gather by the Ghost Light Episode 37: “You’ve Reached Justin” written by Christian St. Croix.
But, what is “Radio Theater?” Radio theater or “radio dramas” is a term that was first used in the early 1900’s. Back then, families and friends would gather around a radio and listen to stories told with music and sound effects (or sound-fx in radio drama speak) to give the illusion that you were there with the characters. America’s most famous example of the radio drama is notably The War of the Worlds, by Orson Welles, broadcast in 1938, which convinced a lot of listeners an actual alien invasion was happening. Though, when the television came along, Radio Dramas mostly fizzled out. Recently, podcasting has become a way to produce new radio dramas in an inventive way.
Cook often looks for scripts with engaging dialog but that would allow for sound-fx to create a more immersive experience for his listeners. A great example of this would be Episode 18: THE SHED. This episode is a horror themed drama about a witch, written by local CSRA writer Joanne Greene and with a solid cast of local Augusta River Region voice actors: Luke Romagnoli, Amelia Oswald, Courtney Prouty, Roland Brune, Rosalie Brune, as well as Jonathan Cook and Joanne Greene themselves.
The NEA grant and the support of the Greater Augusta Arts council has allowed Cook to add to the quality of his productions and provide a fair wage to writers and voice actors. He’s also now been able to move from monthly to bi-monthly releases. So, there are even more opportunities for his audience to experience this new, yet somehow still old way, of storytelling.
You can find Gather by the Ghost Light on all the sites where you listen to podcasts, as well as at the main website: http://www.gatherbytheghostlight.com/