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Yuri Rasovsky, 67, creator of radio plays and audio books

Hollywood Theater of the Ear

YURI RASOVSKY

NEW YORK - Yuri Rasovsky - whose boyhood revelation that radio drama transcends the stage, because listeners must make imaginative leaps to see the action, propelled his career as a leading creator of radio plays and audio books - died Jan. 18 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 67.

The cause was esophageal cancer, said Lorna Raver, his companion and only survivor.

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Mr. Rasovsky, a high school dropout, was known for the hefty historical radio series he made for the National Radio Theater, which he founded in Chicago in 1973.

As audio drama faded from the airwaves, Mr. Rasovsky would not let it go. He moved to Los Angeles to start the Hollywood Theater of the Ear, where he harnessed the talents of people who had produced hundreds of radio plays to turn out audio books, which were growing in popularity. Screen actors were enlisted to lend their voices.

“The Mark of Zorro,’’ which Mr. Rasovsky produced last year, has been nominated for best spoken-word Grammy.

Mr. Rasovsky produced, wrote, and directed his radio plays, not all of them historical or literary in theme. In 1973, for example, he adapted for radio “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,’’ the 1920 silent horror film.

Mr. Rasovsky believed that imagining what things looked like beat seeing them. As a youngster, he tore the wires from the back of the family television set so that his parents had no choice but to let him listen to the radio. He hated the thought that television’s “Superman’’ was suspended by wires.

In his book he called radio “the theater of the mind, the only theater of the mind, the quintessential theater of the mind.’’

Yuri Rasovsky was born in Chicago. In a 1981 interview, he said that he had felt like “a lonely little kid’’ who found solace in the radio. He dropped out of high school to act in experimental theater companies.

When city officials closed several playhouses for fire-code violations, he started organizing radio dramas. For seven years, his National Radio Theater broadcast plays on commercial stations and had as many as 300,000 listeners in Chicago and 5 million nationwide. It also sold shows to European stations.

That he overcame his childhood shyness is suggested by the adult nickname he chose: “El Fiendo T. (for The) Mighty.’’

He became a master of layering sounds on top of one another. For a guillotine, he slid metal against wood and had a melon drop into a basket.

Another useful talent was persuading stars to appear in audio books for far less than they made for screen appearances.

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