There’s a commonly-held notion that Radio Playwrights have it made. We whip off these hour-long dramatic commentaries on society in mere minutes because we don’t have to bother with blocking moves or imagine the costumes our characters are clad in. No one frets about whether the producer can find babes to cast, either male or female, as long as the actors sound like they could be babes. And for this, we are paid handsomely.
All true. But what people don’t see is the nasty politics of radio playwriting, the disingenuous promises that producer “friends” keep doling out, the industry structure that encourages back-stabbing. Even worse are the acid-tongued exchanges that drug-fueled radio playwright parties always end in, as writers use their craft for evils ends, sniping at each other and secretly making audio recordings of the tongue-lashing altercations instead of using their considerable writing skills to promote peace and harmony in the world.
Tell you a story: back in 2011, I gathered with some of the finest radio playwrights in the world at a resort in Davos, Switzerland. The fifteen of us (sorry, can’t name names) had come together to explore the astounding growth in our industry in the past decade, and to voice concerns that we had gotten too big and unwieldy, lacking the spryness of Radio Theater’s past and lurching awkwardly into the future without a game plan for “smart growth.” The week started just fine, as we worked hard during the daytime hours, wrestling with big industry problems, and then retired to our chambers in the late afternoon for a glass of sherry and quiet contemplation. By mid-week, though, it became difficult to keep all the egos in check. At dinner, everyone would trying to outdo everyone else with pithy little literary sketches, and soon enough some feelings got hurt. Ultimately, somebody (perhaps an emotionally-wounded colleague) alerted the press that we were there. Cue the circus. By the end of the week, I counted several black eyes among my colleagues, as well as one broken nose and two (or maybe three) chipped teeth, most of which was caught on film by paparazzi. It was ugly. It made me worry for our future.
So, while film and television writers might not enjoy the same splashy fame as us radio writers, they can at least claim to have a more refined sense of how to comport themselves among their peers. With any luck, we radio playwrights will dignify our positions of leadership with some better behavior, in both our public and private lives.