PLEDGE The Musical by Don Merrill


In 2019, I self published a book called PLEDGE The Public Radio Fund Drive , It was about all the nuts and bolts of the pledge drive and the universe that surrounds it.  It was a non-fiction book of facts, figures, research and anecdotes.  But I also wanted to tell the story as a story of a tiny public radio station run by a small, conservative college struggling to survive as it faced many of the things in the book.  My reason was because public radio puts on a calm face for listeners, but there is static behind the microphone.  And since listeners pay for public radio's successes as well as it's failures, I thought a stage performance would make digesting public radio's backstory easier.

Stations disappear, staff disappear, shows disappear, and often the audience has no clue why.  Technical problems take stations down from minutes to hours, often with no apology and no explanation.  And public radio is in a constant push-pull with itself over issues of funding, generations, diversity, technology and most of all, ethics and "balance."  It seems to think that by talking about everything in the world except itself, the audience won't notice.  But as a contributor to Seattle's former KPLU told a reporter during a controversy over funding issues, "We're not stupid."  No, the audience is not stupid.

Public radio does essential, exemplary work.  But it isn't perfect.  It's imperfection, however, isn't the target of PLEDGE The Musical.  It's survival is, and the audience, both as butts in the seats and listeners online and on-the-air, need to understand just how much of a balancing act stations do everyday to keep you full of the news, entertainment and information "you crave." 

Theater is having a moment and not in a good way.  The pandemic has forced many houses to close, stages to go dark and companies to go online.  They are facing their own existential crisis.  Meanwhile, people are at home, voraciously consuming absolutely every kind of media in sight.  But this will not last forever and it will pass .  And then, the pent up demand for new theater, I think, will push through the nation like a tsunami.  This GoFundMe for PLEDGE The Musical is intended to raise money to help pay for composers, actors, licensing agreements, performance spaces, insurance and much more.  It is likely, at best, a down payment for a small show that I hope will be successful, informative and entertaining and very fun but not preachy. 

And a good friend has offered a load of suggestions for how this effort might be more widely propagated.  They range from encouraging colleges with radio stations AND theater departments to do PLEDGE The Musical to help both departments, to doing it as a radio play fundraiser for station's own pledge drives. 

To get an idea of how serious I am about this, I built a real website for the imaginary station which is the center of the action in the show.  The station, KKAR, is run by the fictitious State College of Arkansas.  Visit it here - http://kkar.org.  And, I'm creating a podcast about public radio that I hope makes you interested in both the existing book and the upcoming musical.  I'll be updating the content weekly and working with a local marketing firm to do outreach and promote the musical.  I am so grateful to have this idea and try to move it forward.  But I would be very grateful if you would consider supporting it, esp. if you want to see another side of public radio it has never itself shown.
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Don Merrill 
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Beavercreek, OR

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