David Rasmussen is an experienced local actor, most recently appearing in the Star Bar Players' production of Private Lives. He is also a playwright, having written a small handful of plays set in Colorado and a musical adaptation of The Great Gatsby that attracted Garrison Keillor's interest. He now boasts the distinction of being an award-winning playwright, and his new play, Out of the Frying Pan, winner of the first KCME Radio Theatre Playwriting contest, will air Thursday, March 9, at 8 p.m. on KCME, 88.7 FM.
Is this your first radio play? This is. I'd acted in a lot of the KCME shows, and when this contest came up I just wanted to try and write one to see what the process was like for a writer.
How is writing for radio different than writing a conventional stage play? In a play everything is action, everything is really visual. In radio it's strictly oral. You have to think of voices rather than the look of the actors. You have to think of things like accents and sound effects. It's kind of between theater and movies in the sense that you can set it absolutely anywhere. You don't have to worry about the set, so if you want to do it in a stadium, if you want to do it at a rock concert, if you want to do it underwater, you can do any of those things. In fact the more bizarre, the better it works on radio, because the audience's imagination clicks in right away. With a couple sort of suggestive sound effects you can go anywhere and do anything.
What are some of the requirements for writing for radio? For this particular station, for this particular theater group, a limited cast. You don't want to have 20 people in a small room. There's a lot of [voice] choreography involved. Then, I think a variety of voices. You want each character to be really unique. You don't want two characters that are too similar. And you don't want to go for subtlety. You want something that's big, broad, that really moves someplace fast.
What's the story of Out of the Frying Pan? This is pretty much a one-joke script, although it does develop a little bit after the initial thing. This hillbilly-type character has discovered this type of metal that will work on inanimate things like metal and glass and stone, but it won't harm anything organic like people or plants. So it sets up a lot of jokes where people are being hit with metal and it doesn't hurt. And then it quickly becomes more of a play about technology getting out of control. Once people find out about this brilliant new possibility, everyone wants to do something different with it and it spins out of control until the resolution and the end.
You must get a lot of sound using that metal. A lot of sound, exactly. And that's why it all worked. I had the one idea -- it was probably somebody getting hit in the head with a hammer and it not hurting -- and I thought, if you're going to do comedy, if you're going to do farce, you have to push it as extreme one way as you can and then have the opposite thing happening. ... I'm anxious to see if it comes off the page the way I envisioned it or if it's something totally different. It'll be very illuminating. p