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The TEMP: an origin story

by Michael Wilhelm

“You’ll never work in this town again.”

That’s what they tell you in Hollywood if you don’t quite live up to their expectations.  The truth is, there are all sorts of interesting jobs in that town.  An out-of-work actor should have no trouble at all finding work to keep the lights on and food on the table as he pursues a career as an actor. Such was my story.  While I was studying the fine art of acting, running off to auditions as well as chasing down agents, I was signed up with several temporary agencies; I was sent out on a slew of temporary assignments. 

It was a very interesting endeavor. I was welcomed into the secret offices of Universal Studios. I gave tours at the Avon Corporation. I became the personal assistant to the head of the California branch of GameWorks– a division of DreamWorks. I even taught traffic school.  Through all of this activity, I kept thinking that this would be a wonderful premise for a TV show, something akin to The Fugitive. ‘He toils at many jobs’ was even the tag line of that archaic television series.

I harbored this idea for decades.  Alas, in moving my family back to Fort Wayne from the Golden State I resigned myself to the fact that this was never going to come to pass.  There is no major TV production done in the Fort Wayne area, so that was that. . . until.  I was loaned a set of CDs of a BBC audio comedy to listen to on a road trip.  As I listened to this radio sitcom the idea hit me like a bolt:  Do The TEMP as an audio comedy!  I had always had an affection for radio drama. I grew up listening to The CBS Radio Mystery Theater, and the master works of Stan Freberg, as well as collecting hundreds of old time radio shows on cassette tape.

In a fever of inspiration, and drawing from my many years of temping, I typed out three scripts and sent them out to a number of creative people I knew through my association with all for One.  It was Lauren Nichols, the artistic director, who responded by saying we should do this.  She suggested that we stage it live at a coffee shop. Who was I to disagree?

The Sharing Peace Café, in the basement of Peace Lutheran Church, was the birthplace of this dramatic throwback to the golden days of radio.  Lauren worked with cafe manager Rose Murphy, and we set up a date to record the first three episodes of The TEMP.  Our volunteer production engineer, right from the start, was the master genius we know as Scott Kump.  To this day when he explains how he wants to set the mics and the sound effects tables, it makes my head spin.  I may come up with the blue prints of each episode with my scripts, but it is Scott Kump who builds it and makes it fly.  It has been a massive learning curve for Scott to develop the production quality that we have now.  (It’s interesting now to listen to our earlier episodes and notice not only how relatively simply they were done, but how Scott kept building on each one, adding music and post-production effects along the way.) 

In a setting very reminiscent of the old Jack Benny program or Fibber McGee and Molly, we perform our episodes in front of a live audience.  The laughter you hear on each episode is genuine; no laugh tracks are used in the production of our show.  We have even drawn our audience into episodes by letting them contribute sound effects.  Over the years we have tried various performance venues, but when all was said and done we came back to the Sharing Peace Cafe.  It’s an intimate setting where the performers are practically on your lap and you can witness the magic of the sound effects table.

We had no idea what the results would be of posting our little production online as a podcast.  It has been amazing! We have literally been heard around the world.  There are parts of Great Britain that follow us over and over again.  We’ve even been heard in Russia, Japan, Sweden, and Africa–just to name a few.  We have been featured on the Sonic Society, an organization that celebrates and promotes audio drama.  We have received awards from the Hear Now Audio Fiction and Arts Festival, and we were recently featured in the Clean Fiction Magazine.

You can listen to each episode of the series on just about any podcast platform.  Do yourself a favor and check out the seventeen episodes we have posted. Then treat yourself to a live broadcast coming up this Saturday, September 9, 2023 at 7:00 PM. Sharing Peace Cafe, located at 4900 Fairfield Avenue, Fort Wayne, 46807, opens at 6:30 for your drink orders! 

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