Columbia was the first to experiment with what radio drama was all about, introducing new techniques never before used in over the airwaves drama and because it received little encouragement from established writers, actors, etc., it was only by breaking new ground with new ideas and new techniques from writers who were not versed in the old ways that it was going to survive.
Unlike theater drama which required scenery to stage the settings of a play. Radio drama relied only on the imagination of the listener to interpret the scene. But without the right kind of writer the whole thing could fall flat on it’s face. It required a blend of words and music coupled with each listener’s imagination to make the whole thing work successfully. New techniques were required to combine all of these things in order that the listener could live within the story which was being told. Neither did it go unnoticed that at the same time as achieving all this, it was essential that the broadcasting company’s moral obligations to the listening public were not compromised.
William B. Lewis arrived at CBS in 1936 and quickly spotted the hidden talents of Irving Reis and it wasn’t long before he discovered that Reis had been lobbying for a workshop type show for some time, so it was no surprise when Lewis called him into the office and asked him if he would like to become the Director of the new drama production, Columbia Workshop. Needless to say, Reis jumped at the opportunity.
Not everything that was broadcast in the name of The Columbia Workshop was a hit and certainly it took time to find those who were willing to take part in it, but like all things slowly but surely the ends began to tie up and a successful formula was found.
By 1938 Irving Reis had moved on to Paramount Pictures and his place was taken by William N. Robson. The people who followed in their shoes are too numerous to include in this short historical account, as are the members of the casts of these productions. Suffice it to say that there were many famous faces, and voices, that passed through the portals of The Columbia Workshops and a wealth of writing talent which again are too numerous to mention for fear of missing someone out.