When Jeffrey Adams and his wife Diane moved from the pacific northwest to International Falls in 2004, he says there weren’t many options for local actors. Him being a writer with an interest in radio drama, he floated the concept of a radio theatre which is now approaching its 20-year anniversary.
Icebox Radio Theater does an average of two productions a month. One is a podcast episode, and the other is a live act at The Salty Jester in downtown I-Falls.
Individual stories are usually 30-45 minutes, while their Salty Jester performances fill two hours, including an intermission. They usually perform two or three full-length plays during those live acts.
Adams does a lot, but he says his most important titles are founder and artistic director. Icebox is essentially his full-time job and though he has other money-making opportunities, Adams says he easily puts in 40 hours a week for Icebox.
In addition to writing the episodes, Adams also oversees administrative responsibilities like payroll, tax forms, and consulting with an oversight board. He says he enjoys writing so much because he’s got concepts aplenty.
“I’ve never suffered for story ideas,” says Adams.
“I don’t get afflicted by writer’s block very often.”They’ve done “just about everything” in terms of genre, but Adams says Icebox tends to focus on mystery. Right now, they’ve got a series called Rum-Runner Sue, set in northern Minnesota during Prohibition in 1922. Sue is the heroine who solves mysteries and tries to stay one step ahead of the law since she also runs a speakeasy. Icebox also runs a comedy series called Lance Manley Detective about a tough, hard-boiled gumshoe who works security at the local public library.
When not running those, Adams says they’ll lean into horror productions. He says audio drama is a really good medium for telling scary stories.
“I love the fact that you can tell any type of story with just a few sounds, a couple of words of dialogue, and the skill of the writer,” he says.
Adams says it’s the only dramatic art form where there’s no need for special effects, props, or costumes. Instead, you set the scene with sound.
“That could be in outer space, it could be inside the nucleus of the cell. It could literally be anywhere,” he says.
“And that just unchains your imagination to go wherever it wants.”
Icebox uses a mix of self-produced and sourced sound effects. Adams says their in-house sound design has been elevated by high school junior Evie Conat, who is a gifted foley artist.
“She’s the first person I’ve ever had where I would go to her and describe what I wanted, give her the props do it, and she could do it every time with a great deal of grace and style. And it just sounded perfect,” he says.
“She is absolutely wonderful in that role.”
When at The Salty Jester, Adams says they try to produce as many sound effects as possible since radio drama can be static to watch live. Performers will also wear period clothing and use retro-style microphones to add to the visual intrigue.
Adams says there’s a lot more control over Icebox’s studio episodes, which they strive to produce at least once a month. Once the recording session is over, he can still add sound effects and mix audio levels as need be.
Icebox has focused on internet-based distribution for a while. Their online presence includes something called “streaming radio,” which is just like a regular station, though instead of transmitting via frequency, they broadcast over the internet.
Their station plays a continuous loop of their productions, and when they’re live at The Salty Jester, it broadcasts live.
The Jester just opened in March, and Adams says those who have yet to visit, should.
“It is a really unique, special lounge that’s designed for performance,” he says.
Travel south of the border this Friday night to catch Icebox Radio Theater perform another instalment of Rum-Runner Sue, and episodes of Lance Manley and Nero Wolf. Purchase tickets online for $10 at thesaltyjester.com, or wait until next month’s live show to visit.