A recent graduate from Hillsdale brought home an award from College Broadcasters, Inc. this month.
Shadrach Strehle ’19 took third place in CBI’s Best Special Broadcasts (Audio) category for his 10-minute radio drama episode titled “Patmos, Wisconsin.” Strehle’s work — one of four finalists nominated earlier this year — focuses on a cop in the small town of Patmos, Wisconsin, a fictional location created by Strehle.
“It was a final project for the advanced radio production class. We were tasked with putting together a radio project drama,” Strehle said. “I thought about a couple different horror things, like things happening below the surface. If you’re driving through a country road and you see a barn, you have no idea what’s going on. Or in New York City, if you see a warehouse, what’s going on inside? The sense of paranoia and worry was what I was going for.”
The pilot episode, which Strehle created for a class in his last semester at the college, follows the officer and his partner as they are called to a crime scene where a woman from California has been “ritualistically scarred,” Strehle said. The rest of the plot posits questions to the mystery of how she came to be in Wisconsin and what happened to her. Strehle said the simple story of the episode was meant to emphasize, more than anything, the audio production.
Strehle said he experimented with different audio techniques, especially soundscapes, a collection of sounds that creates an environment and setting for the listener.
“I’m a huge fan of soundscapes, especially ones that illicit really strong horror elements. I don’t like watching it, but I like making it,” Strehle said.
In one scene that Strehle calls “the dream sequence,” the main officer wakes up in the middle of a forest. In this, Strehle tried to replicate the idea of doing the same thing over and over again, while getting the sense of “being closed in on.”
“Especially for the dream sequence, I used very minimal and basic environmental sounds. That starts to grow more and more; there’s drum beats, chants, stuff like that. It gives it a suffocating feeling, a sense of urgency.”
Strehle also used directional sound in the drama. For this, he says he blocked out the scene in his mind to get a sense of the characters’ spatial action.
Scot Bertram, general manager of the radio station, said that the advanced radio production class challenged students to use the full scope of audio. Strehle achieved this with the 10-minute piece, he said.
“He did some pretty neat things with panning,” Bertram said. “He had tire sounds moving from left to right in the channels — things like that. We talked a lot in class about space and distance, making things get further away and sound closer.”
Bertram added that for Strehle’s piece to place in a national competition is impressive for a radio program that’s relatively young, as the station is in its fourth year of operation. For example, he noted that the University of Oklahoma placed in the same category as Strehle, though they are a much larger school.
“Those awards are not easy because there’s a lot of competition,” Bertram said. “The other hurdle is you never quite know what the judges are looking for. It’s difficult to calculate what might be best. But we just want to present what we think is the best stuff we did throughout the year.”
Strehle’s piece, Bertram added, was well-executed and included solid vocal performances, so he decided to submit it for CBI’s consideration.
Bertram said he is proud to see how students grow in their production skills, something which is reflected in the awards the station continues to win.
“I’m proud of the work that’s been done and the commitment the students have shown to ending up with really high-quality products,” Bertram said. “The goal is to continue and win more and get other students recognized. Sometimes with radio, you don’t know who’s out there listening. You can get feedback from listeners, or you can get recognition through awards. That’s how you know people are listening.”