An APU Professor’s ‘Adventures in Odyssey’

Imagine turning on the radio, and hearing the voice of your professor. This experience could be a reality for the students of Phil Lollar MFA screenwriting and video production of the Communications Department at Azusa Pacific University.

Lollar is the co-creater of Focus on the Family’s radio series for children, Adventures in Odyssey

Adventures in Odyssey is a Christian radio drama that started in 1986, and centers on the fictional small town of Odyssey and the owner of an old fashion soda fountain named Whit.

Lollar worked as a writer, directer, producer and actor for the show for 14 years, and has recently returned to the show. She and director of creative projects for Focus on the Family Steve Harris created the show after Dr. James Dobson commissioned it.

According to Lollar, the purpose of the show originated from one of Dobson’s broadcasts when he had a guest speak out about the current state of secular programming.

After that program, the gentlemen who was speaking turned to Dobson and said ‘It’s not enough for us to just cry how bad it is out there in the secular world without providing some sort of alternative,'” Lollar said.

Lollar started his career with Focus on the Family because of the ministry’s desire to create such an alternative.He began acting at age five in small plays at church and in his community in Oregon.

I was trying to look for my thing,” Lollar said. “My older brother always played musical instruments and we always had a lot of music that was playing. I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps so I chose to go into acting.”

Lollar moved to California to pursue a career in acting and began writing for Adventures in Odyssey when he learned that Focus on the Family was hiring writers to create dramatic programming. He and Harris created the series starting from this point in development. They fleshed out the concept and the storyline from scratch and Lollar created extensive backgrounds for the characters and the town.

“Steve Harris wanted it to be much more of an ongoing drama, and I wanted it to be more lighthearted than that, so we batted it around for a while,” Lollar said.
Radio was chosen as the medium because it was a space well known by Focus on the Family and it was cost efficient.

Lollar says that for the cost of one television show in a series, Focus on the Family could produce a whole season, or twenty-six radio shows. As a writer, Lollar is involved with many stages of the creation of an episode.

In the writing process, writers discuss and revise ideas and scripts multiple times before recording begins. Recording takes four to five days and in that time twelve scripts are recorded.

The final work is done at the Focus on the Family digital studios in Colorado Springs to create the finished product.

Lollar says that the actors can only do about four or five voices so sometimes writers step in to voice characters. And his previous acting career helped him develop a range of voices that he used for the show.

“I have literally done dozens and dozens of voices on Adventures in Odyssey,” Lollar said.

In the show his main role was Dale Jacobs, the town’s newspaper editor.

“I wrote that role basically for myself,” Lollar said.

Lollar and many of the original writers took a break from Adventures in Odyssey, but now some returning.

“The whole mandate of Adventures in Odyssey was to provide an alternative for kids and that later on kids and their parents could be able to have something they could listen to and get involved with… that will be both entertaining, fun, funny and also be spiritually valuable,” Lollar said.