On Shaky Ground

SEASON 3, EPISODE 3

JACK

I’ve got something I need to talk to you about Sam.

SAMANTHA

Well I don’t know, Jack. You didn’t call for an appointment. It seems to me you didn’t take kindly to my arriving unannounced at your building site, so I see no reason I should make time for you now.

JACK

Please, Sam, this isn’t easy for me.

SAMANTHA

Why Jack, that’s one of the nicest things I’ve ever heard you say.

JACK

Oh, for heaven’s sake, Sam, can’t you manage to be civil for about five minutes.

SAMANTHA

Jack, being rude has never been one of my shortcomings. I can scarcely say the same for you.

JACK

Alright, alright! I apologize for the other day when you came to the Clarke house! What I came here to tell you is that I think you’re right!

SAMANTHA

Wait a minute, I didn’t just hear you say you thought I was right, did I?

Just about my favorite thing as an author is to find the right metaphor. Sometimes they pop into my head effortlessly. And sometimes they require focus, deep thought, and a lot of patience. In the case of this episode title, it wasn’t so much finding the right metaphor as it was letting the meaning extend itself beyond the obvious.

The town of Milford-Haven is still unsettled after its sizable earthquake. As anyone who has lived through this kind of event will tell you, it’s not so much the quake itself, but the aftermath—everything from checking for structural damage and restoring power and water, to righting overturned furniture, glueing broken pieces, and sweeping up what cannot be put back together. Once the physical elements are taken care of, there’s a deep sense of being unable to trust that which we’ve always relied upon: solid ground.

In this episode we start taking a look at what else might be “shaky” in the characters’ lives. Zack, who had recovered from a serious diving accident that’d put him in the hospital, had seemed to recover. Yet a recurring despondency seemed to cloud his thoughts. Miranda, who had recovered from a minor head injury when a shelf fell on her during the quake, faints unexpectedly, right when she’s supposed to be packing for a working trip to Alaska. And Jack Sawyer, who had felt reassured when the new mansion he’s building did not collapse in the quake, is now more worried than ever: with a crew man missing, they’re having to dig away parts of the foundation, leaving the structure especially vulnerable.

Another “structure” on which American society relied since the country began was the press. There were high ideals: truth came first; opinion came second. So while journalists were offered opportunities to express their own opinions in columns and Op Ed pages, reportage had no room for the spin-doctoring that is now so commonplace.

This is highlighted when two characters have a serious argument in this episode: the newspaper journalist Emily Wilkins, and the radio announcer Radio Jones. Each of these characters is serious about his/her job and work hard, given they have so much to cover and no additional staff to help them. Jones accuses Wilkins of bringing him some false information. Both are furious, and both are concerned that the truth reach their audiences. Any of this sound familiar? So here’s another element of “shaky ground” as the free press is one of the pillars of democracy.

Relationships seem particularly shaky at this point, too. Miranda, on the verge of romance with Zack, is about to leave town for an extended period. Samantha, who’s been feuding with Jack Sawyer for years, is startled when he apologizes, leaving her unable to maintain her angry stance.

What do we rely on in life? What and whom do we trust? When the chips are down, what qualities come to the surface? The intertwined storylines pose all these questions, keeping the tension taut while engaging listeners in the possibility of self-examination and reflection.

I hope you have fun figuring out “What’s Shaking” in Milford-Haven!

By the way, if you missed Season 1 or Season 2, they are now available at MilfordHaven.com.
__________________

So now . . join us for Season 3 by downloading the episode or subscribing to Season 3, tune in to your favorite device, and join us in . . . Milford-Haven!

The Rescue

SOUND OF CREAKS

    ZACK

(grunting)
Okay, I've got this corner, Dad.

JOSEPH

(grunting)
Good Lord this thing is heavy. How did you ever get this in here, Miranda?

MIRANDA

It was assembled here in the studio.. I.. I..

ZACK

(with exertion)
Don't talk now, Miranda. We'll have you out of there in another minute or two. Alright Dad? Ready?

JOSEPH

(with exertion)
I think I've got a hold of it now.

ZACK

Okay. One. Two. (grunting) Three!

SOUND OF CREAKS

(having trouble talking, holding the shelf) Miranda, is that high enough? Can you move? Can you slide out?

MIRANDA

I'm trying.. I can't quite seem to get my foot free Zack.. I'm sorry.. I know it's too heavy for you..

Season 3, Episode 22

Earthquakes generally last only a few seconds. But the damage they cause can take months or even years to repair. Far more urgent are the life-threatening situations in which people can suddenly find themselves.

In this episode we’re still dealing with the sizable temblor that hit Milford-Haven. At the unfinished Clarke house—which seemed to survive the shaker without damage—a worker is now missing. Despite checking all over town for where else he might be, no one can find him. To make matters worse, his work glove is found at the site. So, reluctantly, construction boss Jack Sawyer has no choice but to order his workers to start digging under the decking and near the support structures. Since there are still aftershocks, this puts not only the workers at risk, but perhaps the house itself. Jack Sawyer and his client Russell Clarke are both sweating bullets.

Meanwhile, artist Miranda Jones was in her studio at the time of the initial quake, and a heavy shelf topples over, striking her in the head and knocking her unconscious. To make matters worse, no one is likely to come looking for her any time soon, as everyone is dealing with their own crises. But, surprisingly, the man Miranda had been dating . . . then broken up with . . . shows up in Milford-Haven, looking for her. When he arrives at her house and sees she’s injured, he gets help as she’s pinned by the heavy shelf.

The story of any earthquake is a story of “life interrupted.” Whatever you thought you’d be doing, you’re not. All attention must go to safety. Structures have to be checked for soundness; until power is restored, people have to adapt to being without it, and that means everything from refrigeration to illumination.

In Los Angeles, we outfit our homes and apartments with extra water, dried and canned food, shoes that can be worn over broken glass, extra batteries (charged), and even portable solar packs. And we keep extra supplies in the trunks of our cars, too, in case we’re not home and have to get there, or home is damaged and we have to go elsewhere. It takes planning.

During the last big quake in L.A., we lost phone service—both land and cellular—almost immediately. But my close friends and I had pre-planned where to gather, and we then helped each other through those first days without phones, power, or running water. So I brought some of these experiences into the radio drama.

One of the best things about a crisis is that our inherent generosity and kindness comes to the surface. For some people, fear falls away, and what’s left is a simple determination to help someone else. Heroic acts become commonplace during these moments. In Milford-Haven we suddenly see the best in Jack Sawyer—usually totally focused on money and uncaring toward his employees. And we see the best in Zack Calvin—usually self-absorbed and entitled. I loved being able to bring out these deeper qualities, and so did the actors playing these roles.

Perhaps the most important thing we discover during a crisis is . . . what’s most important. I hope that’s the lesson taken away from this storyline in the drama.

The Ordeal

 

Season 3, Episode 21 The Ordeal

SOUND OF FOOTSTEPS ON GRAVEL

    RUSSELL

Well, the house seems to have survived the quake alright.  

    KEVIN

Well, yeah, Mr. Clarke, so far it has. But you know it might not be over yet.

    RUSSELL

Oh you mean aftershocks?  

    KEVIN

That's right.  They can be almost as big as the first quake sometimes.

    RUSSELL

What are you trying to tell me, Kevin?  Do you know something I should know?

    KEVIN

Well, I don't think I'm supposed to tell you this, Mr. Clarke, but... 

SOUND OF GROAN IN DISTANCE

True to form, Season 2 left us with quite a cliffhanger. (Season 1 had left us hanging, too!) This time, we ended the previous season with an earthquake, and we pick up right where we left off— dealing with aftershocks.

Two real-life stories formed the background for this storyline. First, I lived in Los Angeles during its last major earthquake. Harrowing as the original quake was, hitting just before dawn and leaving the city without power for several days, the aftershocks were just as bad. Ultimately, the seismic sensors recorded about 5,000 of them, none as large as the original event, but enough to keep everyone on edge, unable to return to work, or even return to many of the freeways that then formed the primary method of transportation.

Several years later, when I began writing the Milford-Haven Novels, I needed much more detailed information. Knowing firsthand how it felt to be in the City for a quake worked well for 30-minute radio episodes focused primarily on my characters, but wasn’t enough when it came to writing in depth about a seismic event in the Central Coast.

That required a huge amount of research. I began by reading some texts about earthquakes, then interviewed Randolph “Stick” Ware, who had founded UCAR–University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. After reading some of the papers he’d written, I drove to Boulder, Colorado to meet with him. He and his colleagues make high accuracy measurements of crustal motion using the GPS satellites, so he literally gave me an “overview.” Next, I interviewed geologist Lou Blanck, a geologist from Cambria, and co-founder of Earth Design, Inc. His detailed knowledge of the region was indispensable.

Next, I called Cal Tech—California Institute of Technology’s Seismological Laboratory. Any L.A. resident would have seen Dr. Kate Hutton—aka “The Earthquake Lady” on television following any kind of quake. I had questions about what a potential shaker in the Central Coast might look like, and I figured she’d be the one to ask. I called the Caltech PR office and requested an interview. After I was vetted, Dr. Hutton agreed to meet with me for ten minutes. Wow, I needed to be ready and extremely focused. When I met with Earthquake Kate, I asked her which faultline would be involved if a temblor happened near Milford-Haven (aka Cambria and San Simeon), she didn’t have the answer on the tip of her tongue. She wouldn’t let me leave until she had a good answer for me, so the “ten minutes” turned into a little more than an hour. “It’s the Hosgri!” she pronounced proudly, discovery made. “And it’s offshore!” Oh, my, what a difference this made.

Because here’s what happened next. My husband, step-daughter and son-in-law decided to spend Christmas in Cambria, shortly after my novel Nobody’s Fault was published. We went hiking at the San Simeon Cove, a favorite spot of locals that’s fictionalized in my series. While there, I heard a “seismic” sound that I recognized from the L.A. earthquake, and from all the research.

“Yeah, right,” my husband said. “You’re so wrapped up in your story that you’re hearing things.” A few second later, the earth began to move under our feet. As we were on a narrow path that fell away to the sandy beach floor a hundred feet below, this wasn’t a safe place to be. My husband had a slo-mo “why are my knees unstable?” moment; my step-daughter hunkered down wisely; my son-in-law, an architect, seemed fascinated by how the surrounding trees and earth structures were moving. For me, this was both an “in-body” experience, as I quickly looked to make sure the tide wasn’t suddenly being sucked away from the shore; and an “out-of-body” experience as I “saw” exactly what had happened to my characters was now happening to us! The cherry on top of this tale is that the local Geological Society asked me to give a presentation as to how I had come up with such an accurate prediction of a local earthquake in my novel!

Sound effects in this episode were again fun for foley master David L. Krebs who had pieces of hard foam banging against one another, and for Engineer Bill Berkuta who layered the recorded sounds until listeners felt they themselves were experiencing the aftershocks in the story.

By the way, if you missed Season 1, or Season 2, they are available at MilfordHaven.com. So now . . join us for Season 3 by downloading the episode or subscribing to Season 3, tune in to your favorite device, and join us in . . . Milford-Haven!

The Earthquake

MUSIC CONTINUES UNDER:

    NARRATOR

Well, it's been a couple of hours now.  Miranda may be in some 
pretty serious trouble there, and Samantha can't be the one 
to come help her, because she's already busy helping people 
at the temporary shelter she and Susan have been setting up..

SCENE 4
SOUND OF GENERAL HUBBUB
SOUND OF RADIO

    RADIO JONES

Well ladies and gentlemen in the listening audience, 
today is a banner day for Milford-Haven,--and they 
said it couldn't be done. Yes folks, it's true, 
we have survived one of the fabled California earthquakes. 
The transmitter was having some trouble there for a while, 
but yours truly here at KMH has everything under control, 
and we are once again on the air.

Now listen up, 'cause this is an important announcement. 
The Environmental Planning Commission wants you to know 
they have set up a temporary shelter down at the Town Hall, 
so if any of you finds himself, or herself, in a house 
that isn't safe, or isn't standing, get on down 
to the shelter, and they'll take good care of you.

(RADIO CONTINUES AS FOLLOWS, IN THE BACKGROUND,
AS SAMANTHA’S FIRST LINE BEGINS)

Stay tuned to KMH, because believe me I'm going to 
bring you all the news as it comes in here to the station...

SOUND OF CLICK

    SAMANTHA

Good, I was hoping he'd get that announcement on the air.
 Well, at least we know he's alright. Susan, get back to 
the phone, would you? I don't want you hurting yourself 
again hobbling around on those crutches.

    SUSAN

Right, Samantha.  I guess that's about the only 
really useful thing I can do at this point. 
It was still dead, though, the last time I tried it.

From the episode title, you already know what happens. But the challenge was figuring out how to present an event that affected every character simultaneously. My solution was to start each scene with a “back a moment in time” narration. In this way I could present the shock, surprise, or concern in real time for each storyline, rather than making the listener navigate through a series of “having hads.”

Since fictional Milford-Haven is a California town, I always knew we’d have to do an earthquake storyline. Of course, it’s always better to write from our own experience. Having grown up in Japan, I’d experienced many minor quakes throughout my childhood. We had specific protocols both at home and at school: turn off the gas; stay away from windows where glass could break; stand inside door frames that were structurally stronger than walls. Usually by the time we took these steps, the temblor would be finished.

It would be two years after the debut of Milford-Haven USA on the BBC that my home city Los Angeles would suffer a 6.7 magnitude blind thrust earthquake that killed 57 people, injured thousands and caused billions of dollars of damage. This was an entirely different experience, and I went on to write about it in the novels based on my radio drama. I also did much more extensive research on seismology in general, and the dynamics of California fault lines in specific, which proved both fascinating and predictive. So this radio drama episode foreshadowed what would later be written in the ongoing Milford-Haven narrative.

But in this episode, we showed the potential for injury, the usual lack of preparation, and the fear. We also wanted to show how emergencies tend to bring out the best in people. Suddenly compassion surmounts selfishness, and helping others becomes a natural and automatic response.

This brings Season 2 of our podcast to a conclusion. Will Miranda be all right? Will everyone remain safe? Will Milford-Haven recover? To find out . . . you’ll be able to tune in to Season 3, which will start in a few weeks.

So now is your opportunity either to download this episode, or to binge listen to all of Season 2, tune in to your favorite device, and join us in . . . Milford-Haven!

Good News and Bad

SCENE 6
SOUND OF SCREEN DOOR
SOUND OF CRICKETS

    SALLY

Hi, Tony. I heard Mama give you her recipe.  She doesn't do that, you know, unless she really likes someone. I'd say you made the grade.

    TONY

I'm glad. I like your mother, Sally.  

    SALLY

Oh she is...salt of the earth. I just didn't know what I was gonna do if I didn't get home for a spell.

    TONY

Puts things in perspective some times, that's for sure.

    SALLY

I had an important decision to make Tony, and, well there's just somethin' about the land, the air, Mama,.. it made it all fall into place for me.

    TONY

Feel like talking about it?

    GLENDA

(calling out)
Sally? It's June on the phone from Milford-Haven!

    SALLY

Oh, fiddle.
(calling out)
Did something happen Mama?

Probably the most salient thing to share about this episode has to do with the overall pacing of the ongoing radio drama. This episode is “false slow” so that the next one could be “true fast.”

Like anything organic, an ongoing drama needs to ebb and flow, with rising emotions at one point, and then a settling back into calm. There are choices to be made when it’s time for an increase of tension. Shall it be sudden, like a lightening strike? Shall it be slow, like a gradually building mud slide? Shall it be a deep rumbling underground or a clap of thunder from overhead?

As these metaphors indicate, the setting, and the connection to nature, is a key part of Milford-Haven. (Spoiler Alert: this is a clue about what happens in the next episode.)

I must add that none of these intentions and subtleties can reach the audience without the talent and expertise of marvelous performers. In this episode you’ll hear several of our cast members at their best: happy, sad, upset, disappointed, content, and concerned, with every shade in between.

This episode does deliver both good news and bad to some of the characters. For Tony Fiorentino and Sally O’Mally, this is a peaceful time of visiting with Sally’s mother in Arkansas. As Sally says, “something about the earth. . .” is soothing to her, and helps her to make a momentous decision. Tony somehow feels it too, happy to be there in a supportive role, and very happy to be enjoying some homemade cooking.

Miranda Jones gets exactly the good news she has asked for: an out-of-town commission. Already this good news is a challenge, in that she has to leave town immediately, and she has to travel to Alaska and doesn’t yet know what she’ll need to pack, now how she’ll make arrangements while she’s away.

But Cynthia Radcliffe gets bad news when Zack calls to say he needs some time away from her. Her anger and disappointment is not enough to guilt Zack into changing his mind. And now comes an interesting plot twist. While he experiences relief at getting away from home, and eager anticipation of reconnecting with Miranda, he doesn’t know Miranda will be gone by the time he arrives. This intertwining of plot lines is another key to writing an ongoing drama. Each character must authentically follow his or her own impulses and goals, and at the same those pathways must intersect in order to reveal the story’s underlying themes.

One more interesting element is the internal bad news/good news some characters are experiencing. Some are cavalier about how their actions affect others. Zelda McIntyre , for example, is only interested in servicing her own ambitions, regardless of how this may inconvenience or even hurt others. But others have a moral compass, as when Kevin reveals to Susan that he feels his employer is asking him to ignore rules and good business practice.

Of course the biggest news is delivered in the last line of the final scene of the episode . . . but I’ll let you listen to that for yourself.

So now . . join us for Season 2 by downloading the episode or subscribing to Season 2, tune in to your favorite device, and join us in . . . Milford-Haven!

Get Outta Town

SCENE 3

PHONE – POV SALLY
TONY (Filtered)

So how are you?

    SALLY

Well Tony, I'm okay. How'd you track me down in Arkansas?

    TONY (Filtered)

I went all the way to Milford-Haven to hear you sing, and then you weren't there! I had to make sure you were okay. Sally, is everything alright?

    SALLY

Well, not exactly, Tony, but it all seems to look a little better from here.

    TONY (Filtered)

Back to your roots.

    SALLY

Yeah, sometimes I've just gotta sit and watch the grass grow, you know?

    TONY (Filtered)

Yeah, yeah, I do know. And I bet having somebody do the cooking for you isn't bad either.

    SALLY

Oh you can say that again, Mama has the best home cooking either side of the Mississippi.

    TONY (Filtered)

Say, Sally, she isn't stingy with that home cooking, is she?

    SALLY

Stingy? Well I should say not. Once she starts dishing it out, it's hard to get her to stop, as a matter of fact. Say Tony, were you fishing for an invitation?

    TONY (Filtered)

Well, yes, Sally, I was.  Would it be terribly inconvenient if I came to see you for the weekend?  I mean I understand if you still want to be alone for a while...

    SALLY

No, Tony, I think maybe it'd be real nice if you came to see me. Don't expect anything fancy now...

There’s definitely a theme for this episode, and it’s about getting out of Milford-Haven, either for good or for bad reasons. This theme gave me a chance to expand beyond the bounds of my little town, and to provide additional context for the characters. After all, everyone wants to get outta town sometimes.

Tony Fiorentino is just beginning to reconnect with his high school sweetheart Sally O’Mally. If things are ever to work out between them, it’ll be a long road, and Tony doesn’t want to waste a minute. So he discovers Sally has gone to Arkansas to visit with her mother, he invites himself to join them. So this is one of the “good” reasons for traveling.

Miranda Jones, however, is angry and frustrated to have discovered that Zack Calvin, the man with whom she’d recently begun a relationship, is actually involved with someone else, namely Cynthia. Miranda wants to get away, and even goes so far as to ask her representative Zelda to see about getting her a commission in Africa! (As it turns out, she doesn’t go that far after all.)

Meanwhile, Zack himself, recovering from a serious injury, is unaware what he’s done to anger and alienate Miranda, not realizing she came to the hospital and ran into Cynthia. He believes he’s broken up with Cynthia, but feels utterly confused and depressed his slow recovery. He decides to take a leave of absence from his job at the family oil firm, which distressing his father even further. Zack just wishes he could get away from it all.

Then Mr. Clarke, the wealthy business tycoon for whom Jack Sawyer is building a spectacular home in Milford-Haven, is so concerned about how the project is going that he’s threatening to visit Milford-Haven to check up on things for himself—and that makes Jack mighty nervous, because someone recently fell and was injured at the property and he fears a law suit.

The overall themes for each character play out over time in a soap opera. Each is a thread woven into the tapestry and when one thread gets pulled, this affects all the characters and the warp and weft of the story itself. It was complicated to keep all these character arcs in my head as I wrote the show. One friend was talking with me on the phone after a long day of writing, and he had the distinct impression there were a lot of people running around in my head. When we finished our conversation he said, “Goodnight everyone.” Hilarious . . . with a lot of underlying truth.

So now . . join us for Season 2 by downloading the episode or subscribing to Season 2, tune in to your favorite device, and join us in . . . Milford-Haven!

Talent Night

Season 2, Episode 17

SCENE 4
MUSIC CONTINUING IN BACKSTAGE

 CYNTHIA

	(frantic, as usual)
	Hello? Excuse me? I'm supposed to be singing in this show and I can't seem to find anyone in charge... Excuse me...

	I'm supposed to be singing, and I'm late, and the show has already started, and where is my duet partner Smoke? And who's in charge of this .., thing.

		MIRANDA

	What seems to be the problem back here.. what.. what are YOU doing here?

		CYNTHIA

	Oh, it's Miranda, isn't it?  

		MIRANDA

	Look, Ms. Radcliffe, I don't know what you're doing here, but if you've come to add insult to injury, this really isn't the moment. As you can see I'm in the middle of a show here.

		CYNTHIA

	And I, Ms. Jones, am IN this show you're in the middle of.

		MIRANDA

	You're what?

		CYNTHIA

	Oh yes, dear, I was invited to sing a duet with someone named Smoke, and believe me I had my doubts about coming to this puddle to sing, but since my business manager thought it was a good idea.

		MIRANDA

	You're the one Smoke invited! Well hurry up, you're late.  Smoke is over there.

SOUND OF FOOTSTEPS

		CYNTHIA

	(sarcastic)
	My my, what a warm reception, Miranda. I'll see if I can do the same for you sometime!   

The challenge in writing this episode was to showcase the great musicians and songwriters who were our cast members and guest stars, but also continue to advance the soap opera around the musical interludes. The result was that “on stage” during Milford-Haven’s Talent Night, all was harmonious – literally and figuratively. But backstage . . . not so much. Miranda and Cynthia are bitterly vying for the attention of Zack; reporter Emily Wilkins is trying to dig up dirt for the local newspaper; and several other characters are trying to ensure that nothing disrupts the proceedings at this “Peace” concert.

So while the plot advanced slowly but surely, our 4.5 million listeners to our BBC broadcasts got to enjoy some original music they wouldn’t hear anywhere else.

First, we featured “Rise Above It”, which was a song from “L.A. River Anthology,” a musical written by Carl Esser. Carl played the character “Rune” in Milford-Haven, and by the time we got to work with him, he’d already had a stunning, multi-faceted career. He had created his own radio series, “Across the Blue Pacific,” broadcast in Hawaii and to the Pacific Fleet. A writer, producer, Broadway musical performer and voice actor, he was a tremendous asset to our cast. You read more here about Carl Esser.
In this episode, he performed his song with his real-life wife Kim Fowler-Esser, who was also a cast member and gifted performer.

Next up was the song “The Joke’s On You” by John McFee of the Doobie Brothers and Andre Pessis. It was performed by John’s real wife Marcy McFee and David L. Krebs,
both of whom were part of our regular cast.

In the previous post I wrote about “Nothing To Stop Me” which I co-wrote with Cornelius Bumpus. The final song is “Can’t You See” which I co-wrote with John McFee and John and I performed it in this episode.

As you listen to this show, I know you’ll have fun visualizing a small-town talent show with big-town talent!

So now . . join us for Season 2 by downloading the episode or subscribing to Season 2, tune in to your favorite device, and join us in . . . Milford-Haven!

Duets

Season 2, Episode 16

SOUND OF SAXOPHONE, INTERRUPTED BY:
SOUND OF KNOCKING
SOUND OF DOOR OPENING

    MIRANDA

Oh hello, Mr. Smoke?

    SMOKE

No.

    MIRANDA

Oh.  Do I have the wrong name?

    SMOKE

Yes.

    MIRANDA

Oh, I'm sorry.  What is the correct name?

    SMOKE

(interrupting)
There's no "mister".

    MIRANDA

(laugh) Ah I see. Well Smoke, my name is Miranda Jones and I

    SMOKE

The painter?

    MIRANDA

Yes.

    SMOKE

Cool.  


    MIRANDA

Cool?

    CORNELIUS

Your stuff.

    MIRANDA

Well thank you. I hear your stuff is-- hot.

    SMOKE

Yeah.

    MIRANDA

(laughs)  Well, that's why I wanted to talk to you.

    SMOKE

Too hot for you?

    MIRANDA

Oh no! Just the right temperature, actually, if you'll consider performing in the first annual Milford-Haven Talent Night.

    SMOKE

Cool.

    MIRANDA

That's it?  You mean you'll play?

    SMOKE

Hot.

    MIRANDA

Alright!  Now there's one other thing I have to tell you about the show-- it's duets only.  Uh, can you find someone you want to sing with?

As you might begin to notice from the title of the last show, and this one, we’re getting ready for our next Music Episode. Since the Doobie Brothers made their radio drama debut in Episode 7 of Milford-Haven, I decided every episode with a “7″ would bring us back on stage, or back stage, to hear some great music. With so many gifted colleagues in my artist-circle, it was easy to find candidates, then craft episodes around them.

“Duets” would be the theme for the upcoming Milford-Haven Talent Night, so in this episode, Miranda Jones is rounding up musicians, singers, and performers willing and able to perform a duet. One colleague I invited was musician, singer and songwriter Cornelius Bumpus.

I’d co-written a song with Cornelius earlier—a great experience. He wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics to “Nothing to Stop Me,” which we recorded for one of my albums, and it was a duet. In Milford-Haven, he sang the duet with Lynn Chester, a beautiful singer and one of the cast regulars. I also invited him to play “himself” in the radio show. Taking advantage of his laconic way of speaking, I created dialogue that also showed off his deadpan, hilarious humor.

Cornelius—who did not accept any nicknames—played with the Doobies for more than 20 years, and went on to play with Steely Dan for several years. He played with a long list of musical colleagues, was an excellent song writer, and recorded his own solo albums. A generous and spiritually minded man, he was also a devoted husband and father. And I’ll always be grateful we got to be friends. Though he passed in 2004, his music will always be here to enjoy. You can read more about him here http://www.corneliusbumpus.com/

Of course, there are several other storylines in this episode: Zack Calvin, partially recovered from the bends following a serious underwater accident, but psychologically unstable; Samantha and Jack haggling over environmental compliance; Rune pressuring Cynthia about her career, and more; a mysterious note from “Notes” to Susan. We might say the entire episode has “duets” of the soap opera kind.

While you wait for next week’s music episode where you’ll actually get to hear some fabulous duets from professional singers and musicians, here’s some great music to enjoy from Cornelius:

Cornelius Bumpus – instrumental cover of Steely Dan’s “Chain Lightnihg”
Cornelius Bumpus – singing lead with the Doobies on “Take Me In Your Arms”

So now . . join us for Season 2 by downloading the episode
milfordhaven.com/product/milford-haven-season-2-episode-16/
or subscribing to Season 2, tune in to your favorite device, and join us in . . . Milford-Haven!

Chords and Discords

Season 2, Episode 15

SOUND OF TYPEWRITER
SOUND OF DOOR OPENING
SOUND OF POUNDING FOOTSTEPS

    JACK

(angry) What do you mean by demanding that I come down here at 10:00? 

    SAMANTHA

I see you've come storming into my office as usual, Jack.  

    JACK

Well what did you expect me to do-- here you're delivering ultimatums to me, and ..

    SAMANTHA

Look, Jack, you know perfectly well what the law is in California.  The burden is on you to maintain your property in safe condition.  Susan has a perfect right to sue you for her injuries.  

    JACK

She was trespassing!  Why should she have any right at all in this matter?  I am perfectly within my rights to sue her for damage to the property.

    SAMANTHA

This just confirms my worst suspicions of you, Jack.  When someone gets hurt--  you want to turn around and sue the injured party!

    JACK

Look, Samantha, Susan Winslow is an adult, and she was walking around a construction site.  How can a construction site be safe for someone who has no idea what she's doing, and what in the world was she doing there anyway, especially at dusk!
    SAMANTHA

Susan arrived at the property in daylight, Jack, and was certainly not expecting the site to be deserted.  It was still working hours, and yet all the workmen were gone.  I'm sure your client would love to hear about that.

    JACK

You leave Mr. Clarke out of this.

    SAMANTHA

Well Mr. Clarke, whoever he is, can't possibly be left out of this if Susan decides to sue.  It's his property, isn't it?

    JACK

Of course it's his property, but you can't hold a man accountable for a house that isn't yet built.

    SAMANTHA

Fine, then we'll hold you accountable.

    JACK

And I'll hold you accountable for damage to the aluminum duct work, which Susan crushed when she fell.  

With this scene, which gets louder line by line, we tested the theory that everyone likes a good fight, now and again. This was a humdinger, and goes right to the heart of a core Milford-Haven issue: Build v. No Build, or Environment v. Jobs. Think this controversy is new? Well it was a mighty hot topic in the 1979s, and again in the 1990s, when I wrote this show.

Samantha Hugo, head of the Environmental Planning Commission (there was no such thing anywhere in the country at the time, so I invented a somewhat futuristic job) is always at odds with Jack Sawyer, the head honcho of Sawyer Construction. Both of these strong characters are very good at their jobs, which means they knock heads quite often.

This scene has more nuance than a straight ahead argument over building codes or environmental compliance, because it also involved Samantha’s somewhat troublesome employee Susan Winslow. Susan, often at odds with her boss, in this instance is completely in the right, so Sam jumps in eagerly to support her. Jack is, as usual, unwilling to accept any blame or responsibility.

When Milford-Haven began, half of our cast lived in Cambria, the real California coastal town upon which Milford-Haven is based. Cambria is a town full of artists—painters and sculptors, writers and actors, singers and musicians. The role of Jack Sawyer was originally written for Jim Buckley, a veritable institution in Cambria as founder of the Pewter Plough Playhouse, where I spent a summer performing the year before creating Milford-Haven. Jim was a colorful character in his own right, and could muster a gravelly discontent like no one else. For the BBC show, when Jim chose not to commute to L.A. for recording sessions, the role of Jack Sawyer was taken over by Lloyd Battista, not only an accomplished film actor, but also quite well known for his radio drama work in Hyman Brown’s CBS Mystery Theatre. We were so fortunate to have Lloyd! He was far more experienced in radio than the rest of us, and he became a mentor to everyone in the show.

Meanwhile the role of Samantha Hugo was originally for Elaine Traxel Evans, a statuesque red-haired beauty who’d recently retired from a long film career in Hollywood. (Her late husband Mel Traxel was an award-winning, well-known still photographer for Warner Brothers.) Her deep, luscious voice, sense of both authority and delight rang out over the air and made her a force to be reckoned and a role model. She, too, elected not to resume that long commute to L.A., so “Samantha” was taken over by Sally Rainer. I’d met Sally when both of were doing background voice work, in which she had a huge career, and she was also a singer and band member.

More synchronicity: I had worked with the marvelous MacDonald Carey in Days of Our Lives. After a career as the “black hat” in scores of films, Mac became the patriarch of Days, the first major movie star to take a soap opera role, forever eliminating the stigma that soaps once had. Mac, then in his 80s, still took voice lessons, and one of his younger classmates was Sally Rainer. One day Sally mentioned she was now working in a new radio drama, and Mac demanded to have the contact information for the producer. Next day, I received a call, and knew in a few seconds exactly whose voice was on the other end of the line. “I’ve done a little radio,” he said modestly. Oh my word! Had he ever! “Mac,” I tried to interrupt. “It’s me. It’s Mara.” At last, he realized to whom he was speaking – an old friend from the set. “Come to my house right now.” He lived nearby, and I did drive over. We laughed and shared stories over tall glasses of iced tea, and I promised to write him into the cast of Milford-Haven. He wouldn’t have let me leave unless I agreed! Sadly, Mac passed on before we could begin recording his character. This was one of the favorite stories shared at his memorial service.

What Sally brought to Samantha was a crisp awareness of how the times were changing, and of how important it was for a small coastal town like Milford-Haven to take the lead in environmental policy. Issues like forest fires, coastal erosion, and water rights had already become issues in parts of California, where many things seem to happen first. Sally also brought a vulnerability to “Samantha”, who was burdened with a personal secret, and wrestled with how to re-balance her life.

I can’t leave this episode without mentioning how vital mentors are in the arts. Working with great professionals who’d been in the business decades longer than I had truly blessed us all with their work ethics, proficiency, and marvelous sense of embracing the work of a young producer like me, just getting started. I appreciate them so very much.

Meanwhile, do the issues in the story sound up-to-the-minute right now? When we were creating these episodes, we had the sense that we had our fingers on the pulse of trending change. Now with 20/20 hindsight, we see how right we were.

So now . . join us for Season 2 by downloading the episode
or subscribing to Season 2, tune in to your favorite device, and join us in . . . Milford-Haven!

Clues Come in Dreams

Season 2, Episode 14

(DREAM SEQUENCE, ALL WITH ECHO)

    SUSAN

Hello.  What's your name?

    NOTES

My name?  You know my name.  You must listen to me Susan.  It is important that you hear my voice.  My name is Notes.

    SUSAN

That's right.  Notes.  I seem to know you.  How did you get that name?

    NOTES

You know how.  You gave me this name.

    SUSAN

I remember now..It was because of all the notes you play on your guitar.

    NOTES

That's how I speak to you.. I speak in music.  It's just another language.

    SUSAN

But I can never understand what you're saying to me.  If only there were a way to understand the notes you play.

    NOTES

You can!  But you must listen with your heart, Susan.  Remember, when I talk to you, you can understand me, [Zuni] Te wa se, you can understand me, Te wa se, you can understand me... (fades out)

One of the most interesting storylines in Milford-Haven involves Susan Winslow, a woman in her 20s whose snarky attitude and rude behavior provides a counterpoint to her boss Samantha Hugo, known for her adherence not only to law but to decorum. Thus the offices of the Environmental Planning Commission are never dull.

Susan is so bratty as the series begins that she was one of the characters our audiences “loved to hate.” And it was tricky to strike the right balance both for me as the writer, and for Marcy McFee as the actress who performed this roll. Marcy did a fabulous job, rising to the challenge of being the least experienced actor in a cast of seasoned pros. She jumped in, did her homework, and found a special resonance with Susan’s angst—perhaps aided by the fact that Marcy herself had a pre-teen at home at that point.

Any Milford-Haven character whose behavior was so irritating had a “good” reason for it, built into the back story that was gradually revealed. Susan was a prime example of this: she always felt she was between two worlds: by birth, a member of the Chumash Tribe; by inclination, a rock-and-roll photographer. She had no use for her roots, nor for political correctness . . . until she did.

What changed her attitude was forging a connection with a Man Of Mystery she meets backstage at a Doobie Brothers concert. He’s a member of the opening band, but when she asks him for directions backstage, he won’t speak to her. And yet she recognizes him from his performance, and loved his music. And in the first mystical element of the series, Susan feels she can understand what the man is saying when he “speaks” to her with notes played on his guitar.

Accordingly, she nicknames him “Notes” and his character is known only by that name for a while. And what actor could I possibly find who could perform a “speaking guitar”? None other than Marcy’s real-life husband, John McFee of the Doobies. Not only was he excited to create this role; he and Marcy and I had long discussions about the Native roots in their own extended families, and the spectacularly beautiful song John wrote, “Trail of Tears.” An excellent video interview of John, Marcy, and me, where we share more of this story, was conducted backstage at a concert several years later by Dianemarie Collins on the DMZone.

For their first several episodes, Notes can’t talk with words, and the only way Susan can understand him is when she’s dreaming. Even so, as I continued to write the Susan and Notes storyline, it became clear that we needed a Native American actor to join the cast to perform the speaking parts of the roll. I only had one actor in mind – Michael Horse, who at the time was best known for his work on Twin Peaks. Here’s a bit of synchronicity. When I called his agent, there was a pause, and then the agent explained that he had Michael on his other line, and that he’d just requested that the agent find him a radio drama role! All of us were stunned at the timing! And Michael joined the cast, bringing a vibrant, haunting and authentic qualities to the story. Ultimately this became a tale of a young woman discovering and embracing her roots, and staking a claim for her unique identity, supported by a friend and mentor.

So now . . join us for Season 2 by downloading the episode
milfordhaven.com/product/milford-haven-season-2-episode-14/
or subscribing to Season 2
http://milfordhaven.com/product/milford-haven-season-2-all-10-episodes/
, tune in to your favorite device, and join us in . . . Milford-Haven!

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started