Audio storytelling the focus of RadioFest in Miami Beach

A daughter talks with her parents about South Florida’s rising seas. Two Florida python hunters go scouting for invasive predators in the Everglades. A pair of Wynwood graffiti vandals go on trial.

Radio plays inspired by only-in-South-Florida headlines will be performed Saturday, March 11, at the Wolfsonian-FIU in Miami Beach. A mash note to public radio, podcasting and other forms of audio storytelling, the daylong event RadioFest will be distinguished by a quartet of radio plays inspired by real stories reported by WLRN journalists. The radio plays, unlike theatrical ones, come together with live actors and a carnival of nostalgic sound effects. The plays are produced by Arts Radio Network co-founder John Watts.

“It’s four different news stories, four different plays,” says Watts, whose Boca Raton-based Arts Radio Network airs new radio plays on WLRN. The radio plays include Stephanie Ansin’s “How To Talk to Your Kids About … ,”; Hannah Benitez’s “No Title”; William Hector’s “Cursive”; and “Vanessa Garcia’s “The Space Between Us,” the last one about two sisters arguing about Cuba.

“These radio plays are really theater pieces in the raw,” Watts says. “You see everything that happens onstage, from the sounds of water and birds and vegetation rustling. If we need a laugh track, we get the audience to do it. If we need the audience to sound like chipmunks, we get them to do that.”

Before the radio plays, internet stations Jolt Radio and Klangbox will host a discussion about the future of radio. Harvey Mattel, of Hollywood, will display 40 radios from the 1930s through the 1950s, while Moonlighter Makerspace, a Miami-based workspace, will teach visitors to build an audio amplifier for smartphones.

Meanwhile, WLRN reporter Wilson Sayre will interview visitors from inside the museum’s Bridge Tender House, a closet-size building that will become a recording booth for the afternoon. Sayre will then spend several hours inside the booth creating a story from these interviews. Attendees can witness the editing session as it happens, says Heather Cook, Wolfsonian-FIU’s head of education, and the brains behind RadioFest.

“Radio is a technology that’s both old-fashioned but so integral to shaping the modern world,” says Cook, whose RadioFest project also came together with help from the New Tropic website. “I think millennials like myself have gotten sick of watching TV news, and things like ‘Radiolab’ and public radio and podcasts are having a moment right now.”

Cook says the festival aims to make radio — as a news-delivery platform and as a vintage medium — more transparent to the public.

“There’s something about the human voice without the distraction of visuals that’s just sort of refreshing,” Cook says. “It illuminates our passion for the audio medium.

RadioFest will take place 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at the Wolfsonian-FIU, 1101 Washington Ave., in Miami Beach. Admission to all events is free save the 7-8:30 p.m. radio plays, which cost $5-$10 to attend. Call 305-535-2622 or go to Wolfsonian.org.

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