You can catch up on the previous episodes via The Dante 3 page (link above). On The Dante 3 page you can also get more information where you can find the series.
Midwest Radio Theater Workshop
So I was busy into the writing of The Dante Experience, feeling like I had clear plan ahead of me for getting the work produced. Initally, I was more than happy with the idea of doing it on just the local Michigan State radio, I had no delusions of grandeur… yet.
Then I got the call from Joel Pierson and that changed in a hurry.
OK, to back up, I need to say something about myself and writing. See, at this point in my life I was always entering writing competitions- short stories, plays, screenplays, etc. If there was a competition and a reasonable fee for entry (not over 40 dollars) I would enter one of my work, cross my fingers and hope my check doesn’t bounce. Contests are a great way to build some name recognition and do something about the writing resume.
The thing is there are very few competitions out there for radio drama scripts. As art forms go it is not just dead and buried, but the tombstone is cracked and the graveyard that houses the empty corpse is closing. At this time there was only one radio competition out there for unproduced scripts and that was the Midwest Radio Theater Workshop’s annual competition.
Anyway, one of my scripts from my YIP Players days (“A Camping Trip With Joe or My Search for the Meaning of It All”) was honored in it…. So back to the story.
It was about February or March and I was locking down the scripts, preparing to share them with the station manager at Michigan State and Joel called. He was one of the judges of the MRTW script competition, he was a radio director and he wanted to perform my story as part of their live broadcast.
In the 1990’s, the MRTW would yearly have a weekly workshop for radio people to get together, study the art, and then perform a live national show on the last day. So, my script was selected as one of those to be performed. My story, performed by people in the industry, performed on live radio… and I am there! Really!?
Screw local radio! I was going to sell my series for the national market!
I thanked Joel, collected the info on going to MRTW that year and began preparing my series for the journey. I had a gameplan. I had about 10 copies of the scripts, business cards, and I planned to be smooth.
I saw my series now being on NPR stations across the country. I saw people finding out about it and it spreading by word of mouth. I began to envision it as a trilogy, imagining where I would take the characters next. One simple phone call and my fragile little mind was completely warped.
Yet, the week at MRTW that May wasn’t really like that. It was more like a gathering of collectors as compared to people really impacting the world of radio at that time. Besides the one or two producers who were established or working in radio, most were just fans like me. People simply with dreams, debating how or when radio would return. Besides meeting people that were friends with members of Firesign Theather, it was kind of depressing for me; I had built it up too much in my mind. So I spent most of my week, listening to The Verve on my headset (it was the 90’s, remember?) and looking up at the sky, counting down the time to dinner.
I even began to think about contacting MSU again. It was six months by this point since I talked to the program manager, would he even remember? I had almost given up hope, when Joel asked me to attend a script writing class he was teaching. I brought a scene from The Dante Experience with me and went to the class, feeling like I was performing a favor more than anything.
It was a scene from Episode 6 and it… to be completely honest, rocked the classroom!
I had never seen people cry from laughing so much from my writing before, but they were doing that. People were laughing out loud and crying! Everyone was laughing out loud, and inside I was doing a little happy dance while singing “I knew it was funny. I knew it!”
Joel and I talked about The Dante Experience further after that class and he took the scripts with him… The week was done, my show was performed for a small audience in a theater (for some reason they could not get the feed going so it was not even broadcast live that year), and I headed back to Michigan with no game plan again. Instead, planning to push it aside and think about my screenplays again. I was ready to move on, having had my final goodbye to radio and what it represented in my mind.