Season 1, Episode 2

Nestled between the pines and the ocean, and tucked away from any major metropolis, is Milford-Haven, an artists’ retreat, an outdoorsman’s haven, a tourist’s dream, and for some, just home town U.S.A. Hardly the spot for a hot bed of controversy, … or is it?

— The Narrator

Imagine a bird’s eye view of California’s beautiful Central Coast, then imagine floating down closer and closer to Main Street. This is the visual function of the Narrator’s Introduction, which orients listeners each week.

But no sooner has he given us this lovely setting, than he mentions controversy—with tongue firmly in cheek. What? Controversy in this idyllic little town? Oh, just wait till you see . . . or rather hear . . . what’s in store!

As we begin to “Discover” more about our little town, we catch up with Samantha Hugo and Jack Sawyer, and tune in to their ongoing feud. Is it professional? Is it person? Yes!

In the 1990s, when our tale was set, the Build versus No-Build argument was both national and heated. The environmental movement was in full swing, as new scientific revelations continued to hit the news. But so, too, was a movement toward innovation and financial success, a sense that our resources were as limitless as our ambitions.

Jack Sawyer, powerfully performed by radio drama veteran actor Lloyd Bautista, was as famous for his gruff, tough voice as he was for his belligerent attitude. He bossed around his loyal employee Kevin. And he went on a verbal attack against his arch enemy Samantha Hugo every chance he got.

Samantha Hugo, beautifully performed by veteran voice actor Sally Rainer, is every bit Jack’s equal, as the tall, gorgeous redheaded PhD Director of the Environmental Planning Commission. At the time, no such job existed in the real world, but Milford-Haven was always ahead of the curve.

Here are two backstage stories about our show and its remarkable actors. Milford-Haven began on KOTR, the small, local radio station in Cambria, California. When I was first writing the scripts I created characters for two local luminaries. One was Elaine Traxel, a tall, gorgeous redhead. Sound familiar? When we met, she and her husband had just retired from decades-long careers in the film business with hundreds of credits. Now they were serving on every local board and creating a fantastic new chapter of lives in their favorite town. Elaine’s wit and worldly wisdom became the foundational elements of her character, and her voice carried both the warmth and authority of Samantha as we recorded her scenes.

The other was Jim Buckley, a local legend. After a stunning career in set design for film (think of Gloria Swanson’s boudoir in Sunset Boulevard), he retired with his wife in Cambria, and they bought a Main Street building which they immediately transformed into the Pewter Plough Playhouse. It was Jim who hired me, and my co-star Christopher Law, to perform Sea Marks at the Playhouse, and that summer of living in Cambria is what sparked Milford-Haven. Jim had a larger-than-life personality, both on and off stage. As do many good actors, he delighted at the notion of playing a somewhat nefarious character who could also charm the pants off his opponents. I wrote the part of Jack Sawyer for him, and he brought the gravelly-voiced bully to life.

Well, something remarkable happened. Our little local radio drama got discovered by the BBC and I was offered the first contract for an American serial to be broadcast throughout the U.K. Now I had to consult with my cast members. To fit the BBC time requirements I’d have to do several things. What affected the cast most was that they would all have to be available to record in Los Angeles, and they’d all have to be members of AFTRA, the radio performers’ union. Neither Elaine nor Jim were interested in leaving Cambria and rejoining the union. So I had to find new cast members to take on these important roles.

The heavens continued to shine upon Milford-Haven, because I found a pair of pros who fit these characters, hand in glove. Sally Rainer’s career had her racing from one studio to another as a voice actor, performing leading roles, supporting roles, working in Loop Groups (where we met) and anything requiring a range of voices, attitudes, and accents. But when she first performed as Samantha, we heard a depth that actually helped me as I continued to write the complex back story for this character—someone who had a passion for the environment, but who carried an ache from long-ago losses. Somehow all these colors came through her voice. You can read more about Sally here

Lloyd Bautista joining the show was almost too good to be true. He had performed in films for a good twenty years, then had joined the cast of Hyman Brown’s CBS Mystery Theatre. Hy Brown had been the first to start the New Time Radio trend in the 1970s, proving with over 1,000 episodes that American audiences still loved radio drama. The rest of us had been too young to participate, so having a veteran with us turned out to be crucial to our success. Not only did he bring Jack Sawyer vividly to life; he also played other characters, and he became one of the show’s directors. You can read more about him here:

So now . . .
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