On the occasion of the World Premier of Glenn McQuaid’s new Tale From Beyond The Pale, “Die Sleeping My Sweet” The Pale Men have a chat about the project’s origins. Accompanying art are alternative poster designs by Tales regular Brian Level.
LARRY FESSENDEN: Glenn, This is such a remarkable story you’ve written. Can you tell us about how the idea came to you?
GLENN McQUAID: The initial idea came to me when I read an article about a doctor who was able to communicate with a comatose patient in basically the same way as I demonstrate in the piece, right down to the use of the imagination of playing tennis as a means to trigger a yes response. It all seemed like such an interesting set-up and something that would work well within the audio drama format, I especially wanted to perform Die Sleeping my Sweet live as the foley is particularly physical and I think the audience really enjoy seeing our foley artists at work.
LF: Isn’t it true that even as we do audio plays, there is a mischievous awareness that we are putting on a live show that we want to be unique for the audience witnessing this one-time-only event. (we restrained ourselves for reasons of safety I think: “It’s always fun till someone loses an eye” as mother used to say.)
GMcQ: I remember wanting Chris Skotchdopole to whack the tennis balls into the audience with all his might, and basically everyone on stage, including my tennis-playing husband, Lee Nussbaum, who handles our sound recording, advising me that that was not one of my brighter ideas. I still think it’d have been hilarious for the audience to be getting hit by the tennis balls that were integral to the story telling.
LF: You have managed to hit a really great tone with this Tale. Can you speak about your influences.
GMcQ: Thanks, I love the tone too. There’s an aspect of the piece that’s inspired by classic late-night soap operas like Dynasty, Dallas and Falcon Crest, I wanted to have fun with the melodrama and lean into the exposition in the way those shows did. Exposition gets a bad wrap but I think it can be fun and ridiculous and ultimately its own art form. There’s also an element of noir to the piece, in that sense I think Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train is an influence. It’s always fun to tap into other art that speaks to you but I’m also keen to transcend those influences and let my work become its own odd thing, that’s where the magic’s at. I am a big fan of Anna Biller’s The Love Witch which clearly taps into a certain style of vintage Hollywood flair and ham but Biller uses those tropes and subverts them in really subtle and powerful ways, she produced a piece of film that moved past homage and became something new and exciting, its own wild thing.
LF: You have often said this Tale and two others form a loose trilogy (The Crush and Cedar Lake). Talk a bit about what you mean. How do you see them connected…?
GMcQ: I suppose the real connection is the ongoing punishment of John Speredakos! John is a terrific actor that I love to put through the ringer. In all three stories he plays the good natured, well meaning husband to a wife that’s ready to wring his neck for various reasons. All three pieces are inspired by EC Comics CrimeSuspense Stories, many of which start off as relationship dramas that turn ugly fast once greed, jealousy or even sheer irrational-meanness enter the picture. I like that within Tales we now have bodies of work that pool together, for instance, I think Reappraisal is of the same universe as Speaking in Tongues, similarly I sense a kinship with Who Killed Johnny Bernard and The Hole Digger.
LF: We put these shows on with almost no rehearsal, usually one read through on the day of the performance. Can you tell us about your cast: those who are familiar players and working with new members of the ensemble.
GMcQ: Well, as mentioned, I love working with John Speredakos, our relationship goes all the way back to I Sell the Dead and it’s always interesting to have him around for projects, he’s very passionate and there’s sort of a short hand between us now where I’m not having to over-explain anything. Matthew Stephen Huffman is another actor I love, he plays Antonio’s closeted lover Frank and he brings so much charm and depth to his work that it’s alway a pleasure to have him on board, Matt is also in The Crush and The Ripple at Cedar Lake, so I guess he’s another tie that binds. This was my first time working with Caprice Benedetti who plays Claudia, she was an absolute pleasure to have on stage and was really down for having fun with our short rehearsal period. I had seen Caprice in my friend Ana Asensio’s movie, Most Beautiful Island, so I was excited to collaborate with her. Juan Carlos Hernandez brought a lot of kindness and fun to the character of Antonio, similarly Teresa Kelsey who plays Dr. Peterson added a pathos and almost maternal warmth to her character that was a nice surprise to watch happen, I think she’s a wonderful actor.
LF: Even though these shows are performed live, it is fair to admit we do some editing and shaping in post-production before presenting them to our home listeners. Care to talk about the journey this tale took from performance to final mix.
GMcQ: We individually mic all actors and musicians on stage and a lot of the time the foley table has about four or five close-range mics on it, and so, often we end up with fourteen or fifteen separate channels to clean up in the post process. It can be quite daunting when one firsts opens the sessions, memories of the live performance need to take a back seat as we’re presented with the reality of the cold hard recordings, and so the work must almost start over. Each channel must be cleaned up to avoid spill from other sources, I will edit out any of the recording that is not “hot”– the silence between dialogue, non-perforamce breaths and so on. Once everything is cleaned up we can then go in and tweak the content if needed, edit the timeline and add additional sounds if we feel that kind of embellishment is favorable. We’re lucky that we have people like John Moros on our side, who adds a lot of professionalism and artistry to our post process. We’re nothing without the incredible team we’ve dragged with us Beyond the Pale! It has become such a rich, wild tapestry of craft, this mad project of ours.
Lincoln Center, 2 August 2019: Jack Fessenden, Caprice Benedetti, Matthew Stephen Huffman,
Juan Carlos Hernandez, John Speredakos, Glenn McQuaid, Teresa Kelsey