Radio re-creation of ‘Tarzan of the Apes’ wins national award

Western Carolina University’s original production of a radio re-creation of “Tarzan of the Apes” has been recognized with one of the top awards in the Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts. The show, which was presented Feb. 26, 2013, in WCU’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center, is the winner of the best of competition award in the long-form faculty audio production category.

Don Connelly

Don Connelly

Judges said in their comments that the piece was entertaining and engaging, and created “grand suspense” through the use of “spirited narration, musical crescendos and decrescendos, effectively placed sound effects, and engaging dialogue.”

“The judges were impressed with the overall audio quality featured on the production as well as the staging of the production,” said John McGuire, chair of the festival’s faculty audio category. “These types of audio plays are rarely heard on the radio today.”

Don Connelly, head of WCU’s Department of Communication, wrote and produced “Tarzan of the Apes” and Bruce Frazier, the Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Commercial and Electronic Music, wrote the original music score for the show. Both men will be honored at the association’s national convention April 6 in Las Vegas.

Last year, the two were honored with the festival’s King Family Foundation Award for WCU’s 2012 production of “Dracula,” which Connelly wrote and produced, and for which Frazier composed the original music score.

Both are part of a series of “academic-based entertainment” radio re-creation projects that have garnered six national awards in five years. In addition, one of the show’s recordings was made available last year to schools and universities for academic purposes.

Connelly started working on “Tarzan of the Apes” in February 2012. That’s when he approached Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. with the idea for a new 60-minute radio show based on the 1932 radio serials written by “Tarzan” author Edgar Rice Burroughs. The radio re-creation group received permission to start on the project from Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. in August and Connelly immediately went to work on the script. As sections of the script were completed, they were sent to Frazier to compose and score the entirely new musical underscore for the show.

Bruce Frazier

Bruce Frazier

“Rather than the typical tribal drums approach to music with a setting in equatorial Africa, my inspiration for the music is the awe and wonderment of the jungle whose canopy is the domain of exotic animals of the wild and the man-creature who is the focus of our story,” said Frazier. “It is a setting that is both majestic and sinister, and the music reflects this dichotomy. It is into these surroundings that Jane enters and the story is transformed into one of love and passion.”

The production represented a collaboration involving several academic areas. In addition to students and faculty from programs in communication and music, the School of Stage and Screen created costumes and presented dance interpretation. The Department of English presented a paper poster session in the theater lobby and content for the commemorative program. Steve Carlisle, associate dean of the Honors College who is now retired, directed the show, and Honors College students did historical research and provided other assistance.

“To me, this show really represents what is so great about Western Carolina, and that is the chance for students to work across departments and colleges in their area of interest and get a quality educational experience,” said Connelly.

Community members, students, faculty, staff, and professional actors and musicians all volunteered their time to participate in the radio re-creation, which also featured a live orchestra of student and faculty musicians from the School of Music and members of the Asheville Symphony.

An artist’s depiction of Tarzan appeared on the cover of the pulp magazine The All-Story in 1912. The magazine included the original publication of the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ story “Tarzan of the Apes.”

An artist’s depiction of Tarzan appeared on the cover of the pulp magazine The All-Story in 1912. The magazine included the original publication of the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ story “Tarzan of the Apes.”

Funding for “Tarzan of the Apes” came from the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Fine and Performing Arts, the Department of Communication, School of Music, School of Stage and Screen, and the Carol Grotnes Belk Endowment. The project also received support from the Office of Undergraduate Studies.

Proceeds from the event were used to fund scholarships in participating academic departments. In the last five years, the group has raised nearly $25,000 for student scholarships.

This year, the group will present “Echoes of the Cotton Club,” on Thursday, April 24. Tickets are on sale now at the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center box office.

For more information, contact Connelly at 828-227-3851 or