Blackstone up for Grammys

Blackstone Audio is already seeing an increase in sales after its audio production of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's staging of "Hamlet" won a 2012 Grammy nomination, said a representative from the Ashland company.

Blackstone Audio's audio production of "Zorro" starring Val Kilmer also was nominated for a Grammy in the spoken word album category.

The Recording Academy revealed the nominations for the 54th annual Grammy awards on Nov. 30.

Grammy award winners will be announced on Feb. 12 during a ceremony televised by CBS, according to the academy.

"It's definitely a great recognition that translates into sales for us," said Blackstone Audio Digital Sales Director Anne Fonteneau.

She said the company plans to promote its Grammy-nominated productions heavily through such venues as iTunes.

Launched in 1987 by founder Craig Black in his Medford living room, Blackstone Audio has grown to become one of the largest audio production companies in the nation. It specializes in audio books.

Located on Mistletoe Road in Ashland, it now has four single-person narration studios and a large studio that can accommodate a full cast, Fonteneau said.

Dan Donohue delivered a riveting portrayal of "Hamlet" at OSF in 2010, then went on to reprise the role with the rest of his cast-mates this year for a Blackstone Audio production of the play.

The audio version was released on May 15.

While individual OSF actors often moonlight as narrators for the company, the audio "Hamlet" production was the first cooperative venture between Blackstone Audio and OSF, Fonteneau said.

All of the recording work was done in the company's Ashland studios, she said.

"It's our way to put the 2010 Oregon Shakespeare Festival stage production out there in different venues. It's fantastic to work with them," Fonteneau said.

Blackstone Audio sells its books and other recordings via its website, on, through iTunes and in other venues. OSF's Tudor Guild gift shop in downtown Ashland also stocks the "Hamlet" audio recording.

This fall, Blackstone Audio and OSF teamed up again to create an audio recording of this year's OSF staging of "Measure for Measure."

"We're already getting so much anticipation for 'Measure for Measure' from iTunes and Amazon and other retailers," Fonteneau said.

"Zorro" was recorded in Los Angeles, she said.

She said that audio production has been getting strong reviews, with one reviewer calling it a sparking, full-cast audio performance with A-list actors.

Kilmer emerged as the top pick for the title role of Zorro during casting, Fonteneau said.

"Val Kilmer is one of the most prolific actors of his generation," she said of the star, who has appeared in blockbuster films such as "Top Gun" and "Batman Forever."

The "Zorro" audio production was a cooperative venture with HarperCollins Publishers' HarperAudio, Fonteneau said.

In 2009, Blackstone Audio was nominated for Grammy awards for "Through the Looking Glass" and "The Maltese Falcon." It received another Grammy nomination in 2010 for "American on Purpose."

The company didn't win Grammy awards in those years, but still felt honored to be nominated, Fonteneau said.

Employees at Blackstone Audio are looking forward to the Grammy award winner announcements in February, she said.

"We're crossing our fingers," Fonteneau said.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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