Recording Studio Volunteers Complete August Wilson’s ‘Cycle’

January 31, 2024 |
by: Zandy Dudiak

Alan James, a LAMP Recording Studio volunteer since 2009, has narrated and edited six of the 10 plays in August Wilson’s Century Cycle and is recording the 2023 biography, August Wilson: A Life by Patti Hartigan.

A picture of Alan James in studio
Alan James

The digital audio books will become part of the collection at the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS), part of the Library of Congress. Also known as The Pittsburgh Cycle, the collection of 10 plays spans across decades in the 20th century to document African American experiences. In addition to James’ six contributions, LAMP’s Recording Studio also added a seventh one of Wilson’s Cycle plays, Gem of the Ocean, narrated by Kai Sachon, a student at Pittsburgh CAPA. The other three plays are already part of the NLS digital book collection.

Picture of Kia Sachon with a friend in the LAMP recording booth.
Kia Sachon and his friend.

Once added to the collection, patrons can access the plays through BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download), offered as a service of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, or by calling LAMP’s toll-free number at 800-242-0586.

James was looking for a volunteer activity after retiring from California University of Pennsylvania, where he was dean of students. When he learned LAMP was seeking narrators to record “talking books” with a Pennsylvania connection, he auditioned and accepted the task. He praised LAMP’s leadership and the library’s dedication to its patrons, which include Pennsylvanians who are blind, have low vision, have a reading disability like dyslexia, or cannot hold a book or turn the pages.

“It’s important the public know there’s a dedicated staff,” he says. “It’s the staff here that makes it possible for me to do what I do.”
James often spends three to four hours, two to three days a week, narrating or editing. Narration can be a challenge when an author writes in a style in which James is not accustomed to speaking.

“I’m not an actor,” James says. “I’m a narrator. You have to pay attention to the language of the author as opposed to how you were taught to read or write.”

He narrates for about an hour and then switches to editing, which he learned to help LAMP speed up the time it takes for production and submission.

“Editing is the slowest moving part,” says James, who has narrated several books at LAMP, including Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership That Changed America (DBC16098). Two others, Ghost of Bataan Speaks and History of Pittsburgh Jazz: Swinging in the Steel City, are in process and not yet listed.

“I’m just happy the service is here,” he says. “If there’s a bottom line, it’s that CLP (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh) and LAMP need five stars for service to the community.”

To see the most recent books recorded at LAMP click here, . To learn more about our recording studio click here, .