Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lost Moon Radio Unites Classic DJs, Good Music and Great Comedy

How Lost Moon Radio Came to Be

This unintentional company was a byproduct of four Northwestern University students who reunited post-graduation. It was fitting that two composers and two writers—Ryan Harrison, Rich Ramberg, Dylan Ris and Frank Smith—came together on April Fool’s Day to create just fun and funny art. By the end of that month, a little more than four years ago, the foursome had created their first hour-long show Competition, which premiered at St. Nick’s Pub in West Hollywood. The first performance played to roughly 60 people and the audience enjoyed it so much the group decided to add another performance, which sold out.

Ryan Harrison
Over the years, the company added additional cast and band members who rotate in and out of the 11 episodes they’ve written. Now led by artistic director Lauren Ludwig, the company has received numerous awards from the Hollywood Fringe Festival and has hosted the LA Weekly Theatre Awards two years in a row. Currently they create four new episodes and perform six shows annually.
Bringing Back the 1970s DJ

Wolfman Jack, Dr. Demento and Jim Ladd are all callbacks to the freeform radio disc jockeys of the ‘70s who inspired the central character, Jupiter Jack, in Lost Moon Radio’s shows. This freeform programming format gives DJs total control over their show, uninfluenced by commercial needs and unconstrained by a station’s music genre.

“We wanted the hero/host DJ to reflect the glory days of FM radio,” says Ryan Harrison, one of Lost Moon Radio’s founders and the writer and director of Lost Moon Radio: America. “It was a time when they played cool music, said insightful things, and people were affected by and interested in them.”

Harrison describes Jupiter Jack’s character as a taste-making DJ who turns people on to things.

“He thinks music can teach you about life, and radio is a vehicle for social change and enrichment, as opposed to making money. By talking to audiences, engaging with them by looking at and talking about art, he believes he can change people’s minds and make them better human beings.”

Incorporating Live Music

Throughout an episode of Lost Moon Radio, the DJ “plays records” of great quality music that he’s found over his lifetime. The music is composed by Lost Moon Radio’s team, but stylistically it’s in-tune with FM radio’s style from the past 40 years. When the record is “played,” a five-piece band with singers comes to life on stage and performs the song. Harrison imagines that people who leave the show hum certain melodies conjured by when they encounter life situations similar to the show’s theme. And do people enjoy the music? Lost Moon Radio member Dan Oster says, “Well, you can’t really be mad about a piece you end up humming to yourself outside of the theatre.”

Radio Sketch Shows

So you’ve got a disc jockey and a live band. But the most memorable parts of the show tend to be its comedy. Jupiter Jack isn’t just finding music records, but also vinyl that features sketch comedy performances. The sketches also are performed by live actors on stage, and feature outrageous storylines from singer Jim Morrison giving a tour of the White House to a piece about America’s founding fathers.

“In the process of writing, we’re just trying to serve the comedy god and do right by him while making each other giggle, “says Harrison. “It doesn’t matter how relevant something is culturally if it is not funny.”

Coming Together for Lost Moon Radio: America

Each installment of Lost Moon Radio’s shows features a central theme and the episode they are reviving for Studio SCR is America.

Jupiter Jack has been running a July 4th special on his radio show for 28 years, but the station has moved Jack’s show up a couple of days so that two shock-jock DJs, Larry and Munchest Fart, can host a more commercial friendly “July Spectacular.” So, while on air for his  “4th of July” special—on a day leading up to Independence Day—Jack's discussions, music and sketches reflect on the state of America and the corporatization of his radio station, which is giving way to three days of debauched radio celebrating women in wet tee-shirts.

Lost Moon Radio: America will be performed as part of South Coast Repertory’s Studio SCR May 2-5. Get your tickets to this limited engagement.

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