Fessenden’s Follies written by David Fennario is his first play written for radio, so what better place to perform a work about Radio’s First Voice than in a historic radio studio.
The piece opens with “talk jock” (played by David) rudely warming up his live audience for the evening’s program: “An in-depth look at the life and times of Reginald Aubrey Fessenden – the Canadian who invented radio as we know it!” Well, we all know what radio is but who was Fessenden? Find out as “talk jock Dave” sets the record straight by “tuning in” a myriad of the famous (Edison, Westinghouse, Faraday, Rutherford, Einstein, Lenin and yes, even Marconi!) contemporaries of our dear ‘Reggie’, bringing them back from the past to the present through the telepathic magic of radio and finally solving the mystery that has not befuddled Canadians for a century! Who was Reginald Fessenden and how come I don’t know why he isn’t famous?
David Fennario’s Fessenden’s Follies reveals all and more. Written in his celebrated caustically witty style, the play is insightful, informative, hilarious and not without its moments of tenderness. In it, Fessenden becomes the essential self-effacing but typical Canadian Hero… the “Aw shucks, it was nothing” kind of guy far removed from his U.S. and European coevals.
Yet aside from AM radio, Fessenden held over 500 patents, most of which are still a part of our everyday lives.
But ultimately and perhaps more significantly, the play reveals the complex nature of a truly great inventive mind that was inspired by progress for humankind not profit for corporations. It’s a story about an unsung hero whose song is long overdue on the Top 10 chart of anything that was ever brilliant in the 20th century. Seemingly contradictory, it is in fact totally in keeping with our “Canadian ethos: Who would’da thunk it?” perception of ourselves. This is not the story of HAM Radio or hamming-it-up on the radio.
Fessenden’s Follies was recorded in front of a live audience in “Studio A” of Montreal’s oldest living radio centre, Studio Victor. Built in 1942, the studio is now part of a state-of-the-art production complex. Over the years, the studio has also doubled for the music industry and has welcomed artists such as Hank Snow, Oscar Peterson, George Martin, Bette Midler, Ranee Lee and Roch Voisine, to name only a few. Studio A still maintains its original 1942 atmosphere with two-storey ceiling and all-wood paneled walls.
Fessenden’s Follies was broadcast by about 50 community stations across Canada on the 100th anniversary of the first voice and music broadcast which was aired from Brant Rock Mass. on Dec 23, 1906.
Readings of Fessenden’s Follies were previously performed in Toronto, Montreal and in Fessenden’s birthplace in the Missisquoi region of Quebec.