A unique collaboration between the Wilbury Theatre Group, AFRI Productions, and The Public’s Radio is getting outstanding reviews. “God Talk to an Agnostic” is a new project from noted RI filmmaker Don Mays.

This show is not a film, however, it’s a 12-part audio play, running every Sunday at 3PM on The Public’s Radio and available for podcast the next day.

I spoke with Writer/Director Mays recently and learned more about the project.

“It’s intended to be a provocative piece, an examination of the role or roles that religion has played in Black and Brown communities including the use of religion to justify slavery and the way religion was used as a tool to destroy cultures on the African continent and in Central and South America,” he explained.

“But it’s also about how religion has been used by families, communities, and Civil Rights activists to uplift and move the Black community forward. It’s a tortured relationship, the series examines the good and the bad of it.”

Written during the pandemic, the new play was originally conceived as a film.

“The seeds for the idea came about a few years ago, and I was kind of going over it in my head. When the pandemic hit, I came up with the idea of making it an audio play. Originally I was thinking about it as a film, and then the idea just kept expanding, and I thought it would work really well as an audio play,” Mays explained.

“I think it could still be a film, or a limited series, like a Netflix or an HBO series,” he added.

Of course, writing an audio play has unique challenges.

“The writing has to create the visual that you would get from seeing a play or a seeing a movie, so instead of seeing someone walking in the rain, you have paint the picture with words in the audio play. It has to be done in a way that isn’t didactic and is totally expository.”

Mays stressed that the soundtrack is especially important to the production.

“I wanted it to have a cinematic feel, which rounds it out and adds layers and more depth. I worked with my engineer Andy Russ who does a fabulous job bringing it all together. We also have violist Ashley Frith, and my friend Albert Coleman does the piano and organ music. Except for the gospel songs, all the music was written for the series.”

All the actors are local and established in the Rhode Island theatre community.

“They’re all so talented and jumped into the project without hesitation,” noted Mays. “It’s been a great, fun experience in these days of Covid when we can’t do traditional live theatre.”

“We recorded it much like a movie is shot, we didn’t record it in sequence. We brought the actors in and they recorded their individual parts and then the sound editor put it all together.”

The radio play features performers including Mays, Rose Weaver, Jackie Davis, Rudy Ru Cabrera, Pamela Lambert, Daraja Hinds, Jason Quinn, Jeff Hodge, Tânia Montenegro, Cilla Bento, Mindy Britto, Lorraine Guerra, Emmanuel Versailles, Lia Pinto, and Becci Davis

“They’re all so talented and jumped into the project without hesitation,” noted Mays.

Tune in to “God Talk to an Agnostic” Sundays at 3PM on The Public’s Radio (WNPN 89.3) or find it on your favorite podcast platform. Episode 6 airs Sunday May 2. For more, click here.

Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music, the arts and more for What'sUpNewp. He is also a contributor to Providence Monthly, SO RI, Hey Rhody and The Bay magazines.
Ken DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse," a roots/folk/rock radio show every Tuesday, 6-9 PM on WRIU 90.3 FM. He is a former educator in the Scituate, RI school system where he taught Social Studies for over 30 years.
Ken is presently on the board of the Rhode Island Folk Festival and Newport Live (formerly Common Fence Music), a non-profit that brings diverse musical acts to the Newport area.