Interview with Audio Dramatist, Pete Lutz
PETE LUTZ was never quite sure what he wanted to do with his life, and he’s made it nearly to age 59 with that decision still unmade.
In the meantime he’s been married thrice (3rd time’s a charm, tho), served 20 years in the U.S. Navy, traveled around the globe a few times (thanks to aforementioned USN), raised three kids, and worked in various jobs: paper boy, field hand, newspaper reporter, photographer, clerk/typist, fire fighter, welder, instructor, recruiter, customer service representative, and leader of men.
All of these things brought in an appropriate amount of money, but very little personal satisfaction. For that, Pete turned to audio dramas. Since 2013 he’s written more than a hundred scripts and produced nearly a hundred audio dramas; in addition to which he’s lent his considerable voice talents to several hundred audio dramas produced by others.
Pete says that since he came late to the podcasting table, he has a lot of catching up to do, and he who dies with the most completed episodes wins.
What was the first movie/TV show you remember seeing?
The first TV show I definitely remember seeing was Dark Shadows. It scared me to death, I used to hide around the doorway and peek in at the TV from the next room.
What has been the most influential to you? What TV show or movie?
It’s hard to say what’s the most influential, but if I had to guess, for TV, it’d be Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It definitely influenced both my humor and my Anglophilia. I started watching it at about age 12.
What book or movie did you enjoy that not many people would think you’d like?
What got you into doing Audio Dramas?
I’d had a dream since childhood that I’d one day own my own radio station and create radio dramas for people to enjoy. It was an easy thing to dream, a hard thing to realize. I’m thankful for podcasting for allowing me a way to make the dream come true—but I came late to the table, not starting until after I’d turned 50. It took a few years for me to realize that podcasting wasn’t only a couple guys just sitting around talking about stupid stuff.
Do you think your environment, where you live, has an effect on type of art you create?
I don’t think my present environment does, but the different places I lived during my naval career have influenced my writing.
Is it easier for you to create if given an assignment or does it get in the way of your creativity?
That’s hard to say as I normally don’t get assignments. Mark Slade asked me to contribute a script to one of his series about four years ago, and I had the outline done that same day and the script finished by the next day—but I’m sure that was just a fluke. Other than that it’s just me alone, coming up with the next play.
What are your methods creating a script and an audio drama?
Over the past few years I’ve developed one way to create an original script, and another way to create an adaptation of someone else’s story. For the original plays, the germ of an idea comes into my head, and if I’m smart, I write it down in one of several notebooks I keep handy—otherwise, if I say to myself, “Oh, I’ll write that down later” it’s guaranteed I’ll forget it. Once the idea is jotted down, I set it aside, because I’m usually working on something else at the time. When I come back to it, I find that my subconscious has filled in some additional details in the meantime. I then write an outline, usually several numbered paragraphs to map out the skeleton of the story. If at this time I think of actual dialogue, I’ll write that down. If other details that can enhance the story come to me, down they go as well. Once the outline is written, I may not necessarily move on immediately to the writing of the play. I’ve got five or six such outlines waiting for me currently, but they’ll eventually get written.
As for adaptations, I’ll more often than not find the story on the internet, like a scan of an old pulp magazine. I print out the story and carry it around with me for a few days, reading and re-reading it. The whole time, I’m reconfiguring it in my mind, making decisions on how the story can best be presented, deciding if new characters need to be inserted to make the story move better, and so on. I’ll use the margins of the printed pages to jot down notes in this regard, and indicate where music and sound effects can be added. I’ll also cross out sections of the story that would make the play too long, or would bog it down in too much detail. This printed story with marginal notes becomes the outline from which the play gets written. One adaptation I’m particularly proud of ended up with all of the story’s scenes appearing in a different order from the original, and with the end at the beginning so it could be told in a series of flashbacks and “found footage.”
What have you written that you are most proud of?
I’m waiting to be “most proud of” a script I haven’t written yet; but among my collected works, I’m very proud of my original Western serial, Jake Dimes, Range Detective, both the story/scripts and the produced episodes; and proud of the first season of The Cellar, which just closed out. What I love best about The Cellar is the premise: it’s an anthology series, but all of the episodes are tied together by the host, Cadavera Quivry, who welcomes the listeners into the Cellar, and catches them up on her latest doings—usually something creepy or gruesome—then introduces the story, and comes back at the end to wind things up. Each of these opening/closing vignettes is like a mini sitcom and took a great deal of imagination to create a different situation for each episode.
What was the oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to do in your acting or audio career?
A few years ago I played Monsieur Dindon in a local production of La Cage Aux Folles, and had to dress up in a white Marilyn Monroe-style dress and blonde wig for the final scene. Not a pretty sight!
What projects are you working on now?
My most pressing project is producing my entries for the 2021 Sonic Summerstock Playhouse. This is my seventh year participating—Sonic Summerstock is an annual event hosted by Jack Ward’s Sonic Society podcast, in which modern-day audio producers gather actors and musicians together and remake classic shows from the days of Old-Time Radio. No holds are barred as to interpretation—it’s the creator’s own stamp they’re putting on these remakes.
This year my troupe will be presenting Lux Radio Theatre’s Algiers, from the 1938 film; and an adaptation of that classic play, Inherit the Wind, which is a lost episode from a forgotten radio series. My “interpretation” is changing or cutting out the original commercials, and adding dialog from the original screenplay.
What else? I’ve already got season two of The Cellar written and cast, and am encouraging actors to start recording tracks and send them to me. Finally, I should not fail to mention that four remaining episodes are yet to be produced in that other audio series, Adventures of the Federated Tec—adapted from Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op tales that have moved into the public domain—which I co-created with Mark Slade.