THE FREE COMPANY PRESENTS:The Free Company was formed by a group of American writers concerned that, with the approach of WWII, American's should remember the fundamental freedoms and rights for which they might well have to fight. Volunteering their talents without compensation, each of the writers created a radio play about some distinguishing aspect of America, about freedom of speech and the press, the right to a jury trial, equality before the law irregardless of race or creed. As James Boyd, Chairman of The Free Company explained, the authors' conversations about what distinguished America from other countries, what made the country worth defending, led to a shared conviction that it was the rule of law and the Bill of Rights which formed the "bedrock of the system guarding the citizen in his inalienable basic freedoms and establishing against even the law itself, his sanctity as an individual."
A COLLECTION OF PLAYS ABOUT THE MEANING OF AMERICA
For what avail the Plow or Sail
The authors who belonged to The Free Company included some of the best known and most accomplished writers of the period: Maxwell Anderson, Sherwood Anderson, Stephen Vincent Benet, Marc Connelley, Paul Green, Archibald Macleish, William Saroyan, Robert F. Sherwood and Orson Welles. All were part of what Michael Denning has called "the cultural front," a loose association of liberal artists, writers, and filmmakers who sought to transform american culture during the Depression just as workers -- and the government -- were attempting to transform the country's social and economic relations.
The radio dramas they created thus reflect an attempt by artists at a critical juncture in the nation's history to shape American's conception of their individual and collective identity. They are also signficant in what they tell us of the power -- imaginative and political -- of radio in its golden age, before it became the commericalized and homogenized medium it is today. They also complicate and enrich our notions of the artistic careers of each of the authors. And, of course, they also provide us with a piece of that remarkable "soundscape" of the interwar period, of those audible cultural texts with which most Americans would then have been familiar but which we have largely ignored as a resource for understanding their times.
What we offer here is merely a begining, the radio dramas themselves. With time and with luck, we'll try to put them into fuller context, providing fuller accounts of the authors, of the social and political controversy that the programs set off and that eventually drove them from the air, and of the relation between radio as an art form and other forms of the day. For now, however, sit back and listen to The Free Company Presents.
Airtime for each program is approximately 30 minutes; each QuickTime file weighs +/- 38 mb; when selected, each program will open a small separate window while it loads.
|For additional radio programs from the 1930s, please go to AS@UVA On The Air, the virtual radio station from the American Studies Programs at the University of Virginia.|