Where were you the first time you went to Hell? Well, if you have been listening to The Dante Experience chances are on a computer. Ha!
It’s Friday and time for episode 7 of The Dante Experience, the radio comedy series. You can hear today’s episode here:
You can catch up on previous episodes (and read more excerpts around the making of the series by the author, me) via the Dante 3 page on this blog. If you would like to purchase a copy you can do so via amazon.com (here), or by contacting the producers at Minds’ Ear Audio Productions (here).
Hearing your work come to life, for a writer in radio is a multilayered event. It is happy, but emotionally overwhelming; it is disappointing and surprising; it is a relief and a frustration; and there is a sense of peace. A great sense of peace because a chapter in your life is done. No matter what, that chapter is done. To be honest, it’s probably the same feeling I am sure most writers feel around movie, TV, and theater (Completing a novel is very different for me); and you relive in your mind all of the work you went through to get to that point.
And it is surreal… and I know, know, know that description is used a lot these days, but it is surreal.
A year after the snowstorm (see previous episode), I finally had the finished copy of the series in my hand; it was about to be released and this was my author’s copy.
This is how I listened to the entire series for the first time- I was living in a small graduate apartment at USC in LA with my brother and I asked him to disappear for the afternoon. I turned off the lights, put giant headphones on my head and lay on the floor, going from one episode to the next.
I wanted to be fully immersed in the production, the universe of the sound created by Minds’ Ear, and I had that.
Then I took off the headphones and thought about everything I just listened to in the dark. My mind, being the over attentive writer that I am, began rethinking episodes and plot points; I had to keep reminding myself to stop that. It was done. I then thought about characters and performances, which I liked and didn’t. Some really knocked it out of the park for me.
I went for a walk. I couldn’t turn off my mind; it was racing, still trying to take in everything, feeling the five years of my life that had happened around this series. I began writing it in a snowy Michigan, stuck on the MSU campus and here I was in a very warm Los Angeles winter, where I just listened to the final product. Two winter extremes, and in many ways true to the journey for me.
The next stages happened pretty fast. We needed to get the series out there. There were positive reviews in the audio world for the series, it was entered in competitions where it either placed or won (I list some of the quotes and awards on the Dante 3 page, but I don’t need to do it here; it would bragging for me to say my writing was compared to Monty Python and the Marx Brothers. Just bragging… Bad Scott.). I even tried to get some support for the series by sending it out to people I respected. As a teenager I exchanged a few letters with Ray Bradbury so I sent him a copy; and I received one of the saddest letters back where he explained he was too old to write reviews about things anymore. He was too old to take things in like that. Damn…
The trick was getting radio stations to play it. I was interviewed by a few stations that picked it up, and that was always fun; listening to an episode over the phone waiting to talk to the host.
The thing that angered me the most, and still bothers me, was I could not convince a single radio station in my hometown to play it.
Maybe that was simply because it was Grand Rapids, Michigan and my series was a silly parody on the afterlife? Would it insult and anger religious people? Heck yeah. I admit that. But this “Berlin Wall” did lead to an angry series of e-mails between me and one local radio producer in GR. And, for those that don’t know me, that is not like me. Here is the story:
I’m not going to name his name, but this radio producer claimed to love and support radio dramas. I had spoken to him a few times and I even showed him the scripts at one point before Minds’ Ear grabbed it. This producer had even created his own radio series using cast members from Firesign Theater (which is one of the reasons I had to meet him). Anyway, he turned down Dante flat for the new station he was running. He never really gave me an answer but it was enough for me to write and state that the only way we can bring back radio dramas is for people that claim to support radio dramas to stand by what they say and play them for their audience. You need to share to build an audience for the medium. And, frankly, hypocrites like him hurt the artform they claim to love more than help it. I think I even asked him how he could look at himself in the mirror.
So in other words, he was all smoke, supporting things when it made him look good, but was, really, spineless… Anyway, he called me a series of names in return. I demanded the copy of the series I sent to him back, but he never sent it. Who knows what happened to it.
I’m still disappointed by that.
But we move on… Things do, and I quickly realized I was reaching the end of what the series could accomplish or what I could do to help it grow. And, if anything, my confrontation in GR, showed me the mountain that was in the way for any radio to have success at this point. I was not going to be Douglas Adams and this was not going to be my The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, no matter how many good reviews and awards. Radio in America has moved on (even though, let me point out, it is still alive in England).
Yet, as much as I kept telling myself it was done (repeating these facts and history), I kept thinking back to the outline I had made to see the series through as a trilogy. And, like a druggie returning for a fix, I would now and then begin to scribble down skits, punch lines, and jokes for the second part in the series.
I couldn’t help myself.
God help me, I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to go back to hell.