DAY OF THE DEAD... A Radio Drama Essays


By Frederick Greenhalgh

The conception of Day of the Dead was part accidental, part intentional. In Fall 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was on everyone’s mind. This was particularly true for me, because I had only returned in April from having lived there for almost two years. Though I could not participate directly in recovery efforts, I wanted to begin work on a project that would honor and celebrate New Orleans.

Between my personal experiences there, my cursory knowledge of the city’s history, and the blunt facts of the geography, I had developed the idea of New Orleans as an underworld-like place. Ignoring the fact that the city was presently submerged underwater, I was more interested in all that had occurred prior to the hurricane (this, of course, being my own frame of reference). New Orleans, to me, was always on the brink of another world... A place of mysteries and majesty, of accidental beauty, of juxtapositions between ebullience and savagery, life and death. A place that tittered on oblivion and danced there joyfully. It is a place that is unapologetically itself.

I originally considered creating a more traditional academic work, which would have involved thorough analysis of underworld myths in the diverse pantheons that collided in New Orleans—African, European, Native American—but after barely scratching the surface, I realized that such an undertaking was far out of the time constraints I was working with and not the kind of work my heart was into. I wanted to do meaningful work, certainly, and explore these ideas, but not solely through the discipline of scholarship. I wanted to tell a story.

In my explorations, I rediscovered the myth of Orpheus, and the myth resonated with me in a way that I could not ignore. A story of love and loss, human frailty, music, determination—what better myth to use to explore New Orleans? As I began to study the myth, and the many retellings of the story, I started writing the story of a charmingly naïve guitarist from Maine. I brainstormed the kinds of encounters that would alter this character’s worldview unique to New Orleans, loosely modeling the story structure of the myth. It was a place from which I was comfortable writing.

My encounter with the radio drama form was as accidental as it was serendipitous. Audio production combined my desire to have a consumable product—easily distributable, and appealing to an audience larger than the dwindling reading population—with a strong reliance on storytelling and word-craft, aspects I find lacking in most films. Furthermore, it was a doable project—larger in scope than a novella, but less expensive and time-consuming than a video production. As I began to discover the rich history of the radio drama, I began to learn and appreciate the craft even more.

With this series of essays I hope to expose the subtext of my audio theatre production, Day of the Dead, with personal narrative, scholarship, and analysis. I readily admit that I have but scratched the surface—the subject matter here would require lifetimes of study—but my aim is to at least provoke the questions that lead me to the creation of my first feature-length radio drama.

I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I have.



Like any creative work, I have a host of individuals to thank for their generosity, insight, talent, and support.  Without you, this would not have been possible.

My cast: Mark Krasnoff, Charles Grant, Barry Hilton, Philip Hobby, Casey Turner, David Howley, Kateri Valliere, Donald Murphy, Jason Elvin, John Coons, Joshua Force, Braden Biddings.

My instructors and advisors: Jessica Lockhart, Jeannine Uzzi, Elisabeth Wilkins, Kaitlin Briggs

Musicians: Claude Galinsky, Myron Samuels

Technical Assistance: Stephanie Sample, Nat Ives

My friends in New Orleans and elsewhere: Jan Ramsey, Dane Ruegger, James, and the Downtown PC Crew, George Ingmire, Marian Howley, Monique Verdin, Martha Ward, Bill Lambert.

My girlfriend, Amy Titcomb. No, you are not Eurydice.


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