Shade's Brigade presents live radio drama

Shade's Brigade presents live radio drama
Photo Courtesy Shades Brigade 

Shade's Brigade, a new live radio series at Jerome Hill Theater in St. Paul, all started last September when creator Eric Webster decided it was time to merge his two passions: radio and theater. Webster worked in radio as a young adult, first as a sports talk radio host and then as a regular talk radio host. Fifteen years ago, he quit radio to focus on acting and theater.

Shade's Brigade presents live radio drama
Photo courtesy Shade's Brigade 

Webster did a pilot for the project at Pioneer Place in St. Cloud, followed by a run at the Theatre Garage last January, where he and his team worked out the kinks before starting the most recent run in June at the Jerome Hill Theater. Each month features a new work, presented twice on consecutive Sundays. This weekend's performances will be the fourth episode. The response has been so positive that Shade's Brigade is looking to not only expand the run past its original end date in November, but take things on the road as well. 

When audiences come to the theater for a show, they see actors onstage with scripts in front of them,  as well as a bunch of stuff to make sounds with. Unlike traditional radio theater, where a sound guy creates the effects to the side, Shade's Brigade employs the actors themselves. They do this while acting out multiple characters, and keeping up with flipping the pages. "We sweat a lot," Webster says. 

The plot of the show centers around a mysterious man who works for the government. His buddies are mercenaries involved in covert operations, and bizarre things keep happening to them, be it meeting a ghost or an international mastermind. Webster's character is always trying to get them back home.

Shade's Brigade presents live radio drama
Photo courtesy Shade's Brigade 

The actors -- Webster plus Shanan Custer, Dave Gangler, and Lee Adams -- play broad characters. In this particular episode, there's someone from the deep South, one from England, and another is an Air Force pilot. Each episode ends in a cliffhanger, of course. 

Webster particularly finds inspiration from the work of radio dramatist Carlton E. Morse, whose writing combines noir, thriller, and adventure. "It's very Indiana Jones-esque," says Webster. "It incorporates normal everyday crime aspects -- there's a Moriarty-type character -- plus unexplainable elements. Is it a ghost? Aliens?" 

There's humor in show, but rather than parodying Morse's style, Webster is really trying to emulate it. He refers to Morse as his mentor that he never met. Very few of his radio dramas still exist. "It's sad. Once you listen to them, you're hooked. They're scary and thrilling and really well written. It was the most popular radio show in the country at the time." 


Shade's Brigade
September 15 and 22
Jerome Hill Theater
180 Fifth St. E., St. Paul

You can catch up on previous episodes via the free podcast Shade's Brigade has on their website. Upcoming episodes are October 6 & 13 and November 10 & 17. 

shades promo 2 from Eric Webster on Vimeo.

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Jerome Hill Theatre

180 E. 5th St.
St. Paul, MN 55101


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