I have, as they say, a face made for radio. I also have a voice made for silent movies.
Last Friday, the writers group I belong to, the Kenosha Writers Guild (KWG), taped the first installment of what will be a monthly show on WGTD 91.1, Hi-Def channel 3. The program is intended as a vehicle to showcase the members and their work. It is being produced by a pair of talented and experienced radio veterans, and they have added an impressive touch of quality and professionalism to the program. The program will be hosted by Chris Deguire, KWG writer and professor at Columbia College of Chicago. In addition to being a tremendously talented writer, Chris has enough experience hosting conferences and workshops to make him a natural to host our show. So everything was planned, and eight of us submitted short pieces of prose or poetry to read as part of our first episode.
One of the most noticeable symptoms of my instance of Parkinson’s Disease is my impaired speech. At worst, my voice is soft and slurred with frequent cases of stuttering and stammering. A side effect of the Deep Brain Stimulation I underwent last year has been, when the nuero transmitters are set to achieve higher benefit, an exacerbation of these speech issues. Early this spring, under the guidance of my speech therapist, Dr. Norma Villegas, I went thru Lee Silverman Voice Therapy. In the days before the studio session, using the techniques Dr. Villegas taught me, I rehearsed my reading several times, recording my efforts in a little hand held device I had purchased a few months ago. I did pretty well and improved with each reading. These practice sessions coupled with my temporarily turning down the voltages sent by my neuro transmitter left me feeling pretty comfortable and confident as we went in to the studio.
Then we are in the studio, the producers are radio theatre veterans with disgustingly smooth radio voices, and Chris is the host. I’m the first to read, and he introduces me and conducts a short introductory interview, in which he lobs me simple questions. Instantly my mouth is stuck and I stutter and stammer some nonsensical responses, sounding like a lobotomized Mel Tillis. Panicky and anxious, I somehow make it thru the brief interview. Then it’s time to read and I relax. I think I did pretty well. The producers assured me they can clean up my incoherent babblings with the magic of editing.
The other KWG writers who read their pieces did spectacularly well, and I look forward to the finished project airing – it is going to reveal the extraordinary talent and range of our little group. The first session alone includes memoirs of growing up in Europe in the early 1940s, hysterically funny essays about controlling the thoughts of potatoes and encounters with Santa Claus, poetry, and insightful and moving essays about the boomer generation and turning 60 years old. And I got to be a part of it! We all had a great time, and we look forward to the next installment.
I’m proud and grateful to be a member of the KWG. I have to extend a sincere thanks to Dr. Villegas and my neurologist, Dr. Zadikoff, who has programmed my neuro transmitter in such a way as to give me the freedom to dial down the voltage when I need to engage in public speaking. The ability to clearly communicate is one of the many wonderful things that I no longer take for granted.