by Chris Davis
Dead and Gone, a Chatterbox audio theater adaptation James Joyce's The Dead airs on WKNO FM 91.1, Tuesday, July 21 at 7 p.m. Robert Arnold, Chatterbox's Executive Director has moved Joyce's novella-length epiphany from 1904 Dublin, Ireland to post-reconstruction Memphis. Now he has some explaining to do.
Intermission Impossible: Why adapt The Dead to Memphis? I mean, would you ever consider adapting John Grisham novels for Irish radio?
Robert Arnold: Already in the works. It will be called "The Leprechaun Brief." I'm hoping you'll sign on to direct, since I know you have experience with shows about underpants.
The Dead is a story I've always loved, and I very much wanted to dramatize it for Chatterbox. But it's not just set in Dublin — it's inherently tied to Dublin. Dublin is in the story's blood. It would be tough for us, here in Memphis, to do justice to a straightforward adaptation. But, like Ireland, Memphis was in a time of transition in 1905. The Old South was still clinging to life, but the world was moving on. It was painful and turbulent and it mirrored some of the Nationalist/Loyalist tension in Ireland at the time. There were enough parallels that I started thinking we could transplant it without losing the sense of place that's so important to the story.
WKNO seems to have taken a shine to Chatterbox. Are we going to be seeing even more joint efforts in the future?
Yes, I hope so. The folks at WKNO are great. We're putting together another Halloween show for them this year, and we're talking about other projects as well. Of course, we can't air everything we do — a lot of our shows would run afoul of FCC regulations, and would have terrible effects like causing children to murder one another. Which is why we're based online. But any time we get a chance to be on the radio, we're going to take it — it opens us up to a whole new audience. Plus it's just fun to hear Chatterbox shows coming in over the airwaves.
You can do a better Southern accent that the one in those promo spots, right?
Davis, you scalawag. That's how I really talk. And that's why I don't appear in the show. We decided it was just too real.