Original DCPA Theatre Company actor’s award-winning ‘Destination Freedom’ radio series comes to University of Denver on Friday
Twenty-two years ago, I approached Denver radio station KUVO with the idea of reviving a long-lost, boundary-breaking radio series that had been produced from 1948 to 1950. “Destination Freedom” told the stories of African American heroes written by Radio Hall of Fame member Richard Durham. He wrote about Mary McCloud Bethune, Lena Horne, Fredrick Douglass, Satchel Paige … the list goes on and on. “Destination Freedom” was a radio drama that told the stories of great figures in African-American history who were calling for equality a decade before the Civil Rights Movement. And I wanted to bring it back to the airwaves.
Beginning in 1999, we added “Black Radio Days” to the title and performed the show in front of a studio audience and in different venues around Denver and Boulder, including the Gothic Theatre, Chautauqua, Su Teatro, The Casino in Five Points and Dazzle. We worked with Denver-based actors, musicians and artists and at times were joined by national acts such as Freddy Cole, Mississippi Charles Bevel, Oscar Brown Jr., Hazel Miller, Ron Miles, Otis Taylor, Rene Marie and Lionel Young, just to name a few.
After two years we moved to KGNU Radio 88.5 FM and 1390 AM, where we remain. We have been syndicated to 150 radio stations and featured on the BBC worldwide.
“Destination Freedom” has stayed true to its mission to tell the untold stories of people seeking freedom. We explore current issues and honor our past.
The original “Destination Freedom” broadcast by Richard Durham 60 years ago was shut down by its network in 1950 as McCarthyism and anti-communism tightened its grip on American broadcasting. Does the tone of the country then sound familiar to you now? That make this the perfect time for us to present “Destination Freedom: Black Radio Days.”
I call “Black Radio Days” “the un-podcast podcast.” The series gives you the podcast element that folks can’t seem to get enough of, with so much more. You get a play, robust conversations on important issues and a musical guest all in one broadcast. Plus, you can join us live and take part.
“Destination Freedom” plans four live radio plays over the next year. This will be the beginning of our two-year “Global Village” series with the working title: “A Change is Gonna Come.” This year we will produce four shows that deal with the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color and beyond.
Our first episode, “Black with a Capital B,” will be presented this Friday (March 22) at the University of Denver. “Black” is a 30-minute conversation between a black woman and a white woman momentarily linked by the death of a 12-year-old. The intimacy that connects these two strangers is shocking. It is a murder that confounds the white woman, and one that the black woman finds unnervingly predictable.
“The Tale of the Bullet” is about a shooting told from the perspective of the bullet. You will hear the bullet’s thoughts as it tears into its victim’s flesh. We plan to work with the Denver and Aurora Police Departments, DU faculty, the local Latino Task Force, students and the community to spark meaningful conversations around these issues.
The third show will focus on sexual identity. Our hope is to feature The Singing Bois, a transgender musical group whose story is now a short play.
Our fourth installment, in collaboration with Su Teatro, is a radio telling of its award-winning stage production of Enrique’s Journey, which tells the harrowing story of one boy’s immigration.
Please come experience “Destination Freedom” for yourself live this Friday night.
The intentionally lower-cased donnie l. betts is an actor, True West Award-winning director, documentary filmmaker and Denver’s 2002 Radio Journalist of the Year. He was an original member of the DCPA Theatre Company, City Stage Ensemble and Denver Black Arts Company. He attended Yale School of Drama and he appeared on Broadway in ‘The Gospel at Colonus.’ His production company is called No Credits Productions. He directed Curious Theatre’s current production of ‘Skeleton Crew,’ playing through April 13, and he next will appear in Off-Center’s new immersive project ‘Between Us‘ from March 23 through May 26.
“Destination Freedom” has won four awards for radio excellence from the Colorado Association of Black Journalists. The series aired on Public Radio International for several years.
“Destination Freedom: Black Radio Days”: Ticket information
- Next episode: “Black with a Capital B”
- 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 22
- Byron Theatre, Robert and Judi Newman Center for the Performing Arts, at the University of Denver
- Call 303-871-7720 or go to newmancenterpresents.com