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S t a g e L I F E

The Shadow Knows

For playwright Devin DiMattia of the sketch comedy group Pineapple-Shaped Lamps, vintage radio is a major source of inspiration

“It’s something I was always kind of fascinated by as a child — being nostalgic for a time you weren’t even around for,” Devin DiMattia says as he explains his interest in old-time radio. As creator of “The Crimson Shadow” for the sketch comedy group Pineapple-Shaped Lamps (PSL), it is an obvious topic to inquire about. How did a sketch about 1930s radio drama make it into a hip, modern sketch comedy show with references to Joss Whedon, Saturday Night Live and My Little Pony? DiMattia’s “Crimson Shadow” is a lovely (and very funny) homage to Lamont Cranston’s “The Shadow” radio program about a vigilante crime fighter (Orson Welles voices some of the episodes). But DiMattia’s creation includes the behind-the-scenes drama between the actors and management as much as the on-air script. Life is much

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Salt • May 2016

harder for “The Shadow” off-air with losing his girlfriend to the Foley artist and finding himself under the thumb of small-minded management. Compared to that, crime fighting is a breeze. DiMattia admits that he owes a lot to Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion.

“I had a unique upbringing when it came to radio,” DiMattia comments. “The Greensboro Library had Orson Welles’ original radio broadcast of the ‘War of the Worlds’ — and Welles did that thing where it tricked you that it was happening right now.” That intrigued DiMattia, but in the way that an eighttrack tape is interesting: something from the past. That changed with a trip to LA. “We had been doing PSL for about a year — and then me and my brother, Andy, flew to LA to spend a week.” One of their destinations was to see “The Thrilling Adventure Hour,” a monthly stage show and podcast at The Largo, a nightclub in the old Coronet Theatre. “It was basically an homage to old-timey radio serials — but it was a who’s who of LA comedians and voice actors,” DiMattia notes. Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Serenity), Josh Malina (West Wing, Sports Night and Scandal), and Busy Philipps (Freaks and Geeks, Dawson’s Creek) are part of the main cast. Guest stars have included Adam Baldwin, Jen Kirkman, Neil Patrick Harris, Nick Offerman, Patton Oswalt, Jon Hamm, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julia Duffy, Lake Bell, Dick Cavett, Ed Helms, Weird Al Yankovic, Wil Wheaton, and Emily Blunt, to name but a very few. “John Hodgman — he was there to see it — it appealed to The Art & Soul of Wilmington

Photograph by Mark Steelman

By Gwenyfar Rohler

May Salt 2016  

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

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