The three previous episodes, of course, can be found via the links on the The Dante 3 page above.
Writing The Dante Experience
It was 1997 and I was in the MA program in English Literature at Michigan State University. My dream, at the time, was to become a professor in literature, getting my MA and then moving on to my Ph.D. Really, I wanted to teach back at my alma mater, Aquinas College (a dream I would succeed at for one semester a decade later), and I saw this as the straightest path to that goal.
Honestly, while I would be spending my days reading the work of other authors and writing reports, the creative side of my brain was starving…. So that brings us up to winter break and I am still living in my dormitory. I had a job working at a bank during the day and I really couldn’t leave Lansing. Which means I was living in something equivalent to a haunted house. I would walk down the hallways of the dorm and hear strange noises in the distance, not sure if it was another soul (living or not), or something more dire.
Many of the days in that month, I would be snowed in, living off whatever I had saved in my little fridge in the room.
Frankly, I was being set up for my own version of The Shinning, when I discovered MSU’s great alternative rock station, The Impact. Even to this day, I still love this station. They introduce new artists, play great classic alt rock songs and all the DJs are just normal students. Nothing phony about it.
Listening to that station one night while siting in front of my little laptop I was overwhelmed by the desire to write something for the station, much like I did for Aquinas with the YIB short stories. In my mind I envisioned a radio comedy series starring MSU students, performed (maybe) in front of an audience and rebroadcast late at night for years to come on their station.
That idea was The Dante Experience.
The original spark for The Dante Experience had been sitting with me for a few years by then. I had made a joke in a class (while studying Dante) that members of my generation wouldn’t be fainting as much as Dante if we were given a tour of Hell. We’ve seen worse in movies! There were some polite snickers when I said it in the class, but the idea stuck… and grew…. and now thanks to MSU, I saw the entire thing taking place over 10 episodes. It was to be my Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!
I met with the program director of the station and he was very polite. He asked to see the scripts and I began writing.
The first draft took me two weeks. This may seem fast, but, remember, I was snowed in most days and I was completely alone on campus. But there I was, acting out scenes in my room, rewriting passages as I sat in different parts of the building and campus. And, writing, every hour and minute I could. Looking back, I’m surprised I took time to bathe and eat.
I must admit, I never got around to showing the program director the finished scripts. Something came up that changed that path for the series, but I will discuss that next week.
I hope you enjoy Episode 4.