I am very pleased to announce that a new project featuring my words and the wonderful talents of a terrific cast and crew is now online. "Redux" is a short audio drama I wrote for the Stray Dogs Project, a series of online radio plays produced by Radio Hound Productions. You can listen to "Redux" by clicking here.
This whole shebang started a couple of months ago when Nick Martorelli, founder and Artistic Director of Radio Hound, asked me to write a piece for the Project. I was extremely honored, and luckily happened to have an old film script lying around that could be rewired to fit the audio-only medium. Screw you, original ideas! After Nick gave me some very helpful notes on a couple of drafts - surely all producers are so insightful! - we had a final version we were happy with. On May 2, I jumped on a Bolt bus and rode down to Philadelphia to participate in the recording session, which took place in the basement of the Ethical Society, a beautiful old building on Rittenhouse Square, a particular section of the city I had never been to before but instantly went nuts over.
As Nick was setting up the equipment, I strolled a bit around the neighborhood. Aside from the mugginess, it was a perfectly lovely day, great for soaking up the warm aura of an artistic, happening area. Unfortunately, I never have the patience for that kind of thing - busy busy busy! work work work! money money money! - so I got a sandwich and stuffed myself into the dark recesses of the building, exploring the hidden ancient corners and the ragtag library, where Nick found printings of speeches from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The script called for two actors, and once they and the director joined us, they began to rehearse. Everyone was definitely on their A-game, and as they discussed and refined their performances during several table reads, I quietly sat there, forcing back the thrill I was experiencing so I wouldn't be too goony-eyed and giddy over professionals breathing life into my words. The director, Michael Osinski, would frequently ask the actors, Joshua Browns and Victoria Frings, questions and/or prompt them for their thoughts on certain lines or sections, and his understanding not only of the material and the characters, but of how to get the best out of his actors, led me to seriously question my own actions when I'm behind the camera. If I should ever delude myself into thinking I'm good with actors, I'll have to remember Michael and try to do half as well.
In picking apart the script, they found moments, subtext, character beats that I hadn't known were in there. As I silently nodded in the hopes that they would mistake me for a genius who had meant to do that, I wondered how much of that I had consciously written for other people to detect and utilize. Writing characters is some kind of balancing act between writing them as "Based on what I know about them, they would do this," and writing them as "A real life person might do this." And sometimes, "It would be crazy and fun if they did this." It's one of those things I fear looking into, as if doing so might result in me losing it, whatever it is.
Once they finished rehearsing, the recording process went relatively quickly. The whole time, I didn't have much to do - a good thing, as I was only on hand to observe and step in should anything turn out to be drastically wrong with the script. When it was over, I had that warm feeling of believing that whatever the end product was, it would be good. And it is. Have you listened to it yet?
When it was all over, it was after ten and all the buses were gone, so Nick dropped me off at 30th Street Station and I took the SEPTA and New Jersey Transit back to New York. Once I transferred in Trenton (actual sign on the river: "TRENTON MAKES, THE WORLD TAKES"), I caught a midnight train to New York Penn Station. As it rolled north, I couldn't see much of the world outside of the windows, and the lighting inside was too bright, and the car was largely deserted. But there was something about it I enjoyed.
It reminded me of the first film I participated in, Money, Guns and Coffee. After filming all day in East Lansing, I would drive back home to Metro Detroit, but on the way to the expressway, I would pass through the forests and farmfields south of the city. It would be warm and breezy, crickets chirping on both sides. At dusk, in the summer, with hardly anyone around, the entire world felt peaceful, quiet, but filled with hope and potential. It was an "Anything can happen" feeling.
That's the feeling I had on New Jersey Transit a few weeks ago. In the coming months, I'll need to hang onto it. We have a few more projects lined up. Which ones? You'll have to wait and find out. Anything can happen...