I’m Just Saying

MY LIFE AS A CARTOONIST

I’ve always loved to draw and it’s something that I’ve slowly gotten away from doing. I don’t even doodle anymore. However, at one time I seriously flirted with the idea of become a cartoonist.
As a kid I had created a daily comic strip and drew it for no one but myself. Then I dabbled in comic book story length misadventures in high school by taking my Speech Communications class (and classmates) and re-imagining them into the world of Star Trek. It was called Speech Trek. I shared this one with others. Even when I joined the Army, people found it funny and so I was compelled to keep writing and drawing it from 1979 to 1994. The saga consisted of over 600 pages of multi-paneled images! In retrospect, it had a lot to do with my writing and filmmaking skills.
In the Army I drew a monthly strip for The Torii Typhoon, the post newspaper. In college I invented a strip for the Theater Department newsletter called Actor From Hell. A scathing satire on the egocentric actor and quirks of acting classes, I later tried to find a publisher in the trade magazines but sense that it was deemed a bit too mean by its nature.
Eventually I did find success in nationally published magazines, but concluded that the combination of my skill, rate of production, and lack of appreciable remuneration, all persuaded me to retire the pen and paper professionally.
This is the last in my series of blogs starting with the words: “My Life As…” There could be more if I ever do other things, I guess… Maybe I should think about that, huh? Or not…
I’m just saying…

CREATING A RE-CREATION

I am one of the re-creation directors at this year’s SPERDVAC Old Time Radio Convention and I thought that I would provide a glimpse into the process of making one of these shows happen.Not that it’s especially difficult, but it does take a lot of preparation!A friend

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of mine simply thought that I showed up at the convention the day of the performance with a script in hand with a room full of actors and then point at them with an air of authority to signal them to begin reading at the microphone. Well, not quite…

A few months ago I was asked to direct at show at this year’s SPERDVAC convention. Typically the director is left a free hand to choose a show of their liking. This year the theme was the holiday season, so I started by listening to several Old Time Radio Christmas shows. Unfortunately, nothing really caught my attention as something that I’d like to direct. So I tried listening to some Thanksgiving themed shows and hit upon a gem: an episode of “Jeff Regan, Investigator” titled “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” I’ve always loved Jack Webb on radio and was delighted to hear him in his days before “Dragnet” as this tough-talking private eye.He sounded like a wisecracking, “don’t waste my time” version of Joe Friday.
Once I selected the show, I asked that it be transcribed for me. Chris McMillan was the SPERDVAC volunteer who made a perfect copy of the script for me. Next, I placed it into the format that I prefer to use. I use numbered lines, as in a legal contract, so that it is easy to refer to any part of the script when giving notes to cast or crew: “Cut the last word in Line # 17,” for example. I use Courier font, 16 point. Courier is very clear and the larger type, while making what should be a 30-page script into a 47-page script, also makes it easier to see under what may be less-than-optimal lighting conditions on the stage. Remember, we do these re-creations on a temporary stage erected in a hotel ballroom and not in a real theater with lighting rigged specifically for that purpose.
I then listen to the recording of the actual broadcast to double-check everything. At the same time I place all sound effect cues and music cues in CAPS, underline them and number them. Again, this is for easy reference and the capitalization and underlining set these cues apart from what the actors are reading. Sometimes it can get confusing when dialogue and music and sound all happen at the same time (this happens often at the climax of action stories). I take care in writing the descriptions of what happens when so as to minimize any confusion. Another thing to keep in mind is that we put these shows on, from read-through to tech rehearsal to performance in front of an audience, all in the same day. Often these actors, sound engineers, music, and sound effects artists are doing many shows on the same day. As a director, it’s my job to be clear on what I need from everyone working on my show.
Next, I work with Randy and Chris McMillan on the live music that I will be using. Usually Randy will recreate the same music, cue for cue. During the show, Chris, his partner in all things, watches me for the cues. She taps Randy, who is blind, and whispers the cue in his ear and Randy plays it with superb perfection.
The script is sent to the actors in the cast, and the sound effect team.I identify which effects will be done live (always my preference) and which ones will have to be played as a recording.In “Jeff Regan” nearly everything will be live except for a car starting, driving, stopping, some ambient background sound of turkeys, crickets, and gunshots.Whereas, we can do live gunshots (and I have in the past), sometimes I prefer it as a recorded effect.Live guns firing blanks are still very loud and startling for the audience.In this story I need to build multiple gunshots at a specific pace.So, I will search my files for the best sound effects to use and place them in a folder of mp3 files to give to the sound engineers for playback during the show.I also create a separate Music and SFX Cue Sheet for the sound and music teams and myself.It lists the script page number, the cue number, the cue description as it appears in the script, and whether it is live or recorded.
As for casting, I always have a few actors in mind for certain roles.I ask the organizers to use them and we work together to make sure all of our performing guests get utilized appropriately.It’s rude to invite someone to perform and then only use them once, in a small role, during the whole convention.So Walden Hughes, John and Larry Gassman get together with all of the directors and hammer out a schedule for everyone involved.This scheduling is always difficult to do takes many versions to get it right.
So on Friday afternoon of the Convention I will have an hour to have a read-through with the cast.We will all meet together for the first time in a conference room, say hi to each other, I will answer questions, and then we will read the script out loud.I typically give my notes and suggestions after the read-through, we go over any parts that are difficult, and that’s it.
A couple of hours later we will assemble in the ballroom with the stage set, microphones in place, and music and sound stations ready for action. This is the technical (or Tech) rehearsal. I have an hour for this. Like a conductor, the director has to get everyone to blend his or her performances (actors, music, sound effects and sound levels) into the best version of the show we can create. This is part where I stand at a podium and point my finger at the actor, music, or sound personnel as necessary. One of the things I also try to work out before the Tech is assigning microphones. You don’t think about it until it goes wrong—when actors are unsure of which microphone to use, or they use one that is set too high (for taller performers) and therefore their voice isn’t as loud as it should be. I draw a diagram and map which actor should work which microphone (numbered 1-5) if I have a large cast. One of the microphones is set aside if I use a filter microphone to simulate a voice on the other end of a telephone line (as I will for “Jeff Regan”). The actors will work the remaining four microphones.
There!That’s it in a nutshell!After all this, my friend is correct.I just stand there and point my finger with an air of authority and the show goes on.That part is easy IF I’ve done all the hard work beforehand.
I hope you found this somewhat interesting! My goal is to shed some light on a process that I took for granted when I attended these conventions in the past in my days before directing re-creations. Gotta go now. I still have sound effects to find for my show!
I’m just saying…

The Kickstarter Effort for SPERDVAC

Recently I completed work helping launch a worthy project on Kickstarter for The Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama Variety and Comedy (SPERDVAC) asking for support in producing its 24th Convention happening from Friday, November 15, 2013 through Sunday, November 17, 2013 at the Beverly Garland Hotel in North Hollywood, California. Basically, it’s a three-day celebration of the art form of radio drama, a fond remembrance of the Golden Age of Radio, and a chance to meet (and see perform) some of the very people who made it happen in those glory days of network radio.

I wrote most of the text for the Kickstarter campaign, helped create the Rewards, etc., plus I put the video together. If you have time, please check it out. The campaign ends on November 2, 2013.
Additionally, I will be directing the Saturday evening re-creation of the Jack Webb pre-“Dragnet” show “Jeff Regan, Investigator” with a cast including Chuck McCann, Marvin Kaplan, Tommy Cook, and Oscar nominated Terry Moore (also one-time wife of Howard Hughes!).
The convention will feature appearances by many film, television and radio performers such as Ed Ames (“Daniel Boone”), Rose Marie (“Dick Van Dyke Show”), Tony Dow (“Leave It to Beaver), Ivy Bethune (radio version of “Superman”), June Foray (“Rocky and Bullwinkle”), Janet Waldo (voice of Judy Jetson); Marsha Hunt, Wink Martindale, Gary Owens (“Laugh-In”), Peggy Webber (radio and TV versions of “Dragnet”), Shirley Mitchell (“I Love Lucy”), Alan Oppenheimer (“The Six Million Dollar Man”), Dick Van Patten (“Eight Is Enough”), Phil Proctor (“The Firesign Theatre” and “Rugrats”), and Beverly Washburn (“Old Yeller” and Star Trek TOS episode “The

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Deadly Years”). And that’s just to name a few! I’m really looking forward to this!

So… Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesterday!
I’m just saying…

MY LIFE AS A VOICE ARTIST

I’ve always included this as part of my creative talents, although I must confess, it has been the least utilized. I flirted with the idea of trying to get work in this field, but the odds are just as staggering as getting that movie role, or selling that screenplay. In the end, I chose to pour my efforts into those other areas.

 

My recent performing work in REPS Showcase radio drama recreations such as announcer roles in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Suspenseand The Halls of Ivy, and even starring roles in productions of Supermanand, my personal favorite, the episode of Escapecalled Three Skeleton Key, have made me focus more on this aspect of my creative world.
My earliest vocal experimentation came in high school when my pal Rich Bitting and I would voice all of the characters in plays were recorded on a cassette deck. I developed an old man voice during those years that later resurfaced to great comic effect in the 50-part radio series Anytown USA in 1984. This time it was Scott Snyder and myself creating all of the male roles in this soap opera parody, aided by two talented women: Sheri Clark and Dawn McWalter. These shows still crack me up! When I

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was in the Army we would have all night Anytown parties listening (and drinking) to all three hours of the insane series.

I tried some voice acting on The University Radio Theaterproductions I wrote and directed with mixed results. During this same period I worked in broadcast radio as an overnight disc jockey, a career that I could not replicate when I moved to Los Angeles. I was an okay DJ, but nowhere near good enough for the big time.

I did find time to actually study voice performance with two great teachers. The first was Johnny Rabbit, well-remembered deejay on WXOK St. Louis in the 1960s, whose real name was Don Pietromonaco. He taught voice acting in Los Angeles up until his death in 1997 and was a dear man to be around. I vividly remember his memorial service, and the kind words Casey Kasem shared. The other man I learned volumes from was Dick Orkin, the man who created and performed the legendary Chickenmanradio comedy series out of Chicago in the 1960s. Anytown USA owed its style and pacing to this classic series.

Whereas I have done a few voiceover bits over the years, including the new web series Creative Continuity, it is still one area that I’d love to explore in more detail and with more discipline. So, let me add that to my list of things to do…

I’m just saying…

MY LIFE AS A FILMMAKER

–>

Looking back now I recognize the seeds of my filmmaking self. In the Army someone once rented a video camcorder in order to document some fun on Okinawa. I asked to borrow it and, in collaboration with pals Phil Cappel and Bryan Key (and Jack Daniels), conceived faux-public service TV spots such as The Premature Ejaculation Fund, Don’t Steal or At Least Don’t Get Caught, and Jack Daniels Early Morning Hangover Cure: Get the Jack Smile. Later additions done while serving with the U.S. Central Command were Diet Jack, Budweiser Aftershave, Hangover from Hell and Brothers in Arms (where I played four brothers, each in a different branch of the armed forces). I was far more interested in the performing than the directing, mind you. But, still, I was the one setting it all up…
I never once thought about being a filmmaker while I was acting in film school projects in college. To me, it was all about acting and learning how to perform for the camera over the course of multiple takes and multiple angles of the same scene again and again. I really never paid attention to how it was all coming together.
When my boys were six and seven, respectively, I created a summer project for us: our own version of the Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon movie serials called Spark Gordon. I wanted to show them how a movie was put together. I wrote a script consisting of three chapters, each with the prerequisite cliff-hanging ending, did storyboards, and made set design an arts and crafts project for the boys. We created a miniature spaceship out of a computer mouse holder attached to a juice bottle and made rays guns out of Nintendo controllers. My sons played all of the roles and we filmed it entirely in our apartment over the course of a couple of days. I used a VHS tape deck and the video camera to edit the family masterpiece. Here I was showing them the rudiments of filmmaking all the while I was practicing a craft that I would come to embrace!
One day when I was on the set of an independent feature film, it suddenly occurred to me that this was something that I could do. Frustrated at the glacial pace of my acting gigs, and feeling a loss of control that is not conducive to my personality, I refocused my time and energies by joining the Independent Filmmakers Project/West and immersing myself in books, lectures, and seminars to learn how to make my own independent film. What hubris!
Yes, indeed. So I went ahead and adapted my short story The Dark Wish into a screenplay retitled Daybreak, and spent a year shuttling back and forth to northeastern Pennsylvania (my hometown region) in order to line up locations, lodging, meals, and everything else that it takes to make a movie. The 102-page script was completed in twelve shooting days in Pennsylvania and three more in Los Angeles. Postproduction took another two years before it was ready for a cast and crew screening at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. It was a memorable event because author Ray Bradbury (a friend of the film’s star Paul Clemens) was in attendance.
I survived the experience, taking Daybreak to film festivals in New York City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles before obtaining direct-to-video distribution deal. I kept notes during the production of the film, documenting what was happening and what lessons I was learning. I finally compiled and published them in the slender volume Long Night’s Journey Into Daybreak: 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Make Your First Feature Film.
Following Daybreak, I continued to pursue filmmaking as a career and worked on several scripts including a comedy (L.A. Bound & Gagged), a coming of age story (Crazy Days), a suspenseful story (Disturbing Echoes) and a twist-of-fate drama (Man of His Word). I even optioned the novel Coal Cracker Blues by James Stevens and wrote an adaptation but was unable to get it funded.
My love of old-time radio drew me to my next project. After attending the 2003 SPERDVAC old-time radio convention, I decided that I’d like to learn more about the history of those golden days of radio but I was unable to locate a documentary on the subject besides Ken Burns’ Empire of the Air. And so I decided that I was uniquely qualified to tell the story of radio’s heyday in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Originally titled OTR (Old Time Radio) the story grew in depth and scope as I conducted more interviews and delved deeper into research. The power of radio as a means to communicate so widely and instantaneously had been unprecedented. From radio came the very structure of television as well as

the power wielded by controlling the dominant method of mass communication. Now this project has possessed me for nearly ten years and is finally coalescing into a compelling film. Trust me, I can’t wait to share it with you!

I’m just saying…

MY LIFE AS A DIRECTOR

 
Directing is also one of those things that I realize I have been doing, or practicing, most of my creative life.  As I previously mentioned, when I was about 8 years old, I vividly recall my dad and I recording a script I wrote as a radio play in our basement on a small reel-to-reel tape machine. Now, for the record, I don’t count this as my first directorial effort… however, I must acknowledge it as where the place where it all started.
I directed radio play scripts that I wrote in high school, including three that were submitted into the annual state-level competition. My favorite was the parody of The Shadowthat I wrote and directed my senior year. We had live organ music, recorded and live sound effects and a sizable cast (which included my future wife!). The rules of the contest dictated that the show had to be performed in one take. Little did I know how that process would live on with the live old-time radio recreations I regularly direct today.
I was a student director in high school (basically assisting the teacher) while also acting in the shows. In the Army I was an assistant director during the Miss Fort Hood Pageant of 1983. But it wasn’t until I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, did I actually assume directing chores for live theater shows. I assembled a mish-mash of comedy bits in a show called Comedy Tonite (hosted by Abbott & Costello, played by my best friend Phil Cappel and myself) and then I directed Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap and Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple.
About this time I learned that directing is a difficult skill because not everyone can take the idea of what they want from inside their head and communicate it with relative success to other artists (actors, set designers, stage managers, etc.). It was a skill I seemed to possess and I worked hard to get better at it. In fact, I still work at it to this day…
While in college I concentrated on acting and the only directing I did was The University Radio Theater where I tried to launch radio dramas on the college radio station, interspersing originals with current audio drama from NPR. It was short-lived, but a valuable learning experience.
By the mid 1990s I decided to venture into filmmaking and directed my movie Daybreak (more on that in the Filmmaker section) and added, almost by accident, The Poet Laureate of Radio: An Interview with Norman Corwin a few years later. The big film project I am now hard at work directing is called Radio Changed America.
Life is funny, no doubt. I rediscovered my love for radio dramas, in fact, all things radio, during the prolonged search for distribution on Daybreak. At the 2003 SPERDVAC (Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety And Comedy) old-time radio convention I sought refuge from the grind of filmmaking. I loved sitting and watching the radio show recreations starring many voices from the actual days of network radio, in some case reprising their original roles. Eventually I was asked to prepare a Norman Corwin show of my choice to coincide with the 100-year-old’s visit to the 2010 REPS (Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound) Showcase in Seattle. With Norman’s blessing, I mounted a recreation of the 1944 war-era play Untitled.  One of the other regular directors looked at me and said, “You realize you’re in the club now. There’s no going back.” He was right!
The next year I was invited back to direct two shows in 2011 (Lights Out and X Minus One), two more in 2012 (Corwin’s Descent of the Gods and Nightbeat), and three in 2013 (Duffy’s Tavern, Gunsmoke and Inner Sanctum). In addition, SPERDVAC asked me to stage Norman Corwin’s My Client Curley in November 2011, only a few weeks after his death at age 101.
My greatest honor was directing Norman Corwin’s classic radio play The Undecided Molecule at the 45th Annual ARSC (Association for Recorded Sound Collections) convention held at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in May 2011. The tremendous cast included Phil Proctor (Firesign Theater), Dick Van Patten, Marvin Kaplan, Tommy Cook, Janet Waldo (voice of Judy Jetson), Melinda Peterson, Ivan Cury, Richard Herd and Norman Lloyd (reprising the same role from the original 1945 broadcast!). Sound patterns were by Tony Palermo. It was also Norman Corwin’s last public appearance.
Directing these shows brings me back to where I started: an eight-year-old acting out a show in the basement with his dad into the microphone of an inexpensive reel-to-reel machine. Life sure is funny.
I’m just saying…  

MY LIFE AS A WRITER

I have been writing plays or dramas or comedies or comic strips or radio plays or feature film and television pilot scripts or blogs since I was about 8 years old. That’s my earliest recollection of sitting down and typing out a very slender story based on the TV show The Wild, Wild, West. I remember my dad and I recorded the script as a radio play in the basement on a Realistic brand reel-to-reel tape machine. Of course both the script and the recording are lost to the vestiges of time, but I remember clearly the feeling of fulfillment at having created something that began only in my mind. In fact, I felt powerful.
I wrote the comic strips and books that I drew. I honed my storytelling skill on Speech Trek, my high school satire of my speech communications class set in the Star Trek universe; I wrote speeches for the Voice of Democracy program that the VFW sponsored each year, winning my local district once; I wrote radio dramas that my pal Rich Bitting and I performed on cassette tape, one year winning a local NPR station contest for the best radio play; and I wrote and delivered, along with Rich, the high school news report on our local station WISL, calling it The Rich & Mike Show. And all the while, never did I consider myself a writer. But writing was always the cornerstone of my creative heart.
In the Army I wrote a play, began a novel, and a few comedy sketches for our local theater productions. I co-wrote a joyously silly and inappropriate comedy series called Anytown USA with Scott Snyder. We voiced all the male characters and had a blast! Honestly, it still makes me laugh.
My favorite writing piece from this era was when I was given free reign to create a five-minute skit celebrating the closure of U.S. Army Field Station Okinawa in 1985 after 40 years in operation. The spoof took place in the office of the post commander Colonel Kressler. I played the colonel as one by one, a major, a captain and a lieutenant arrived to troubleshoot a desk lamp that would not work. The punch line was when the company clerk entered to deliver papers and on her way out stopped and plugged the lamp in. Officers and enlisted personnel seemed to enjoy the skit.
While in college I wrote three radio plays for a series that I also directed over WPSU-FM called The University Radio Theater. If not great radio drama, it was great fun doing it. I also wrote the lyrics to incredibly rude (and funny) songs for the two-man band known as The Pukes. Sad to say, I was one of the two men… Following public performances of Kimchi Squat and Soap Dropper, demand for my music writing career mercifully flat lined.
After the college I completed the first draft of the novel (but never the second draft), a short play, and several short stories. One of the short stories, The Last Shot, was published in the October 2006 issue of The Writers Post Journal.
The bulk of my writing from the mid-1990s onward has been feature film and television pilot scripts, with an occasional short film script thrown in the mix. Out of all of this came my screenplay Daybreak, my first film as director and producer, which was based on my own short story The Dark Wish. Some short films came close to fruition, such as L.A. Bound & Gagged, Disturbing Echoes, and Man of His Word. But to date, only Daybreak made it through the money-raising gauntlet.
I’ve also had some rewarding collaborations as well. Paul Clemens and I crafted the semi-autobiographical comedy screenplay Crazy Days about my Army days on Okinawa, and most recently Tommy Cook and I banded together (along with M.R. Stein) to create

the script for the proposed 3-D thriller Scream Machine Revenge, which is currently making the rounds, as we like to say.

Finally, I have been researching and writing versions of the script for what will be my next film, a documentary on the history and power of radio in America. It’s a darker film than you think. Stay tuned for Radio Changed America!

I’m just saying…

MY LIFE AS AN ACTOR

I guess my life as an actor began in the second grade. I played a cardinal (the bird, not the cleric). After the play finished I was chosen by my teacher, Mrs. Dudich, to stand in front of a microphone and read the names of the cast to the audience of proud parents. I did so, I’m told, without a quiver in my voice or a single mispronunciation. Not bad for a painfully shy and chubby 7-year-old. And so it was to be: shy and quiet in person, fearless and loud when performing.

In high school, I preferred the isolation of the lighting booth to acting on stage. However, that didn’t last long. I was drafted at the end of my sophomore year to play the role of Caiaphas, high priest of Jerusalem, in the Easter-themed play The Trial of Judas Iscariot. (I doubt it’s still in the rotation for public school usage, but this was 1979…) “He came to me of his own volition,” is a line I still remember because I had to look up the meaning of the word volition. Well, after that show, I came to acting of my own volition!

 


While in the Army I tried my hand at more acting, starting with the Fort Hood Community Theater (three plays, three not-so-good reviews), moving on to the Fort Ord Cabaret Theater (three plays, three sets of glowing reviews) and finally wrapping up my Army acting career with ACTOR (Army Community Theater, Okinawa, Ryukyu) where I acted and directed.

I moved on to Penn State University and landed roles with the mainstage University Resident Theater Company (URTC), along with workshop productions ranging from Shakespeare to some original works. In the summer months I either did plays at the Boal Barn Playhouse in neighboring Boalsburg, PA, or summer stock with the Pennsylvania Center Stage, and I spent one summer with the Elizabeth II living history show in Manteo, NC, which led to my network TV debut as a bar extra in an episode of Matlock starring Andy Griffith.

Although I did some professional (i.e, paid) work as an actor, it really wasn’t until I relocated to Los Angeles that the real challenges began. Within three years I was in both acting unions, AFTRA and the Screen Actors Guild (now merged into SAG-AFTRA), had the first of two talent agents, and regularly attended acting

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workshops and performed in local 99-seat Equity Waiver theater productions. My most notable review from these early years was in Variety calling me “the excellent Mike Kacey” for my role as a police lieutenant in The Little Sister. The star of the show was Robert Saachi (The Man with Bogart’s Face) and was produced by Crane Jackson (anyone recognize the name from The Big Lebowski??).

Finally, with a better agent and the SAG-approved professional name of Michael James Kacey, I was able to book gigs on Beverly Hills 90210 working with Jason Priestly, Brian Austin Green, and Ian Ziering; Nickelodeon’s hit All Thatworking with Keenan Thompson and Amanda Bynes; and a scene with Michael Keaton and Helena Bonham Carter in the film Live From Baghdad. I also played Ned the bartender in my feature film writing-directing debut, Daybreak.
Bitten by the filmmaking bug, I have largely left acting behind, although I was coaxed out of my self-imposed acting retirement by director Richard Gale and actor Paul Clemens to appear in the recent mega-hit YouTube epic short film: The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon. Recent word that a feature film version of the story will be made has me chomping at the bit to return as the doctor!
I have, in recent years, fed my acting itch by appearing in old-time radio recreations alongside some of the veterans of the Golden Age of Radio. I usually play the Announcer (a surprisingly difficult role, actually) and some bit parts here and there.
However, I must confess, I have played Superman as well… You gotta love radio!
I’m just saying…

FEEDING THE CREATIVE BEAST

I just returned from a three-day old-time radio event known as the REPS (Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound) Showcase, held in Seattle, Washington. I look forward to this event every year in June. I give my time and efforts by preparing and directing recreations of classic radio shows for those fans in attendance and in return I get to feed my creative beast.

What do I mean by “creative beast”? Well, as any creative person knows, we are drawn—even compelled—to seek outlets for our artistic pursuits. Some are our main passions in life but some are also little joys that nourish us, make us happy, and keep us on an even keel.
We work to live. We do not live to work. Every person has bills to pay and obligations in life. But if we deny that thing inside of us that brings us creative joy and satisfaction, we run the very real risk of changing who we are. For example, I came to Los Angeles in 1990 to become a working actor. I did. But it was not on the level of regularity that would allow me to forego any other kind of work to pay my bills and raise my family. If I went too long between jobs as an actor I became surly and negative. No fun to be around. A gig would come—one scene, one day, one line—I like to say, and I would be filled with optimism and satisfaction. Then no acting job for a few months, and the cycle would repeat.
I have written before of the period when I was deeply depressed over the lack of success of my first feature film that I wrote, directed, and produced. I had gambled on jump-starting a regular acting-directing career and it had not worked. I saw that SPERDVAC (the Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety And Comedy) was having a three-day convention at a hotel near LAX, close to where I live. So I sought solace in being around people who worked in, or were fans of, Old-Time Radio, a hobby of mine since I was quite young. Just being around those artists and friendly people buoyed my spirits and—even better—inspired me in a new direction.
Through a chain of events over the next few years, I met and interviewed many well-known radio personalities for a documentary film that is still my passion no matter how long it takes to complete. My connection with the radio legend (there is no other word for him) Norman Corwin, coupled with his 100th birthday, led me to REPS in 2010. I was there with Norman. I interviewed him in front of an eager audience of attendees, I facilitated his book signed event there, and directed my very first radio recreation in his honor: a 1944 play he wrote called “Untitled.” One of the regular radio recreation directors there pulled me aside afterwards and said, while smiling conspiratorially, “You’re one of us now. There’s no going back.”
He was right. I was back the next year and the next, each year directing more shows and even acting in some. I got better at it and more confident. These trips to Seattle each year began with creative anxiety (Will this play work? Will the audience enjoy it? Will the actors respond to my direction?) and always ended with a calm sense of pride and accomplishment. And so I always return to Los Angeles, initially exhausted and spent, but re-energized, as if having been nourished with an elixir of artistic success and determination. I have fed my creative beast.
And so it is once again. I look forward to the creative future even as I reflect on the journey that has let me to this point. And it is the creative beast for me, and not the creative soul, that drives me. At first I was going to write about my creative soul until I acknowledged that, at least for me, it is a beast that drives me. I believe that my creative soul is the place where all of my artistic potential resides, but it is the beast that must be fed. It is the beast that demands that I not justdream, but act on those dreams. Otherwise, what remains is an angry, unfulfilled, bitter man with an ironically gentle artistic soul.
And what good is that?
I’m just saying…

Corwin on things not to be neglected.

Among the things not to be neglected are the expressions that have been forthright and persistent in American history, expressions in which the common person is recognized; Walt Whitman’s sense of the importance of the individual.

He’s got a poem in “Leaves of Grass,” the sense of which is: the president is there in the White House for you, not you here for him.

It’s a poem that expresses the value and the almost sacred obligation to recognize, to give dignity to the individual. After all, nature does. Nature respects us.

There are billions of people on this globe. Think of it. No two of them have the same thumbprint.