Liz McLeod talks Radio Theatre

By WRFR-LP Radio | May 08, 2022
Photo by: Strand Theatre Liz McLeod records Strand on the Air

By Ron Staschak

Interview with Liz McLeod, director and host of Strand on the Air.

What do you do at the radio station?

I write, produce, direct, and act in "The Strand On The Air," a bimonthly original radio variety show presented by the Strand Theatre. We feature original comedy sketches satirizing both the passing scene and life in a small Maine town, as well as music by fine local independent talent and our own Strand education coordinator Brittany Parker. All our actors are past or present members of the Strand's operations staff who have shown remarkable talent as radio performers.


How long have you been volunteering?

We began "Strand On The Air" as a live broadcast from the Strand stage in 2018, and once the pandemic took hold we converted to a pre-recorded program assembled remotely.


Why did you decide to volunteer/why did you want to have a show?

Before I came to the Strand in 2006, I worked in various levels of broadcasting for nearly twenty years, as a performer, a writer, a reporter, and an editor. In addition to this, I've written extensively for publication about the history of American radio, with an emphasis on the programs and techniques of the 1930s and 1940s. And I used to do, a long time ago, a standup/Maine storytelling act, in which I performed in my native dialect -- the Abysmal Point characters and settings we feature in Strand On The Air I originally created for that act over thirty years ago. We'd talked about doing some type of radio show for the Strand for years before actually deciding to do it, integrating elements of my old act, as well as a few new ideas, and it caught on!


Other than the show you host, what is your favorite show?

I always enjoy Chris Wolf's wide variety of guests.


Is there a question should have asked you?

"Is Abysmal Point a real place?" Well, it's based on people and situations I knew growing up in a small coastal town not far from here. Of course it's a comic exaggeration, but anyone who knew that town then knows that it's not all that *much* of an exaggeration. All the characters have definite antecedents in real life.


As a writer would you consider yourself very creative or the beneficiary of a diverse life?

I think as a writer, I'm more of an observer -- I don't so much make up stories as I do observe the characters I've got and chronicle what they do. Because they owe so much to actual people, I feel like I all I have to do is give them a situation, and then just write down how they react to it. I often have no idea how a sketch is going to turn out when I come up with the premise -- as I write out the dialogue, I find that Mrs. Grunden and Lilita and Gertie and Edith will all react to that premise according to their own specific personalities, and all there is for me to do is put it all down in a script.  I think the lesson for any writer is that if you think of your characters as real, if you know who they really are, they'll do the work for you!


In your opinion what qualities make a writer successful?

Don't just write what you want to write. Write what you *don't* want to write. I spent years writing anything anyone would pay me to write -- advertising copy, news stories about sewer committees, corporate press releases, you name it. None of that stuff inspired me at all, I never looked at any of it and said "boy, I'm glad I wrote THAT, you betcha!" But turning out all that stuff for all the years that I did -- thousands and thousands and thousands of pages of it, day after day after day -- I got so that the process of writing ceased to be an obstacle to expressing whatever it was that I had to say. I don't puzzle over words, or wrangle paragraphs anymore. It just happens, because I'm used to doing it. I could give you fifteen hundred words, right now, on a topic that I care absolutely nothing about, as long as the check clears -- and being able to do that makes it that much more rewarding to write what it is that I *do* care about. Don't talk about writing, don't think about writing, don't go to school to study writing. All you have to do is WRITE.

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