Slice of Pie: Quality Comedy with Starlight Radio Dreams

In this magical age of podcast performances and a lively theatre scene in Chicago, there are many different genres and subjects to choose from. If you have a taste for the vintage-inspired, comedically-crafted, and the slightly off-kilter, then Starlight Radio Dreams may be exactly what you’re looking for! I caught up with some of the fine artists who bring Starlight Radio Dreams to life (literally) to get you the scoop on their far-out features and quirky characters!

~A Slice of Pie!~

A tasty sample of something fresh cooked up by a creator of my choosing.


Who are you?

Ansel: I’m Ansel Burch!

Derrick: And I’m Derrick Gaetke.


What’s your thing right now? That thing. You know. That thing over there. What is that?

Ansel: I’ve got a few balls in the air right now but the most new and exciting project is Starlight Radio Dreams. It’s a new variety serial podcast and performance venture here in Chicago.

Derrick: I’m the artistic director/one of the writers for Starlight Radio Dreams, a new comedy podcast that utilizes the radio serial and variety show formats of yesteryear and combines them with the aesthetics and genres of modern day entertainment.


What do you love about this thing?

A: I am the producer for the company but I’m also one of the writers. Hearing our actors perform these hilarious scripts is definitely the most fun part. We had a riot coming up with all the ideas for this first season.

D: In regards to the show itself, I’d have to say freedom. Crafting stories in a strictly audio environment allows us to take the audience places we simply wouldn’t have the budget for if we were attempting, say, a full on stage play or film. Want to fly through space with a seasoned crew of intergalactic war heroes? We’ve got that. Want to go on grand steampunk adventures with a walking, talking treasure chest? We’ve got that, too. And all without a single green screen!


What do you dislike about this thing?

A: So far all of the issues I’ve had have been external to our team. As any show like ours will, we’ve had troubles with booking venues and building our audience.

D: Keeping a podcast of this magnitude going on a monthly basis, especially when we all have day jobs, can be a little hectic. Instead of recording a discussion or, hey, even a prepared script in a studio, we’re consistently churning out original scripted content, rehearsing and then performing it for a live audience. That of course also means scheduling with the venues, getting the word out on dates and times of performances… it’s more than just making sure our podcast is up every week.


How and why did this thing get started? How long has it been going on?

A: It all started with four of us sharing ideas for radio shows. We all had ideas but we didn’t have an outlet to express them. We had all been involved in other podcasting projects previously but none of them were the right fit for the kind of fun we wanted to have. We wanted to make serials which were funny and kitschy but also had depth of spirit and would give the audience credit for being clever.

D: We were all inspired by the possibilities of an audio-only theatrical experience, but recognized that the ideas and stories churning in our noggins wouldn’t fit within the confines of those podcasts already up and running. So, rather than attempt to wedge ourselves into something already established we decided to start something new and, hopefully, unique for our audiences. Our first show went up in September 2015 and we’ve been performing monthly ever since.


When/how/where can people get some of the thing?

A: We are active on Twitter and Facebook but the best way to see when our next show will be and to listen to the podcasts from older shows is to go to our website!

D: New episodes get posted every Thursday except for our “performance weeks”, which is when you can see us live. This month we’ve got two performances for the second month in a row, which we’re very excited about. Tuesday, Feb. 23rd you can see us at the Black Rock Pub in Chicago, IL, and Thursday, Feb. 25th we’ll be at the Fizz Bar, also in Chicago. Both shows start at 8:00 PM, though the doors open at 7:30 if you’d like to come and watch us setup the mics or something.


What thing would you do if you had all the money and time in the world right now?

A: What we have is already great and the more we do it the better its going to get. No amount of money will change that. If we had more capital I’d focus that on the website and recordings to give our internet listeners a better experience. Right now the best way to have fun with our cast is to come in person.

D: Gosh, if I had all the time and money in the world I’d be, like, solving homelessness or world hunger or something. One of the other things I love about our show is how simple it is – we don’t need big budget SFX cuz everything cool happens in the audience’s heads. However, if we’re talking specifically about improving the show with this hypothetical Trump-level wealth, I would a.) pay our cast and crew so well they wouldn’t need to worry about those gosh darn day jobs, b.) buy the fancy sound equipment we’re looking to procure down the line to make the show sound the best it possibly can (though allow me to give a shout out to Shure, Inc. for their incredibly generous donations thus far; our appreciation can’t be measured in words), and c.) hire a marketer.  We creative types do what we can but start talking to us about focus groups and demographics and business business business and my brain starts to melt.


What’s your new favorite thing that someone else has done/made?

A: I am the narrator for another podcast called Our Fair City. It is very different to Starlight Radio Dreams and the process is very different too. I recorded the last of my lines for it last month and the new seventh season comes out soon on the website!

D: Three of our company members have done some fantastic work with the podcast Our Fair City, so we always want to give our friends over them some major props for their well-deserved success (over 250,000 downloads in 2015! Go OFC!). I’ve also recently discovered the podcast Blurry Photos, an enjoyable paranormal/cryptid show hosted by two hilarious Chicago boys, both named Dave.

Oh, and last but not least YOUR BOOK On the Isle of Sound and Wonder! Looking to break into the professional author’s world myself, I’m thrilled for your success with this breakthrough novel. Seriously, it’s an awesome debut and literally everyone who’s even skimming through this should read it. And I’m not even getting paid to say this, folks.

(Aly: Oh pshhhhh Derrick you flatterer! *blush*)


Possibly the most important question… If your thing was a pie, what kind of pie would it be?

A: Something with lots of nuts but also plenty of sweetness. Is there a kind of pie where every slice is a different flavour? That is the kind of pie our project would be.

D: I’m a big fan of pecan pie, so I’m going to go with pecan. Sure, it might look weird at first and even a little hard to cut into, but then you get to that sweet, sweet filling and you’re like, “Oh, yeah… that’s the stuff!”

 (Aly:  I guess the Starlight Radio Dreams team really are a nutty bunch!)


I’m so pleased to spotlight the gang of Starlight Radio Dreams on the blog! Ansel is a pretty good friend of mine – but I know almost all of these fantastic weirdoes through the Ren Faire crowd… they’re all supremely funny, creative, and good folks to know. I can’t wait to check out the newest updates on their site – Geezerspace is pretty dang hilarious, if you ask me! Check ’em out if you’re in town, and if you aren’t, get on the site and download their audio episodes!


Slice of Pie: Alie & Micah Masterfully Explain Our Brains!

This is a blog first – our very first slice of SCIENCE PIE! Get smart, and connect with the fine folks of Neuro Transmissions to learn more about how your brain does stuff for you!

~A Slice of Pie!~

A tasty sample of something fresh cooked up by a creator of my choosing.


Who are you?

We’re Alie and Micah Caldwell, out in sunny San Diego! Alie is a graduate student of neuroscience at UCSD, while Micah is a clinical counselor. We are also the co-creators of Neuro Transmissions!

What’s your thing right now? That thing. You know. That thing over there. What is that?

Neuro Transmissions is an educational YouTube channel dedicated to breaking down basic neuroscience for a broad audience. Alie brainstorms and writes the episodes, acting as host “Alie Astrocyte”, while Micah does the filming, editing, and animating.


What do you love about this thing?

We love having the chance to work together on a project. Alie loves having the opportunity to write and talk about her favorite subject (the brain), and Micah loves getting to experiment with new equipment and editing techniques. We’ve also gotten to meet and work with a lot of really cool people doing educational YouTube work.

What do you hate about this thing?

Each video takes a long time to put together, so we’re limited in how often we can put out content (right now our schedule is a video every other Sunday), and even then meeting our deadline can be tough. It’s hard to balance the rest of our lives with our hobby!

How and why did this thing get started? How long has it been going on?

A friend knew that Micah and Alie had participated in non-science film projects before, and forwarded us a link to the Society for Neuroscience’s Brain Awareness Video Contest. Our first time entering in 2014, we won second place! That, plus Alie’s love of writing and science communication, got them thinking about the broader possibilities for exploring neuroscience through YouTube videos. We spent almost a year brainstorming and writing before officially launching Neuro Transmissions in September of 2015.

When/how/where can people get some of the thing?

Visit us at Neuro Transmissions on YouTube to see our videos; you can also find us on Twitter (Alie also has a personal account) and on WordPress, where Alie blogs about her favorite brain cells when she has the time!


Alie Astrocyte!

What thing would you do if you had all the money and time in the world right now?

Ooo, tough question. We’d purchase some new filming and audio equipment, wipe out some student loan debts, contribute some money to help some struggling friends and family, and travel. A lot. Our bucket list includes the 59 main National Parks, Sweden, Thailand, Peru, New Zealand and Iceland.

What’s your new favorite thing that someone else has done/made?

We’ve recently discovered a hilarious fantasy podcast that plays into our love of D&D. “Hello From The Magic Tavern” is a live improv podcast with the premise that the creator and host fell through a portal behind the Burger King and is now recording interviews in a tavern in a magical land in another universe.

Possibly the most important question… If your thing was a pie, what kind of pie would it be?

Probably a pecan pie – crunchy on the outside (like the skull) but soft and squishy on the inside (like your brain). We can’t vouch for the taste, though!

What (if anything) can you tell us about brains with relation to pie and/or other pastry desserts?

So, you’ve probably seen/heard some of the very dramatic, scary headlines about how “sugar is as addictive as cocaine!!!” That’s not strictly true, but it is true that sugar has significant effects on the brain. Receptors in our taste buds detect sweetness, which sends a signal to the brain. Dopamine is released in areas of the brain associated with reward, and natural opioids are released in areas associated with pleasure. So that joy you feel when biting into a lovely piece of pie is real!


Micah and Alie!

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Alie and Micah are two lovely brilliant people that I’ve known since high school! They are awful smart and their work with Neuro Transmissions has been impressive and fascinating. I highly recommend checking out their YouTube channel and learning a bit about how your ol’ noggin really works. Also they just did one to celebrate the new Star Wars movie, so check that Jedi mind trick stuff out!

Slice of Pie: M.K. Wiseman’s spicy-savory Bookminder is going to be delicious!

Behold! Another pie has appeared!

~A Slice of Pie!~

A tasty sample of something fresh cooked up by an artist of my choosing.


Who are you?

M. K. Wiseman, author. I can be found at!

M K Wiseman - promo photo



What’s your thing right now? That thing. You know. That thing over there. What is that?

That would be my debut novel, a YA historical fantasy entitled The Bookminder.



What do you love about this thing?

It’s my first novel so there’s a lot to be excited about. The project has been near and dear my heart for just over ten years now. Like most authors, I am an avid reader, and this book just ‘fits’ neatly into that ‘what I like to read’ corner . . .

What do you hate about this thing?

. . . which is terribly intimidating. Because I fear saying such things in case people think I’m off my rocker. I mean, who am I to add a book, an honest to goodness book, to the mix. The authors whom I love are rockstars! So I hate putting myself out there. (Which is only partially the fault of the book, I suppose.)

When/how/where can people read the thing?

ARC’s for The Bookminder are out now. The novel will officially release January 9, 2016 and will be available for purchase through Amazon and Barnes&Noble. (Or via special events as they are scheduled . . . At present I have planned Goodreads giveaways.) Also, we are looking to get Bookminder into libraries.

What thing would you do if you had all the money and time in the world right now?

All the time and the money? Whew . . . Okay, bear with me on this because I actually have an answer that comes to mind immediately but it’s kinda like the “you get three wishes” workaround that people try with a genie. e.g. Probably not what this question is asking.

I would work at completely eliminating world hunger and make sure that everyone has access to clean water. We are talking all the time and money, right? But that would be what I want to do with that. If I had that kind of power and means. (Note: this is not to say I’ll just sit on my thumbs in the meantime . . .)

What’s your new favorite thing that someone else has done/made?

CloudRise. A quasi-steampunk animated short that I stumbled upon earlier this year and promised I would share the heck outta because it is just gorgeous. Click to watch!


Possibly the most important question… If your thing was a pie, what kind of pie would it be?

140g | 2/3 cup dark brown sugar

90g | 1/2 cup sultanas

90g | 1/2 cup raisins

90g | 1/2 cup currants

75g | 1/2 dried cranberries

75g | 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped

2 large cooking apples, chopped into small cubes

60g | 2 oz unsalted butter, cubed

60g | 2 oz whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped

Zest and juice of 2 oranges

Zest and juice of a lemon

2 star anise

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

2 tbsp brandy (or dark rum)

2 tbsp cherry brandy


Put all the ingredients apart from the brandy into a large bowl and mix together thoroughly. Cover the bowl with a large plate and leave overnight.

Preheat the oven to 110C  | 225F. Spread the mincemeat onto a large baking tray, cover loosely with foil and cook for about 3 hours. Cool completely. The butter, which will have melted in the oven, will solidify again and make the mincemeat look a little gross… this is how it should be! Put into a large sterilised jar (or two smaller ones). Pour in the brandy. Seal and keep in a cool dry place (no need to refrigerate). If, after a few days, the mincemeat is looking a bit dry add a bit more brandy.

Brandy butter *Optional but does taste delicious smeared over a warm mince pie!

85g | 3oz unsalted butter at room temperature

85g | 3 oz icing sugar

2-3 tbsp brandy

zest of half an orange



Beat the butter and sugar together by hand using a wooden spoon (or use a mixer). Mix the zest and brandy in. Keep in the fridge for up to a week or pipe into little star shapes and keep in the freezer until you are ready to use.

When ready to use, thaw and bake in your favorite pie crust.

Vegetarian mincemeat filling recipe found through

(Note: Now, there’s a reason—other than sheer cheek—for my having shared my answer in this way. Amongst the ingredients list is an item that inspired the name of one of Bookminder’s main characters.)

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M.K. Wiseman is a fellow author whom I met through Xchyler Publishing. Her short story “The Clockwork Ballet” (based on Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera) appeared in Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology alongside my own short story “Lavenza, or the Modern Galatea.” She and I are both regular attendees of Teslacon in Madison, WI, and were the first two Xchyler Publishing authors to be located in the Midwest region. She’s a right smashing lady and owns a jackalope puppet! The more you know!