I recently had the opportunity to do some acting, some “major role” acting. It’s been a very long time since I had to be responsible for anything more than a one-line character in a short scene. It was a recreation of a famous radio play titled “Three Skeleton Key.” The show was featured on the series “Escape” and starred Vincent Price as Jean, the lighthouse keeper narrating the story. I was asked to take on that role at the REPS Showcase in Seattle,WA.
“Picture this place. A gray, tapering cylinder, welded by iron rods and concrete to the key itself: a bare, black rock, a hundred and fifty feet long, maybe forty wide. That’s at low tide. At high tide, just the light, rising a hundred and ten feet straight up out of the ocean. And all about it, the churning water, gray-green, sun-dappled, warm as soup, and swarming with gigantic bat-like devil fish, great violet schools of Portuguese man-of-war, and yes, sharks, the big ones, the fifteen footers. And as if this wasn’t enough, there was a hot, dank, rotten-smelling wind that came at us night and day off the jungle swamps of the mainland. A wind that smelled like death.”
That was just the beginning of the tale of three men tending a desolate lighthouse about to be invaded by tens of thousands of rats! A derelict ship runs aground on the key and the ravenously hungry rats set off to invade the lighthouse. The three men are trapped for days as the squealing scurrying brown furry mass attempts to break inside.
Directed by Tim Knofler with specially created recorded sound effects by Audio Cinema Entertainment and live sound effects by Jerry Williams, and enacted by myself, Bill Brooks and Bryan Hendickson, the audience was ours to toy with. In fact, I was told later that three people had to leave because of the discomfort of listening to the sound of the rats invading the lighthouse and attacking the men. Not bad, considering they were in a room watching three actors seated at a table before microphones taking cues from a man just off the stage platform. Ah, the power of the theater of the mind!
Naturally, I had a blast. I was absolutely exhausted following the performance (which is always a good sign that I really committed to the role). From there I had to move to a rehearsal of the first of two radio recreations that I was directing. It was a wonderful time hanging out with radio veterans such as Tommy Cook (Lights Out, Blondie, Red Ryder), Ivan Cury (Bobby Benson), Rosemary Rice (Archie Andrews, CBS Radio Mystery Theater), Gloria McMillan (Our Miss Brooks) and film and TV vets Ben Cooper (Johnny Guitar, Gunsmoke, The Twilight Zone) and Beverly Washburn (Old Yeller, Lou Costello’s episode of Wagon Train and Star Trek episode The DeadlyYears).
It’s funny, I started attending these Old Time Radio Conventions as a getaway weekend to relax and enjoy the shows. Next thing I know, I’m directing a few and now acting in them, too. Not too much relaxation anymore during these weekends! But a whole lot of fun and satisfaction!
Woody Allen once said, “80% of success is showing up.” So I suggest you show up and see what happens!
I’m just saying…