- Elizabeth LaPrelle and Anna Roberts-Gevalt.
Back in March of this year I was invited to be a player and writer in the live Floyd Radio Show which was to and in fact did take place on the stage of Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg, WV.
The radio show itself originated in Floyd, Virginia, at the historic Floyd Country Store. The store itself was already a haven for live folk music on the weekends. The way I heard the story, musicians Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle were already regulars there when the owners approached them with the idea of them hosting a live show there in the style of an old time country radio program, bringing the music and traditions of Appalachia to a much wider audience. This would be streamed live during the show itself and recorded for posterity and podcastability down the line. They had never done anything like that before but said “sure” all the same. In addition to music, though, the ladies and a rotating number of co-writers began crafting fake commercials and comedy sketches that would pop up throughout the show, acted by members of the bands featured on the show and themselves.
The Floyd Radio Show live from the Floyd Country Store
Eventually the ladies took the show on a tour to other towns in other states, which is how it came to Lewisburg. Since they weren’t able to travel with bands, the show invited regional performers to come and be a part of the show in its new locations, and sought out local folks to help brainstorm and help write sketches for the show itself. From what I understand, they were given the name of Josh Baldwin, editor and publisher of the Greenbrier Valley Quarterly, a publication for which I occasionally write. He in turn sent them my name as a writer/performer. And so on the evening of March 25, I was invited to what turned out to be an Algonquin Roundtable of local Greenbrier County types, whose brains the ladies wanted to pick for local history and stories that might be fuel for the show.
- Interior bar of the former Masonic lodge, now turned semi-private performance space.
We met on the top floor of what used to be a Masonic Temple on Court Street in Lewisburg, but which is now a private bar/performance space. (For about five minutes, it was a public bar/performance space until some fire code issues nixed it.) I’d only heard of there being such a space on the third floor of the former lodge. I’d never actually seen how cool it is. It has a bar with pool tables, comfy seating and a stage area for performances. We all sat around the bar and gnoshed on pizza and beer and shot the shit for three hours or so, regaling the ladies with tales of local legends and Lewisburg luminaries. There were probably a core group of 12 of us at first, but maybe 25 people filtered through during the evening to share stories and their take on stories. I only knew a handful of the people assembled. It was fascinating to be a part of, though, because I also only knew about a quarter of the stories and history being discussed, so it was a real education for me, too. The ladies took great notes.
I was invited to help write the script for the show and chose a couple of topics from their brainstorming notes to tackle. The ladies gave me access to their Google Doc for the script and I was given free reign to punch up or edit any material there, just as I invited them to alter my material however they saw fit. Most of my writing was done during rehearsals for The Skin of Our Teeth at the Greenbrier Valley Theatre, which occasionally caused issues when I was late for my cues because I was in the lobby writing. The ladies were great in their edits of the stuff I wrote. They knew what would work for their audience and what would not. They also altered the script somewhat to take advantage of some classic radio Foley equipment they had borrowed from the Greenbrier Valley Theatre, finding ways to incorporate it into the show. After several more drafts of the script, we finally assembled on the afternoon of the show itself to do a full cast readthrough. Many of the performers of the night were readers in the sketches, which were assigned as we read. I got to do a number of voices as well. A schedule of music was posted with sketches layered in between.
What truly astounded me about the program, though, was how calm Elizabeth and Anna were in the face of a show that was kind of assembled and edited on the fly. They did not appear nervous in the slightest even though they were working with a number of people who were not performers for an evening of entertainment that could go any number of directions. And while most of the rest of us had the scripts in hand, providing a net for our high wire act, they did a good bit of unscripted material during the show. They were also great at making adjustments to the intended script both before and during the show itself, as they jettisoned two or three written bits along the way for time consideration.
The stage was set up with eight mics on stands, as well as a number of sofas and chairs in which performers could sit and watch the show from the stage itself. The show’s producer and stage manager was on top of things, too, as far as alerting the players in the sketches as to when they were supposed to step out. When it came time, we just went to the most convenient mic and did our thing. It was all very relaxed and the ladies kept the show always moving forward at a nice pace.
What was really fun to experience was the green room, where the musicians who played throughout the show tuned up via impromptu jam sessions. They really seemed to enjoy it and it was a pleasure to watch. The other thing that you’ll not be able to enjoy as a podcast listener, but for which I got a front row seat for, was Elizabeth LaPrelle’s dancing. She does a traditional Appalachian step dance which is impressive. I just happened to be hanging out in the wings of the far side of the Carnegie stage when she stepped within four feet of me and began dancing in time to the music. You can likely hear it in the recording, but it was really cool to see. It was a window on a traditional part of Appalachian culture that your average West Virginian just doesn’t get to witness very often these days. The whole evening was a terrific night’s entertainment. My wife says it was among her favorite things to have seen me perform in.
My one regret is that I did not have A Consternation of Monsters finalized as a title at that point. The collection itself was already assembled and undergoing last minute editing, but the title I had chosen for it at that point, Ten Monsters Walking, just didn’t feel like the final title to me and I was hesitant to promote it by anything other than its final name.
That was all back on March 27. Why, you might ask, has it taken so long for the show to be released as a podcast? Well, I don’t know the particulars, but I expect it’s because the Floyd Radio Show is a monthly event and is typically released as a podcast on a monthly schedule. Doing a few road shows in a row, as they did, allowed them to bank a few shows that can be slotted in between the podcasts of their Floyd-based shows.
You can find Part 1 of the two part podcast, at the Floyd Radio Show site. And you can find Part 2 HERE.
I think for the time being I’ll keep it a secret as to which bits of the show I had a hand in writing. I got to perform in quite a bit of the show, but my performances are not limited to the things I wrote, nor did I perform in all of the things I had a hand in scripting. So far people who saw the show live who’ve made guesses as to what I helped write have mostly gotten it wrong, though. which I guess attests to how close to the show’s sense of humor mine may be. Elizabeth and Anna were delights to work with. I’d do it again in a second.