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The Sorcerer's Effects
Written October 1969

Background:  When I enrolled in the radio/television graduate program at Syracuse University, I already had some experience in radio from my undergraduate days at Oberlin, so I was able to have some fun in the radio production course that we all took.  We met in Studio C at the university radio station, WAER.

(Incidentally, the graduate assistant who helped to teach the course was Edie McClurg, whose background at that time was in Missouri educational radio.  Much to our surprise, she later became a comic character actress.)

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I still have a piece of my work from this lab.  This tape begins with a mock news update, in which I practiced an engineer's button pushing, knob turning, and finger pointing.  Barry Iselin played the role of my newscaster.

After the polka music, Barry also played the sorcerer in the following skit.  (Only the last 1¼ minutes of this recording survives, beginning at @ in the script below).

One of our assignments is now almost a lost art:  producing a three-minute radio play, making use of sound effects.

Sounds can be created live on the spot as Tom Keith does on "A Prairie Home Companion;" I'll indicate these "spot effects" in red in the following script.  For the boiling cauldron, someone simply blew air through a straw into a glass of water near a microphone.

Alternatively, sounds can be prerecorded.  We students were all familiar with the list of tracks on Complete Sound Effects, which included such things as car crashes and gunshots and kids screaming on a roller coaster.  The blue code gives the disk, side, and track number.

After the off-mike opening line by a doorkeeper, the script calls for only two human characters.  One of them is a smart-aleck sorcerer.  For the other character — the king — think James Earl Jones.


(7A-19 Trumpet Fanfare)  Your majesty:  The royal sorcerer is here!

K:  Good.  Let him enter.

S (fading on, breezily):  Well, good morning to you, King, how's everything been going lately?

K (reserved):  Fairly well, thank you.

S:  I see you've been keeping the old throne room looking pretty good.

K:  That's what I wish to talk to you about ---

S:  A bit drafty in here for my taste, but everything considered ---

K:  I called you, sorcerer, because of a problem I have here in the throne room.

S:  Oh, sure, King.  Be glad to help you out.

K:  Thank you.

S:  What's the prob?

K:  There appear to be a large number of ants crawling around the floor here.

S:  Say, you're right!  (Stomp)  Got one.

K:  Naturally, it is unseemly for a king to have ants in his throne room.

S:  Oh, I agree, King.  (Stomp)  Got another one.  (Stomp)

K:  So I thought that you, as my sorcerer, might be able (Stomp) to conjure up a potion which would exterminate these pests.

S (after a shocked pause):  You mean kill them?

K:  Yes.

S:  Oh, I'm sorry, King, but killing little living creatures is against the sorcerer's code of ethics.

K:  But I desire to be rid of these ants!

S:  Well ---

K:  Is there not something you can do?

S:  I'll tell you what.  (lyrically)  I shall transform all these ants you see on the floor here into beautiful butterflies, and they will fly out the windows of this room into the great outdoors to beautify your kingdom.

K:  Splendid!

S:  Okay, just let me get out my portable sorcerer's pot here, and I'll brew you up a potion.  (Clank)

K:  An ingenious-looking little device.

S:  All I have to do is light this candle (6B-11 One Match Being Struck) to make it boil, and then say the magic words.

K:  And this will turn the ants into butterflies?

S:  Of course.  Stand back, King.

K:  Very well.  (Boiling)

S:  "Double, double toil and trouble,
      Fire burn and cauldron bubble."

K:  Amazing.  Your magic words even rhyme.

S:  I have good writers.  (Boiling stops)  Is the potion working?

K (after pause):  I think the ants are getting a bit larger.

S:  And they're turning yellow.  (fade in 8B-1 Canaries and hold under)

K:  Canaries!  @  I thought you said you would transform the ants into butterflies, not into canaries!

S:  Well, I was close, wasn't I?

K:  If you are to continue as my sorcerer, you'll need to be more accurate than that.

S:  Well, okay, King, I'll try again.  (Pause)  Sure you don't want the canaries?  They're awfully pretty.

K:  Butterflies.

S:  Butterflies it is.  (Boiling)

    "Triple, triple, trouble and toil,
     Fire burn and cauldron boil!"

Let's see now, they should be changing . . . .   (lose canaries and fade in 1B-3 Dogs and hold under)

K:  Into a pack of dogs!

S:  How about that.  (Boiling stops)  Something must be wrong . . . .

K:  I do not want my throne room filled with barking dogs!  Now will you perform this sorcery correctly?!

S:  I'll try . . . .

K:  Do it!

S:  Yes sir, King.

K:  "Your majesty"!

S:  My majesty.  (Boiling)

     "Quadruple, quadruple toil and trouble."

K:  Oh, for heaven's sake!

S:  "Fire burn and cauldron bubble."

K (after a pause):  I'm afraid to look.  What is it this time?

S:  Uh . . . .  (lose dogs and fade in 2B-2 Elephants and hold under)  Not what I'd planned on.  (Boiling stops) 

K (after a pause):  You idiot. 

S:  It seems we now have a throne room full of elephants, doesn't it?

K:  Yes it does.  And I wanted butterflies!  (Elephants gradually louder until end)

S:  We could try one more time.

K (aside):  Elephants!  Of all the stupid ---

S:  I might be able to give you "humpback whales."

K:  No!

S:  Or "killer whales," or "sperm whales" ---

K:  No!

S:  How about a "girl taking shower"?

K:  No!

S:  "South Sea fertility chant"?


S:  Sorry, King, but we don't have a recording of that.

(The trumpeting Elephants fade out.)


This little play actually won a little award.  Click here for details.



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