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The cast of Problem on the Potomac

Announcer..............................Stephen Thompson

Patrick Kinsale III...................Anthony Sammaro

Patrick Kinsale II.........................Samuel Wallace

L. Landon Curley.............................Thom Savage

Jake.....................................................Dan Staicer

Billy....................................................Tom Larson

Dredger Boat Captain #1........................Bill Roiz

Dredger Boat Captain #2..........Cody Christensen

Dredger Boat Captain #3...............Carla Gutridge
Mrs. Kate Kinsale.............................Mary Larson

Woman on the street.................Rachel Thompson

Smitty.........................................Eric Christiansen

Mrs. Johnson.....................................Bucky Doerr

Captain Smith.................................Bob Carpenter

Receptionist..............................Jenny Christensen

Some notes from the author about our first radio play, Incident at the Bell House.

Some facts about the Bell family that had nothing to do with Colonial Beach.

1. Mabel Bell's deafness. Why include that in the play? Almost no one would know that Alexander Graham Bell's wife was deaf. But it was central to Bell's life and success. Mabel had a fever as a young child and nearly died. The results of her illness caused her total deafness and lead to her wealthy father enrolling her in schools for the deaf. There she met the young teacher A. G. Bell. She was in her early teens and he was 10 years older than she. But she could already read lips and was the star pupil of the school.
2. The Bell family was not particularly wealthy, but considered themselves upper class. Mabel's family was not particularly pleased when Bell discovered he had romantic feelings for his pupil and asked them for her hand in marriage. However, Mabel's father was fascinated with Bell's passion for inventing, especially inventing things concerning sound, and eventually gave his consent. Mabel's father financed some of Bell's early research and when it was clear the telephone was to be successful, her father was instrumental in founding what would become AT&T and was it's first CEO.
3. On their wedding day, A. G. Bell gave all but 10 shares of his stock to his wife, who turned them over to her father to manage. To the world, Bell was rich and famous, but technically it was his wife who owned wealth. He was free to spend his time on his inventions, many of which were ingenious but few were a commercial success.
4. Bell was a contrast to Thomas Edison. Bell had something like 47 registered patents, which may seem like a lot. But Edison had over 1000. Edison's passion was to be rich and famous, and he was generally disliked. Bell's only passion was inventing, and except for a few competitors, Bell was universally liked.
5. Bell was a third generation of men who had a major interest in the spoken word. His grandfather spent several years in Canada as a young man, and became very involved in amateur theatricals, as community theatre was called in those days. Bells father, Alexander Melville Bell, was an elocutionist. As Scottish natives, you might think that that the Bells spoke with a Scottish burr. Not at all--they thought that all upper class Scotsman should speak clear and proper English. Thus the A. G. Bell in our play spoke English influenced by Canadian and American experience. It is rumored that George Bernard Shaw patterned Henry Higgins after either Bell's grandfather or his father.
6. Bell was an accomplished (but not concert) pianist who preferred the classics and would often entertain guests around the supper hour.
7. Bell was one of the most important people in the life of Helen Keller. Helen was the same age as Bell's daughters, and Bell helped to pay for her education and later accompanied her on some of her tours. Yet little is spoken of this, while much is made of Ms. Keller's later friendship with Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). Helen Keller was blind and deaf, so she could not read lips. But she felt people's lips when they spoke and was able to communicate that in that way. This fascinated Bell.
8. This is a simplification, but in Bell's day there were two ways in which the deaf were taught to communicate with hearing persons: lip reading and sign language. Those who preferred one method typically did not get along with those who preferred the other. The Bell family was on the side of lip reading. Those who could read lips could join in society much easier than those who learned sign language, who pretty much were limited to speaking with those who had a command of signing. This was degrading, to the Bell's way of thinking. Signing has won out over lip reading, and in truth, lip readers like Mabel were still uncomfortable in some social situations because their own speech is not natural and of course they must be looking at someone to understand them.
9. Bell's own mother (Melville's wife) was very hard of hearing and, as a result, her speech was affected.
10. When Bell's first Washington home suffered from a fire, Bell young hired a young black man to do most of the clean up. The fire had ravished his work room. Bell was so impressed with the care and thoroughness of the young man's work that he asked him to come and work for him permanently. The man eagerly agreed, became a part of the household, and was a loyal friend until Bell's death. Not in that day and age, but today you could say that the man was like a son to him. Bell and Mabel had two sons who died in their first year.

All these facts have nothing to do with Colonial Beach. Or do they? I realized that, like most Colonial Beach residents, I knew Alexander Graham Bell only as the inventor of the telephone. So here was this remarkable man, with a remarkable family, probably the most remarkable family by far to be associated with Colonial Beach, and all we citizens do is drive by the Bell House and say "isn't that an interesting house."

So I included many facts about the Bell family in the Play. But it was not even 10% of what I learned, and I tried to weave those facts into the fictional and intentionally humorous story about an ambitious rat. To my delight, many listeners were pleased about the historical references.

 

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Some other inside stuff about "Incident at the Bell House."

1. I picked the name "Mary" for the Bell's housekeeper, only learning later that the Bell's had a Canadian housekeeper named Mary.
2. That Alfred Conan Doyle based Sherlock Holmes on a Scottish professor named Bell is an absolute fact that I feel is an important part of this detective spoof.
3. Some people were annoyed that the detective kept saying "Of course" all the time. That is exactly what I wanted. "Of course" is another way of saying "Elementary," something Holmes never really said in the Doyle books, but has been attributed to him in countless movies, plays, and parodies.
4. I purposefully selected the surname of the detective from a Westmoreland County town. "Montross" didn't cut it, but "Kinsale" was perfect. I wanted locals to assume that the a family name Kinsale founded the town. Actually it was named after a small port in Ireland.
5. The sheriff's horse "Old Judy" was named after Judy Jurutka, former owner of the Bell House and an actor in one of our plays. I knew she was a good sport but still was afraid she would never speak to me again. Turns out she loved it and said her father owned horses. I lucked out!
6. The truth is, I love teasing my good friends, which my son thinks is a good way to lose friends. So I used Dr. Peter Fahrney's surname for the "exterminator and expert on local varmints" in the play. I haven't seen him or spoken to him since, so maybe I went too far in this case!

You may find some "Easter eggs" in our second radio play as well. Happy hunting!