“Oh, Kiddo!” – Remembering Nan

“Now tell us your name.”

“My name is Alyson Grauer.”


I stand still, watching Nan peer thoughtfully at me behind her owlish glasses. My classmates are silent, listening, watching. I know I’m not supposed to feel nervous, but being on the spot in front of Nan is inherently an intense place to be. This is freshman year of being a theatre major at Loyola University of Chicago, in Voice & Diction class with Nan Withers-Wilson, and I am very nervous. I have never liked my speaking voice – I’ve only just become fond of my singing voice, and I feel very worried that I won’t be able to get through this.

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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!


Disney Odyssey #9 – Beanstalks & Bear Cubs: The Late 40’s Were Weird

Tonight’s Fun and Fancy (but totally not free) dinner fixins include steak sandwiches lovingly hand-crafted by the Fella (!!!) and the last of the Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer. I’m sorry there’s been such a lag between Disney Odyssey posts, but the renaissance faire happened, and so did some very important family birthdays/reunions and whatnot… and there’s so much going on wedding-planning-wise that we’ve not been able to get through these last few package films in the 1940’s. Once we do, we will be in the 1950’s and start the “golden age” of Disney animated features… Hooray! Fun and Fancy Free should be… well… fun! After all, there’s only two segments, rather than the scattered roller coaster ride that was Make Mine Music. We’ll see how this one holds up!

The Film: Fun and Fancy Free (1947)

The Facts:

  • This is the last film in which Walt Disney provides the voice of Mickey Mouse (which he had done since Mickey’s debut in 1928). Afterwards, he replaced himself with SFX artist Jimmy MacDonald.
  • This is another “package film” – films Disney released that are comprised of smaller segments rather than one big story. The war affected production in so many ways: scheduling, budget, interest/demand, etc. so the company lumped smaller ideas together to release them at one time. The film’s two segments, “Bongo” and “Mickey and the Beanstalk” were originally intended to be two separate feature-length films.
  •  There were several treatments of the Jack and the Beanstalk segment, but many scenes were tried and deleted in production; the end result does not address how precisely Mickey acquires the magic beans.
  • The “Bongo” segment is based on a short story by Sinclair Lewis for Cosmopolitan magazine in 1930. Original pitches had indicated that they would use “Bongo” as a prequel to Dumbo, but those ideas never quite got off the ground (unlike Dumbo, who can, in fact, fly).
  • The segments are introduced by contemporary celebrities Edgar Bergen and Dinah Shore in order to boost enthusiasm and interest for the film. Edgar Bergen was a radio performer, actor and comedian known for his skillful ventriloquism, especially with his cheeky boyish character Charlie McCarthy. Dinah Shore was a popular singer and actress of the time.
  • Fun and Fancy Free was released in September of 1947, and received a decent box office reception. It helped finance later films such as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan.
  • There’s an introductory appearance by Jiminy Cricket, the first of many later appearances he would make in other films and TV specials after Pinocchio to educate, entertain, and introduce the feature at hand.

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