Voice of the Prairie

by John Olive

Voice of the Prairie

Michael Matthys, Tom Dugan and Ashley Bell

Set Design
Costume Design
Lighting Design
Sound Design
Properties Design
Production Stage Manager
Marketing/Public Relations
Technical Director
Set Construction
Lighting Crew

Light Board Operator
Sound Board Operator
Stage Crew
Casting Associate
Cover Art

David Rose
David Potts
Terri A. Lewis
Jeremy Pivnick
Cricket S. Myers
Leesa Freed
Patricia Cullen
David Elzer/Demand PR
Robert T. Kyle
Elephan Set - Studio Scenery
Watson Bradshaw, Sean Kozma,
Chris Rivera, Daniel Tuttle, Moe Zarif
Kathryn Horan
Lauren Wemischner
Amanda Ragan
Denise Dillard
Ricky Vodka
Michael Lamont


Actor 1: Poppy, David Quinn, others
Actor 2: Davey, Leon Schwab, others
Actor 3: Frankie, Frances Reed, others


The play takes place in 1985 and in 1923,
jumping back and forth


Various locales in the United States of America: the backroom of a hardware store, a farm, a cliff, a backyard, a street, an expensive suite in Kansas City's Muellbach Hotel, a parlor, a train platform, a jail cell, a shed, etc.

The Rise of Radio

The Voice of the Prairie is set in 1923,
as Americans started tuning in to a new technology

In today’s society, technology impacts our daily lives more than ever before. The internet alone has changed who we are and how we relate to the world. With features like e-mail, Google, Amazon.com, eBay, and Match.com, the internet has forever altered how we communicate, how we shop, how we gather information, how we date – and how we live. The Voice of the Prairie takes place over 80 years ago during what seems like a entirely different time. But people in the 1920s were dealing with their own technological revolution – the radio. Just like the internet, the radio started off completely unregulated and changed people’s lives in ways they couldn’t imagine.

Something like broadcast radio had been envisioned by theoretical physicists in the 19th century, but the breakthrough came in the early 20th century with the invention of the wireless telegraph and the vacuum tube. Some early radio pioneers used radio to broadcast entertainment to small audiences, but in 1917 the U.S. government ordered all amateur radios to shut down and remain silent so the airwaves could be used for air and naval operations, thus stopping the nascent industry in its tracks.

But after the war, the government lifted the ban on amateur radio broadcasts, and pioneering entrepreneurs enthusiastically invaded the field, rapidly producing a series of historic “firsts.” The first radio news program was broadcast on August 31, 1920, on the station 8MK in Detroit. In November 1920, the first commercial radio station in the United States was established – KDKA in Pittsburgh, which received the first official government license. In 1922, the first regular entertainment programs were broadcast. One of the highlights from this time was the first Rose Bowl broadcast on January 1, 1923, on the Los Angeles station KHJ.  This is around the time that The Voice of the Prairie takes place. 

Within a few years, the new industry had transformed the landscape, as hundreds of stations entertained thousands of people who bought or built their own receivers. Many of these stations were owned by businesses, whose sole purpose for
broadcasting was to sell products. The radio dial was filled with hundreds of unregulated transmitters, many interfering with each other and causing bad reception. The Federal Radio Commission was formed, and the Radio Act of 1927 was passed which reassigned stations to clearer frequencies. For the first time, radio stations were required to operate in the public interest. In the late 1920s, David Sarnoff’s NBC and William Paley’s CBS became the first radio networks. 

By the early 1930s, a radio could be found in virtually every household in America. The radio networks were

broadcasting nationally, and provided a variety of entertainment including live and recorded music, comedy, soap operas, serious drama, and quiz shows. In the depths of the Depression, President Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chats” attracted more listeners than any other show, as entire families across the country gathered around the radio for comfort and reassurance. By the end of the 1930s, with war looming in Europe, radio also became a vital source for news. Then, in the 1950s, television took over, capturing the nation’s imagination just as radio did 20 years earlier. 


Derek Bjornson, Brad Brown, House of Props, Rebecca Kessin, Brianne Levine, Joan Rohrback, Harry Rose, Michael Tauzin, Wadler Data Systems