DAY OF THE DEAD... A Radio Drama Essays


By Frederick Greenhalgh

As I mentioned in the introduction, I have a personal connection to New Orleans that I’d like to take the time to describe in better detail, in hopes that the sharing of that narrative helps with the understanding of my work.

I lived in New Orleans from August 2003 to April 2005, minus a short period in March and April of 2004 where I tore off on a wild traveling expedition—the subject of another story altogether. While I somewhat arbitrarily chose the University of New Orleans for a student exchange program, thanks to a stellar class taught by Dr. Martha Ward I was exposed to the authentic culture of New Orleans and invited to my first Day of the Dead ceremony. I could not believe the place in which I found myself... The food, the climate, the music, the clubs, the smells and sounds of the streets... New Orleans had sunk her teeth into me.

The Lakefront Campus was a distance from the heart of the city, and I never felt fully immersed in New Orleans culture there; of course, I was a legitimate outsider, but I had the sense that if I was in the French Quarter, the heart of the city, and living there, that I would get the experience I longed for so badly. And so, I did just that. I negotiated an independent study project with the University of Southern Maine and began work on a documentary film project, thesis unknown.

The documentary may have been an ill-fated project from the beginning—at least, in the sense of a fully realized narrative, with beginning, middle, conclusion, and whatnot. Instead, I captured fragmented slices of life... outings in the French Quarter talking with street people, photographs taken clandestinely of people’s quiet city moments, afternoons at Iggy’s, the bar across the street from my house. None of this had much significance, in and of itself, and I couldn’t create a cohesive storyline from my footage. I felt myself a failure; under some criteria, I was. What I didn’t understand at that time was that I was undertaking something that I could never hope to accomplish haphazardly in a period of several months. It would take a lifetime, if it was, indeed, even possible.
I was trying to make sense of New Orleans.

As a writer, it is important for me to be able to explain my reaction to the world in words, and for the longest time, I (rather vainly) took for granted my ability to do that. But then came New Orleans, a place so big, so powerful, so confusing, so old, that I could not hope to make sense of it, to string it out, smash it up into subjects and objects, and stretch it out on the page. It was insoluble. Even if I could come up with some sort of answer, where would it be coming from? From where did I derive the authority to say something about a place so much bigger than myself? What could I have to say that was not said already?

These answers still haunt me, but the authority of myth and the legacy of the radio drama were strong arms to support me in my quest to say something about New Orleans. In the process, I learned more about all three elements than I ever expected to learn, and have opened doors with long roads I have yet to walk far along. With myth, there still are many pantheons, many tales, many realms of the dead to explore. There are countless mysteries in New Orleans I have yet to discover, let alone explore or unravel, and ghosts with many stories that wait to speak. And radio’s potential is just beginning to open up to me. With this project, I am finally putting a piece of myself out into the ether, showing, if I am at all successful, how compelling this medium is and how effective it can be at conveying stories even in our post-visual epoch. This is my first concerted, painstaking attempt to say something about New Orleans from the only place I can: my own experience.

Though this section reads “Conclusion,” it is anything but. Merely, these are the closing statements for what I have to say about this small part of the journey. I hope you have had the chance to listen to the drama, to be carried with the kid on his trip through New Orleans, to share in the heartbreak and sorrow that’s needed, sometimes, to spur our personal growth. Like the kid, I learned a lot in New Orleans, and I hope to continue my relationship with the city through the difficult post-Katrina years that lie ahead. As I write this, it is the evening on the second Friday of the first Jazz Fest following the hurricane, an event whose fate hung in the balance, an event that celebrates the spirit of New Orleans like none other. After this weekend, the city quiets down for a hot, grueling summer, under the ominous shadow of the hurricane season. The future, as ever, is undetermined, but I do make one prediction: that come whatever joys and triumphs, hardships and sorrows that lie ahead, the people of New Orleans will continue on as they always have: celebrating life, living it to the fullest, and never rushing through it... not for any particular reason, but because that’s the only way to live.



Barnouw, Erik. The Golden Web: A History of Broadcasting in the United States,
Volume II – 1933 to 1953. Bridgewater, NJ: Replica Books, 1968.

Barnouw, Erik. Handbook of Radio Writing: An Outline of Techniques and Markets in
Radio Writing in the United States. Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1947.

Campanella, Richard and Marina. New Orleans, Then and Now. Gretna, Louisiana:
Pelican Publishing Company, 1999.

Cronkite, Walter, ed. The 60 Greatest Old-Time Radio Shows of the 20th Century. Radio
Spirits, 1999.

Glassman, Sallie Ann. Vodou Visions. New York, New York: Villard, 2000.

Heaney, Seamus. The Midnight Verdict. Oldcastle, Co. Meath: Gallery Press, 2000.

Internet. 6 May 2006. Wikipedia. 6 May 2006 <>

Jazz. 6 May 2006. Wikipedia. 6 May 2006 <>

Kirk, G.S. Myth: Its Meaning and Functions in Ancient and Other Cultures. Los Angeles and Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1970.

Lewis, Peirce F. New Orleans: The Making of an Urban Landscape. Cambridge, MA:
Ballinger Publishing Company, 1976.

Maltin, Leonard. The Great American Broadcast: A Celebration of Radio’s Golden Age.
New York, New York: Dutton, 1997.

Martin Scorcese Presents: The Blues, A Musical Journey (Seven part mini-series). Dir.
Charles Burnett, Clint Eastwood, Mike Figgis, Marc Levin, Richard Pearce, Martin Scorsese, Win Wenders. Public Broadcasting System, 2003.

Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus). Dir. Marcel Camus. Perf. Breno Mello, Marpessa Dawn,
Lourdes de Oliveira, Léa Garcia. Lopert Pictures Corporation, 1959.

Orpheus. 4 May 2006. Wikipedia. 4 May 2006 <>

Ovid. Mary M. Innes, trans. Metamorphoses. New York, New York: Penguin Books,

Treme. 25 April 2006. Wikipedia. 6 May 2006 <>

Walker, Jesse. Rebels on the Air. New York, New York: New York University,

Ward, Martha. Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau. Jackson, MS:
University Press of Mississippi, 2004.

Williams, Tennessee. Orpheus Descending. New York : Dramatists Play Service, 1967

Schoenherr, Stephen. Television’s Golden Age. 1999-2005. San Diego University. 5
May 2006 <>


radio drama - finalrune productions