Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I Hate This (radio drama)

Me with Dorothy and Reuben Silver at the old WCPN studios.

The Velocity of Autumn is not the first opportunity I have had to work with Dorothy Silver. It's not even the first time we have performed a mother-son relationship. That would have been for the radio drama adaptation of my solo performance about my first-born, stillborn child, I Hate This (A Play Without the Baby).

The boy was born eleven years ago today, on the frigid first day of spring back in 2001. When I say that is a lifetime ago, I am not merely being hyperbolic. For my living children, it is more than a lifetime ago, and they have come to define so much of who I am. The next boy, the one who lived, was a couple months old when we began recording this show, in August 2005.

The first draft of I Hate This had emerged by August 2002, and was produced at CPT the following winter. I had already taken it to Minnesota and New York, and elsewhere, before I approached Dave DeOreo and the folks at WCPN ideastream about making it an hour-long broadcast.

As a matter of fact, it was the other way around ... in 2004 Dave had worked with my wife and I to create an audio diary of the Spencer Tunick installation which was ridiculous. The event was on a Saturday morning, and we worked around the clock to have it done by Monday's broadcast of Around Noon. Still delirious from lack of sleep, the show in the can (as they say) Dave turned to me and asked, "What do we do next?" I already had a good idea.

Tom Weaver & Nick Koesters

In its original, natural form, I Hate This is a solo production, where I tell not only the experience of discovering that the child we were expecting was dead, and his birth, but also the year that followed and how we and the people in our life failed or succeeded to communicate. In telling the story, I play all the characters. For this production, it was decided to get actors to play all the other people. And I chose some of my favorite people to contribute, including Dorothy and her husband Reuben, Brian Pedaci, Nick Koesters, Nina Domingue, Ali Garrigan, Thomas Weaver, Magdalyn Donnelly, Scott Plate, Betsy Hogg, Sadie Grossman, and a cameo by Around Noon host Dee Perry.

The radio drama includes the original music created for the stage production by Dennis Yurich. DeOreo, Al Dahlhausen and I went around creating original ambient sound and sound effects for the show that weren't already part of Dennis' sound design, including right outside the old WCPN studios on Chester, and even in the Old Stone Church to create the right echo for "The Cloisters" scene.

The show was originally broadcast on Friday, November 25, 2005 -- the day after Thanksgiving -- on Around Noon. Here is a sample of the online feedback:
"Thanks to David for sharing his story, thanks for the many local talents whose voices brought it to life, and thanks to WCPN for bringing it to us."

"I'm just blown away. It's like the most powerful piece of radio I've heard in a long time. I'm just stunned."

"It really captured me - so brutally honest, so heartbreaking, so well done. I was in tears by the end, and I certainly will not forget it."

"This topic is often lost in the abortion rights cacophony. It is refreshing to hear the first-hand perspective instead of the polished up political rhetoric."

"Broadcasting it the day after Thanksgiving was significant; it made me think about the births of my own children and how easy it is to take things for granted."

"An encore presentation, please, and when?"
One unintended result of the radio drama was that it actually helped to heal a misunderstanding in my own family.I wrote the play when I was still pretty raw in my grief, and as a result some of the representations of character are merely those I was feeling about certain people at that time. My brother in England (played here by Scott Plate) receives about three lines of dialogue, and when my brother first read his part in it, in the script, he just couldn't finish it without the rest being colored by his reaction to those three lines.

One of my lines in Velocity is "Is that what you think of me?" I can dig it.

And so that hurt, and he let me know, and I respected that but I wouldn't apologize for it, because theater holds a "potent truthfulness" or whatever Mike Daisey wants us to believe. And my brother was over there and I was over here, and he never had a chance to see the show.

However, he could listen. He may not have been able to do that, except his daughter, my niece, who was six during the events of the play, plays a special role in the production, and she wanted to hear it. So they listened, together. Hearing the entire story, from beginning to end (thank you, Internet) my brother finally understood what I was trying to say, and maybe even his place in it. And it was soon after the broadcast that we began to make arrangements for me to be able to perform the show, the way it was intended, for my brother and his family in London.

Appearance on 'Applause' (WVIZ)

This is part of the interview ideastream produced to promote the March 20, 2006 re-broadcast, celebrating my son's fifth birthday and shortly before our first trip to England to present the show as a benefit for a prenatal bereavement organization in Battersea.

And so here we are, the first day of Spring, again. There will be a birthday celebration today, these days it's a lot less quiet than it used to be, with growing children, and activities and cake. It's an important family holiday here. Last night I had a great conversation with the kids, telling them stories about the days all three of them were born. Someday I am sure we will share this this recording with them, which might be easier for them than having to watch me perform the whole thing for them in the living room. But I'd do that, if they wanted me to. I would.

I want to tell you about my son.

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