Steve Long just wanted to pump up a friend and colleague's resume. He ended up breathing new life, and adding a few new-style wrinkles, to an art form few even think about anymore.
That would be radio drama. When his friend and co-worker at Cambridge's WCEM-AM (1240), Kirsten Strohmer, said she wanted to get more voiceover jobs, Long got right to helping. He created a character for her – Kate Hawk, a Baltimore police detective. He sent Hawk traipsing through the galaxy, in pursuit of alien no-goodniks of all stripes. And he began chronicling her adventures in a series of 12-minute podcasts dubbed "The Hawk Chronicles."
Debuting on WCEM in May 2015, the show recently was picked up by WERA-LP (FM 96.7) out of Arlington, Va. It can also be heard at hawkchronicles.com.
"It's got a ton of character; it's a cross between 'Castle' and 'Dr. Who,'" Strohmer, 47, says over the phone from her home on Kent Island. "It uses old-time entertainment, radio drama, with today's technology and today's backdrop."
Back when radio was the home entertainment medium of choice, before television supplanted it in the 1950s, actors would gather together in studios, hover around microphones and come up with shows that riveted millions.
Today, Long, 66, produces "The Hawk Chronicles" out of his home in Cambridge. The individual voice actors — there are 15 in all, with more planned — record their parts, then send them to him electronically. He splices the voices together, adding the appropriate sound effects, music and other elements. ("If I need something, I just take my digital recorder out and do the recording myself," Long says.)
And "The Hawk Chronicles" is on the air — or, as 21st-century technology would have it, the Internet.
The show's run on WERA begins today with Episode One. In it, we get to meet Kate Hawk and learn how she went "from fighting crime in the streets to fighting crime in the stars."
Her adventures begin when she and her partner are sent to investigate a strange alien capsule that has landed on a Little Italy roof. To reveal more would spoil the fun; suffice to say that the episode, ominously titled "The Portal," ends on a cliffhanger that would do any old-time serial proud.
Creating "The Hawk Chronicles" from such disparate and far-flung strands presents its own set of obstacles, Long says. Without in-studio guidance, actors sometimes mispronounce names or get the inflection wrong. And not everybody always keeps to schedule.
"It's a fun show to put together, but it can also be very frustrating," Long admits.
But the passion Long, Strohmer and the other actors have for the project is clear. People from all over the country, as well as from Sweden and the Philippines, have signed on to play characters on "The Hawk Chronicles." Long has written 62 episodes; 54 have been recorded.
"All of us, collectively, through this show, are reviving something, maybe in just a little way, that is a form of entertainment from America's past, and introducing it to a younger audience," says Strohmer. "I think that is wild."