Matthew Ivan Bennett on creating RADIO HOUR EPISODE 7: SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE BLUE CARBUNCLE

Matthew Ivan Bennett

Matthew Ivan Bennett

Matthew Ivan Bennett has premiered RADIO HOUR: LAVENDER & EXILE, RADIO HOUR: FRANKENSTEIN, BLOCK 8, DI ESPERIENZA, RADIO HOUR: ALICE and MESA VERDE with Plan-B Theatre Company.  His play ERIC(A) is also part of the 2012/13 season.

Like a lot of kids, I was introduced to radio theatre on family trips. My parents liked to tune into AM radio on long drives and from the back of the station wagon I heard sketch comedy like Nichols and May. Once, on the last day of school in the seventh grade, I think, our administration played Abbot and Costello’s WHO’S ON FIRST? over the PA system and I became obsessed with the sketch. My dad, it turned out, had it on cassette tape (along with THE SHADOW) and at one time I had a long chunk of it memorized. My cousin Nate and I even recorded our own radio shows using a little gray boom box. I vividly remember recording myself one morning after a sleepover saying, “I slept with my socks on last night!” and then laughing hysterically. That was my younger self’s version of a joke. My cousin and I listened to that “joke” over and over.

When I was in high school drama, I thought, “I want to be a radio actor.” I told my teacher Russ Johnson and he kindly informed me that there weren’t many radio actors anymore. I was a weird mixture of insecure and confident as a teenaged theatre person: I could act with my voice, but not the rest of my body. So I wanted to do radio. Once I got into college, though, my insecurities relaxed and I forgot about radio for a while – until I heard my first Plan-B Radio Hour in 2005 (RADIO HOUR: POE adapted by Cheryl Cluff) on KUER!  I wanted to be a part of it instantly and soon got a chance by adapting Utah ghost stories for the radio in 2007.

I never read Sherlock Holmes until a year or so after high school. I began with the SIGN OF FOUR and then devoured everything. I saw television versions of the Holmes character when I was kid, and grew up well aware of the archetype of Holmes, but I don’t think I would’ve appreciated the stories themselves until I was 20. I love Holmes, and the stories, because I value logic a lot in my life. I work in a profession where intellectualism can really interfere with your work, but throughout my life I’ve gravitated toward a view that analysis and logic are entirely different. The (analytical) part of our mind that’s always parsing, always chopping up words and experiences, that part, I think, is an inborn neurological feature. Logic, however, is a difficult and rare mental path whereby you commit yourself to thinking in a way that’s complete, consistent, to-the-point and as accurate as possible. Humans are innately capable of logic, but it’s still a *learned* ability – you have to work hard at it.

Holmes doesn’t entirely rely on logic; he does follow (informed) hunches – but without his commitment to observation and a brand of thinking that’s complete, carefully consistent, etc., he wouldn’t be able to do what he does. He’s a hero to me in that he shows how simple observation and reasoning can unwind our toughest problems. Well, I can’t reason as well as Holmes, but reading the stories I feel like I can. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did seriously inspire me to investigate logic and learn the common pitfalls of human thought.

What grabs me about THE BLUE CARBUNCLE is that it’s a tale of forgiveness. Holmes lets the criminal go! It’s less black-and-white than many of the stories because the criminal isn’t clearly a bad man, just a regular guy who’s tempted by the possibility of instant great wealth.

Matthew Ivan Bennett’s RADIO HOUR EPISODE 7: SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE BLUE CARBUNCLE, featuring Bill Allred, Doug Fabrizio, Jay Perry & Jason Tatom and directed by Cheryl Cluff, opens Plan-B’s 2012/13 season on December 18 – click here for details and subscription information!

Jason Tatom on being the RADIO HOUR newbie
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