Old Dreams Uncovered
(I wrote this last week and am just getting around to getting it on here. Enjoy.)
It was midnight and I was around 14 years old. I’m pretty sure it was a Thursday night but I can’t be too sure. I say this because the bedroom door was closed, the lights were off and I was pretending to be asleep. I was up past my bedtime and buried under my covers with a small transistor radio. In my ear was a large, white mono earpiece. The radio was tuned to the local public radio station and there was a particular something coming from the radio.
In my childhood, I had heard the classic recordings of The Shadow, The Lone Ranger and a cassette tape version of the famous “Who’s on First?” by Abbott and Costello. (I think I wore the tape out on that last one trying to memorize it.) In my adolescent brain all of that was all just old stuff. Artifacts from an age gone by where people gathered around a cathedral radio and let audio movies wash over them. Oh, I enjoyed them but nobody really did that anymore, did they?
What I was listening to was something new. Something from MY time period and it had me hooked. It was the BBC radio version of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” I ‘d read the books and been blown away by the humor, the wit, and the outlandish story. (The deeper messages and commentary wouldn’t sink in until much later.) What I had stumbled onto while scanning the radio dial way past my bedtime involved a voice I had never heard before but was still familiar. “What the hell is this?” I thought to myself.
It was Marvin the robot. I had heard his voice in my head while I read the book. In a few seconds I realized I was listening to a radio theatre production of one of my favorite books. I listened in stunned happiness to the last five minutes of the broadcast only to find out I would have to wait another WEEK to hear it again.
The week passed. There was no internet to do a rapid search, no googling back then. I could not find anything that could help me understand what I had just heard. So, I waited as patiently as possible, told my friends and the next Thursday night I was bunkered down in my bed, earpiece firmly in place and waiting. When the show came on I sank into the words, the music and the movie in my head. I was enthralled. To this day, the opening music for that show lifts a wave of happiness over me.
The next day I had out my cassette recorder, recording my voice through the crappy little on-board microphone. Doing voices and talking to myself while I read through a nearby dog-eared copy of a Conan book by Robert E. Howard. It was my first adaptation and it was horrendous. I wish I still had that tape! It would be good comedy.
And that is how I started with audio theatre.
As I write this it’s a lovely Wednesday morning in West Plains, Missouri and I’m sitting on the porch of the Yellow House. It’s a cool little victorian house on the campus of the University here. You can guess it’s color. It’s directly across from the dorms in which I am staying and it’s the third day of the annual, week long National Audio Theatre Festival Workshop and a gathering place for attendees after a long day of work and fun. During the morning it’s quiet, peaceful. The morning breeze is cool, I’ve got a mockingbird nearby sending out the morning mix, I’m exhausted and I’m in my happy place.
For the past three days I have been working, learning and laughing among some of the leaders of audio theatre. I’ve spent those days flowing back and forth between an ecstatic trance and a brutal self-condemnation for not being here, every year for the past ten or even twenty years. I’m talking with members of Fireside Theatre. I’ve been coached by professionals in my delivery and in my accents. The kicker? The kicker was finding out that Simon Jones, the voice of Arthur Dent from the audio piece that started this all for me has come to these events several times in the past and that Hitchhikers was originally an audio drama, not a book.
And the wheel goes around.
How I arrived here is another tale all together but let’s just say it was on a wing and a prayer, powered by a alchemical mix of synchronity, friendship, love, trust and more than a little good ol’ fashioned sweat. What matters now is that I am here now and learning how to go on. I started the week walking among giants and then something changed. Though giants they’re just people with the same passion, the same love and I, as just a person, am also a giant.
I’m just coming a little late to the party.
I feel as if I’ve gone up into the attic and pulled off an old, dust covered moving blanket which covered a chest in the corner. You know the one? The chest which holds a part of you that you forgot was important? For me it also holds old comic book art partially inked and a crappy video tape made during a High School production class. I’m sure yours holds something different but I’m pretty sure you understand. We should all understand. How that chest gets in the attic of your Life is usually unknown. If you’re blessed it never gets stored away. If you’re lucky, you’re given another shot to find it.
It really doesn’t matter what has happened since I put the chest away, doesn’t matter what victories or losses I have suffered over the last odd thirty years. What matters is that I have arrived. I’ve uncovered the chest. I’ve looked inside and found something that makes my heart sing.
I’m here and I’m falling in love all over again.
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I’ve needed to be.” –Douglas Adams