In the thirties, at Newtown High, Queens NY, there was a sanctuary hidden away behind the school library, a literary club named after its benefactor, Garretson's Scribes. We met weekly and read our things, and they were discussed. A co-member during my residency was a lively lad, Jerry Bixby, who would later become a screen writer (Forbidden Voyage, ) and video writer (Star Trek, Twilight Zone) and a popular writer of science fiction.
At Newtown Jerry and I wrote scripts for radio and acted them out. After graduation we continued to meet until WW2. Shortly after that television took over and soon there was no more radio drama. Everyone went somewhere else. Jerry to Hollywood, and myself to art school and thence higher education at UC in California and ultimately to KPFA in Berkeley.
Jerry was then in San Bernardino living well from his screen profits, while I remained in Berkeley where radio drama suddenly came alive again at Pacifica Radio. By phone Jerry agreed to write a radio play, Traces, which I produced for an NEA funded series. By then I had already scripted many adaptations for The Black Mass.
With singular luck KPFA sound designer and engineer, John Whiting, joined me, led me, acoustically, in this venture. The regular bi-weekly dramas had immediate success with listeners and awed indulgence by the radio station management. So that was the brief reawakening of radio drama for me.
An ambition to write and perform my own radio dramas was never realized. But scripting continued in many ways, particularly in association with colleagues such as Everett Frost (The Spider's Web) and Yuri Rasovsky in Los Angeles for whom I was able to script the unusual story The Machine Stops, by the British writer E.M.Forster. Yuri approved and included it in a series he was producing.
About the time when my association with German Radio came about I had written a script of the Sheridan Le Fanu story Carmilla. The director from WDR Köln took it back with him and produced it in German translation. Later Icelandic and Swedish Radio, heard it and bought rights for their own production. It was, alas, never produced in America. Carmilla was a classic vampire tale and has a presence in Anne Rice's first novel Interview With The Vampire. My interviews with her and Stan Rice revealed a tragic connection between her story and Carmilla and a surprising memory from Anne that she had conceived her novel in my San Francisco office where for a year's stay I helped get KQED-FM started.
I have added here the scripting of Eugene O'Neill's play Lazaras Laughed. It took close to a year's work transforming the many choruses and crowds of voices to a comprehensible audio version. This was done in close association with Travis Bogard, our O'Neill scholar and artistic director for the project.
Then there are scripts, carefully prepared for radio, that were never produced at all. Among them two works by Kafka, The Penal Colony, and The Hunger Artist. It was a consignment from a WNYC producer whose funding ran out before production could begin. The stories are exceptional opportunities for sound composition. The Penal Colony with it's device for criminal execution is an invention which despite Kafka's seemingly exact visual description is never quite visualized. But the listener can perceive its horrific effects from the sound. Kafka's The Hunger Artist reads as a series of scenes in the style of an audio documentary. The listener hears what it cannot see, and therein lies the message from the skeletal artist figure who could not find the food he could eat. But these and other scripts await another time, another place.
The Black Mass scripts
|(See the series titles)|
|Guy de Maupassant||
The Machine Stops
|Sheridan le Fanu||
The Penal Colony
The Hunger Artist