Wednesday, October 31, 2007

War of the Worlds

Last night, Oct 30, was the 69th anniversary of the original air-date for War of the Worlds by Mercury Theater on the Air, directed by my hero, Orson Welles. 69 years ago the world went mad over a radio show. What an auspicious night for our first read-thru of ORIGIN with the cast. Very much fun. I heard voice characterizations coming out, some good readings. We laughed a whole lot. I read for an Igor-like voice in a Captain Midnight melodrama.

In addition to ORIGIN, which is 30 minutes long, I'm adding two 15-minute serials of Captain Midnight, originally aired in 1938, the same year as War of the Worlds. Captain Midnight was a children's radio show that played for 15 minutes at 5 in the afternoon. It featured the hero, Captain Midnight, a good-guy pilot and smuggler, with his boy side-kick Chuck Ramsay. I love how perfectly dated these 2 episodes are, how they set the stage for what I'm attempting with ORIGIN, and provide a point of comparison. They're wacky! Way wacky melodrama.

Took my first reservations last night too.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

An Unselfconscious Breath

Taking a short break from the novel writing to organize my thoughts. I'm back in the ancient China chapter, and realize the ending needs work. In the hero's journey, as described by Joseph Campbell, after several trials or tests, the hero eventually gains the boon, the important self-realization that changes him. And incidentally gives him exceptional powers. The boon in this chapter is called an "unselfconscious breath", which Gu YuHuan experiences at the ending. This unselfconscious breath changes his awareness, and he sees the Pure Land (i.e. Heaven) all around him.

I'm trying to set up this transformation. In his case, Gu YuHuan's unselfconscious breath is more like a sigh. He realizes the profundity of his friend's sacrifice. He embraces his grief, and sees sorrow as the foreground of a wonder. These things are all stated or implied so far; now I'm trying to trigger that breath. He has a conversation with the head of the Gaomin order about his friend's sacrifice. And then using his meditative training described earlier in the chapter, Gu YuHuan breathes. It's that conversation that needs work.

Whenever I get stuck I switch gears and work on the next chapter in the sequence. I'm up to chapters 14 and 15 now. Chapter 15 returns to the main storyline, set just prior to Hurricane Katrina in Algiers, Louisiana, the West Bank of the Mississippi River, directly across from the French Quarter. Gu YuHuan, now called Goodfriend, picks up the main thread about the power struggle between 2 Baptist preachers. I'm glad to be back to the main storyline, taking definitive steps toward the final confrontation.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Radio Legend John Barber Joins ORIGIN

A legend of New Orleans radio theater, John Barber, lends his baritone to the role of Radio Announcer, the voice of the Golden Age. John Barber's theater resume is deep and long, including film, television, stage, and radio drama. I'm excited to have John bring his radio expertise and enthusiasm to ORIGIN. "It's a super script," John says. "We'll have a hell of a good time!" He's 74 and bright-eyed and chock full of suggestions.

The theater reviewer from the Times-Picayune called me late last night with questions about ORIGIN. I expect there will be some kind of short write-up in David Cuthbert's weekly column. He said he really enjoyed my performance in Love at the Lounge. I didn't mention the bitchy review he gave me for Tennessee Williams' And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens, which I still consider the best stage work I've done in New Orleans so far, or been involved with. But I'm glad for the positive attention.

On the phone, he asked, "Is this Frederick Mead, the actor and dramatist?" Dramatist? Moi? No one's ever called me a dramatist before, although I do write for the stage and direct. But I've just never thought of myself that way. In my mind, I'm a novelist who acts.

Does it matter? Aren't these all just labels? Yeah, but no. I think my reflection comes from a time in San Francisco, when I abandoned my very lucretive software career for art. I traveled the country for 5 years, couch surfing and housesitting, touching base every 6 months or so in SF, visiting New Orleans often. I wrote, went to writing conferences and workshops, and visited my people.

At the time, I clung to the title "writer" because it justified the privations I endured (still endure, but less so now). I sat up crying one night in a brown flop house, an SRO in SF. I've stayed in a few, but this one brought me to tears. People died in this place. That's not what I had signed on for when I decided to put writing first. So I fired up the laptop and wrote that night, almost an entire short story, about a Pastor's daughter and his wife. I love that story. I learned about conflict development in fiction. Can you imagine why that story's emotional journey wanders occasionally into the histrionic? Writer. It was something to cling to. And it led me here, to New Orleans, and to Goodfriend.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hercules Audio Theater presents... of the imagination! A new audio drama, Origin, directed and written by Frederick Mead.

is a comic science fiction tale of alien abduction and government cover-up, performed on stage with live sound effects by Foley artist Cammie West and original music by Uncle Wayne Daigrepont. Voice actors John Joly, Mary Pauley, Molly Maginnis, and Kevin Songy bring life to this classic form of entertainment. One night only that is sure to charm and delight.

1 Night Only!
Thursday, Nov 15
$10 Advance purchase advised.

Marigny Theatre.
1030 Marigny and St Claude.
Ample parking on Marigny and Rampart.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Counting in Gay Years

Ah, happy with some work I just did on the novel. It's another chapter in the 5 or 6 set in China, during the reign of Kubilai Kahn. A couple years ago, I read Marco Polo's travelogue, and was inspired. Today I made a second reference to Po Lo, who at this time would be a Magistrate and an apologist for the Kahn. It's a time of military occupation by a foreign power, and a time of rebellion. Today I wrote a kung fu fight, an escape, and a sacrifice. I depicted the main themes of my novel in a couple key transitional scenes, and connected the beginning and end. I feel this chapter coming into tight focus. There's more work to do, but I'm happy with the progress.

Only 2 shows left of Love at the Lounge. The show last night was a good one, very responsive audience who hung out afterwards to talk to us. The actors all agreed that it was a great show. We felt relaxed. A nice place to finally reach during a run. Everyone is more alive, more in their moments, communicating. We're having fun. And all of us have been offered other scripts to read. Yay!

Also happy with my poster for Origin, my radio play. Perfected a draft late last night after the show. I'm trying to get the green a nuclear green. Anyone know the CMYK or RGB values for nuclear green?

Today and probably tomorrow I'm auditioning voice actors over the phone for the main character of the radio play, Munchie, high-school stoner trapped inside a middle-aged body. Autobiography? Roman a clef? Probably. Except the part about middle-aged, unless you count in gay years.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Casting Origin

Only 1 role remains uncast for my radio play, Origin. The main character, Munchie, high school stoner trapped inside a middle-aged body. I invite both men and women to read for the role of Munchie.

The auditions themselves were a fun experience, all set up as conference calls. The actors read together in groups of 4 over my speaker phone, while I recorded over the Internet. I emailed recordings of the auditions to each of the actors. Damned if the recordings don't sound just like 6 mini radio shows!

Aside from Munchie, here are the folks I've cast, plus our live Foley artist and keyboardist. Very fun group:

Radio Announcer/Senator Guidry/Mike Nichols
John Joly, film, stage, and voiceover actor with an Earth-rumbling baritone.

Nell Arsdale/Mother/demented crone/Elaine May
Mary Pauley, deeply experienced stage actress, most recently seen at Rivertown Rep. Right out of the gate, Mary impressed me with her natural delivery, voice characterizations, and that ineffable "50s radio voice."

Katie Brown (the Nancy Drew)/Girl
Molly Maginnis, a young actress I am happily working with on another production at the Hi Ho Lounge.

Live Foley artist
Cammie West, Big Easy award winner, Storer Boone award winner, and theatre sweetheart. She's done exactly this kind of sound work for Southern Rep's "Cabinet of Dr Caligari" and while in college.

Uncle Wayne Daigrepont, legendary character actor, director and puppeteer, composing original "Hercules Audio Theatre" theme music, segue music, and "suspense" music for the performance. He played with silent films in NY and various musical gigs in New Orleans.

Can you imagine how much fun I'm having?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Extending My Reach

So I guess my little blog has gotten me some attention. I'm now an "official" blogger for the Gambit Weekly newspaper's blogsite:

I write the local theatre beat. No pay, but I'm extending my reach...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Auditions Scheduled

Phew. Trying to coordinate the schedules of 15 voice actors into groups of 4. Looks good so far. On Sunday afternoon, in half hour blocks, 2, 3, or 4 actors will call a conference line to audition for me over the telephone.

I'm using, an online conferencing service that also lets me record the calls. How great. Afterwards, I can download an MP3 of the auditions and play them back. We could also record our rehearsals, and play them back as a cast. !

Next I need the sound effects person. I have contact info for a couple legends of local radio, Fred Kasten and Paul Yacich. Surely they can point me toward a Foley artist.

A few musicians have written me about playing keyboard, but I have not yet replied. Ok, that's my task for today. Then design a flyer, track down 40 chairs (help) and microphones and amps. Then I need to set up my online box office with I have a lifetime account, which was set up for me back in San Francisco.

I'm on the fence about charging admission for the event. It's a staged reading, not a full-on play. BUT, it's more than actors sitting on stools. There's music, sound effects, and rehearsed actors on stools. More of a visual and auditory theatre experience, in a nice setting, the Terrance Sanders gallery. I'm thinking of charging, really to control the flow. Open admission could bring in any old random folks off the street, which is fine; but 40 seats fill up fast. In particular I want to get the radio folks in, the theatre critics, arts administrators, folks who can help me get the project on the air.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Full House on a Thursday

Well the Cuthbert review brought in a big house, full, for a THURSDAY! That bodes well for Friday and Saturday. Lots of Big Easy Theatre Award committee folks, plus actor friends (one who's oh so handsome but oh so closeted.)

We had a great show. A full audience will do that for you, give you feedback and energy to work with. I think my other male co-actor rushed a bit, ran over my lines and Lisa Davis' a few times. Adrenalin. Plus a couple more lighting flubs, but oh well.

The radio play is taking off. I've gotten an avalanche of good response. Not so many for the main character though, the teenage stoner, Munchie. All the men want to read for the resonant baritone, the Radio Announcer, even the college boys. I'm trying to direct the younger guys to nail the younger role. I even wrote cute young Andrew Larimer from the NOLA Project and asked him to audition for Munchie. He has a schedule conflict.

Today I posted the search for a keyboardist.

"Keyboardist needed to add a musical layer to a staged reading of a new radio play script. Have a flair for theatrical music plus commercial jingles of the 50s. Need you to compose a short (3 or 4 seconds) "Hercules Audio Theatre" theme, segue music between scenes, "suspense" music, and a jingle for a fake product called "Hormel brand Sloppy Seconds."

THEREMIN is a big PLUS. If you can approximate a spooky theremin sound on the keyboard, great. Also looking for a live Foley artist to create the sound effects layer."

I emailed a cousin in LA who's an Emmy nominated Foley artist. Long shot, I figured. She was excited by the project, but couldn't swing it. I told her she ought to consider moving to New Orleans. Film is boom right now in New Orleans. And most of the skilled labor comes from outside, shipped in for projects. She'd have her pick of work as a local.

So I'm feeling energized and confident. And now I'm getting stoned.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

First Review is In

I'm "endearing". David Cuthbert's review in the Times-Picayune. My face made the cover of the Living section!

"Eat Pudding" concerns the mating and dietary habits of ancient Egyptian vultures, scavengers that feasted not just on carrion, but the dung of dead animals, said to improve one's plumage and sexual attraction. "Eat pudding" is the euphemism a vulturess attaches to the practice of dining on this alleged savory.

Sands depicts his birds as swinging singles and shy, inhibited creatures meeting at a watering hole by the pyramids. Andrew de la Pena is the slick ladies' man Ramses giving macho advice to his awkward pal Thutmose, endearingly played by Frederick Mead. Lisa Davis is the exotic, experienced Hathar and Molly E. Maginnis is her demure gal pal Nefertari. Playing birds seems to free the actors, especially when they take wing in aerial choreography. All four players fulfill their roles amusingly, pointing up Sands' sly, entertaining and vulgar wordplay.

In "All Night Service," Mead is the jaded, sleep-deprived cashier at an all-night French Quarter deli, who simply wants to be left alone to read "Catch 22." Enter de la Pena as scruffy, roguishly handsome Johnny and Davis as his weary young girlfriend Taffy. It's cold and Johnny is full of, well, "pudding," bragging about luxury stays in warmer climes. Alas, they have no money (Mead moves his tip jar out of reach) and need a place to crash. Thus begins a series of phone calls to various "friends" who want no part of them due to past experiences.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

And...They're Off!

Phew! An avalanche of actors resumes are flooding my inbox, and it's not even been 24 hours. Yay! Some recognized names, some experienced radio actors, and an interesting offer for a theremin. There's definitely a place in this show for a theremin!

Today I secured the venue, the Terrance Sanders Gallery on the 900 block of Royal in the Quarter. He hosts a lot of spoken word events there and has an audience. Gave me a great deal, but I have to scare up 40 chairs. Ok, next task.

A couple radio stations are running PSAs of the audition call. Hopefully that will extend into promotion for the reading itself, and some interest on the parts of their radio personnel. Two stations are on my target list: WRBH Reader Radio for the Blind and WWNO, both of which have done audio drama, and both have the ability to stream over the Internet.

Need to find a keyboardist with a feel for theatrical music and fake commercial jingles of the 50s. And then of course, a sound effects person. A live foley artist would be a nice-to-have, but we'll proceed with the reading without sound effects if necessary.

Friday BEFORE Thanksgiving, NOV 16. 8pm.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

First Step

Going to post this soon on StageClick. It's about to become real...
Radio drama has been called "theatre of the imagination", relying solely upon voice characterization, sound effects, silence, and music to "set the stage" and to move a story forward. In homage to Golden Age radio dramas, such as War of the Worlds and The Shadow, Hercules Audio Theatre and writer Frederick Mead invite actors interested in this classic form of entertainment to audition by telephone.

Four actors needed:
  • Female, teens to 20s, sweet, smart, Nancy Drew.
  • Female, 30s to 40s, low alto, sophisticated intellectual. Can also double as a demented crone.
  • Male, teens to 20s, nasally tenor, stoner.
  • Male, mature, resonant baritone, Golden Age radio announcer. Can also double as a Southern Senator a la Huey Long.

A one-time only staged reading of Origin, an original radio drama, is scheduled for the weekend before Thanksgiving at a gallery in the Quarter. If possible, a keyboardist and live foley artist will participate in the staged reading. The public is invited, especially radio personnel and arts administrators, to generate advance interest in a live radio production that is broadcast and live-streamed from New Orleans, and to secure a radio production partner.

Written by Frederick Mead, Origin is a comic science fiction story about alien abduction and government cover up. Classic radio drama with contemporary material, including swear words, Chaos Theory, and bong hits. Includes fake commercials and a tribute to the comedy duo Nichols and May. For sides from the script, send email to Indicate which role you will read for. Include your Stageclick link or attach theatre resume to email.

Email this posting to a friend.

Friday, October 5, 2007

A Puzzlement

Just heard from Tulane Shakespeare. Did not get the part. I'm a little sad, not too bad, but very puzzled. Stunned, in fact. I left that second audition confident I was in. I had really prepared. I have a natural feel for Shakespeare's language. And I'm the only actor he asked to read for the role of Hortensio. What could have been the director's reasoning for passing? There's no polite way to find out, to get feedback about an audition, so I'll have to chalk it up to, I don't know. Good first effort?

I'll be back. I do want to work for Tulane. And my foot is in the door now. But still, another actor, someone extremely prominent in New Orleans theatre, did get cast. But he just didn't get the material. We did scenes together, and he clearly did not understand the words he was saying. In fact, in the hallway he asked me to explain some of it to him. Hmm...a puzzlement.
Actually, on further reflection, I think it may have been about scheduling. Tulane has a rigorous rehearsal schedule, and I have weekend conflicts all through the month of December. Thursday thru Sunday, I'll be dressed as a historic character, John James Audubon, and holding salon in hotel lobbies in the French Quarter. Been practicing my French accent and boning up on birds. Audubon's also the reason I'm growing out my hair.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Decent Opening Night

A very decent Opening Night of the 2 one-act plays I'm in at the Hi Ho Lounge. The producer, Michael Martin, told us yesterday to consider it a dress rehearsal, and not bother promoting too heavily. Too late. Being the shameless self-promoter that I am, I had already broadcast to the world. As it turned out, we had an audience to play to, and I claim the lion's share of credit for that. And they were with us. Laughed at the right times. Leaned forward in the dramatic moments.

I felt alive in it. I thought the other actors were too, moreso than any other rehearsal. A few line flubs, more than a few technical gaffs. But it was theatre.