They stood at the water's edge, the waves mounting, then crashing and sweeping up the coastline...

Arena [1]
WBAI And NPR Playhouse
Original Broadcast Date
Annalee Jefferies, Arthur Miller, Paul Mantell, Rosemary Foley, Eric Sears, Tim Jerome, Matt Bassford, Lester Nafzger, Joe Frank
Sound Effects, Absurd Monologue, Scripted Actors, Improv Actors, Panel Discussion, 59 minutes
Preceded by: The Death Of Trotsky
Followed by: Summer Notes

Arena is a program Joe Frank produced as part of the series WBAI And NPR Playhouse. It was originally broadcast in 1979.


"Solea" (Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain)

1:20: Sound of a typewriter, then Joe's voice narrating a story about 2 people, José (a bullfighter - Tim Jerome) and Susanna (Annalee Jefferies?), at the shore, watching the waves crash, 'and to him they (the waves) were like bulls, they kept on coming, one after another, in stubborn and despairing fortitude'.[1]

1:50: José and Susanna take up the story themselves. José's mother took him to the shore when he was a child, rubbed them (her children) against the rock to get them clean. She's head over heels in love with him. He tells bullfighting stories.

5:50: "Music for 18 Musicians" (Steve Reich).

6:20: July 15 - Joe complains that he can't get the beach scene right, wonders why characters he writes can cause him such frustration, as though they had lives of their own.

6:40: Joe wonders, 'When will that book on Dominguín arrive?'[2]

7:20: Arthur Miller remembers when he was a child and first learning to read. His father, also a psycho-anthropologist, gave him Black beauty, which terrified him. A woman (Rosemary Foley, Avery Hart are the other women in the cast) avers that people write to purge their pain. Another man (Lester Nafzger?) enters the discussion.[3]

10:30: Joe narrates José and Susanna's story again, to the sound of his typewriter and Solea. Their car is careening on the coastal road. Driving fast excites José.

12:50: The panel discusses the dangers of reading.

16:50: Joe sometimes feels that he doesn't really exist, that he's a character in someone else's novel, that that author is a character in someone else's novel... so on to the 'universal author father'.

18:10: Joe's bedroom is a mess; he's missing parts of his novel.

18:50: Joe narrates José and Susanna's story: they've just made love. José tells Susanna that it's like fighting the bull. José tells the story of his childhood: 13 children in 1 room, his mother a prostitute, his father a fisherman who caught no fish. He tells more bullfighting stories.

22:50: Joe narrates, says that Susanna senses that this will be their last night together.

23:50: They go to a church. José explains the scenes in the stained glass.

27:10: Joe tells of one of José's bullfights.

29:30: One of the panel (Arthur?) avers that had God wanted man to read he would have given him the ability at birth. Panel discusses reading more.

31:50: April 22, evening - Joe feels imbued with a sense of doom, can't write, tells of Melville's difficulties writing (fictional).[4]

33: Joe narrates: José and Susanna are at José's favorite café.

33:30: José tells Susanna how beautiful she is. They say they'll be together forever; she wants him to stop fighting, because it's dangerous. To demonstrate that he can't die in a bullfight he ties steak knives to the legs of a chair, has Susanna play the bull so he can demonstrate how good a bullfighter he is. The scene ends with a lame pun.

39:20: Joe narrates José's death.

40: A redneck couple argues the relative merits of watching television (his preference) and reading (hers).

44:20: To prove that TV has culture, the guy tunes to a performance by fast pianist Alan Baron. Joe's the host, takes calls, Lester Ainsley (sp? - Lester Nafzger), another fast pianist calls in. He's angry that Alan Baron won't have a piano-off with him; Baron says Ainsley's a famous pest on the fast piano league. They have an angry argument.[5][6]

50: A meeting of 'Consciousness-lowering' (CL), most (all?) of the panel.[7]

55:50: November 13 - Joe walks along the shore, collecting stones, sees a dead whale; his bathroom is messy.

Legacy Synopsis

We hear Joe alternately discussing his own writing process and typing at a keyboard. His story describes a romance between an American woman and a bullfighter. The narrative alternates with acted scenes and sound effects. Every scene degenerates into references to bull fighting. The couple swims naked in the sea, encounter a whale. Panel discussion: being terrified of text after reading Black Beauty, writing to purge anxiety, the history of writing. Story: reckless passion in a race car. Panel: reading and the downfall of civilization, the danger of self examination. Joe: the universe as a succession of writers inventing worlds. Story: a scene in a hotel room above a festival, the bull fighter's childhood, a fisherman living far from water and fishing for scrap ("You cannot eat a coat"), reading doesn't compare to bullfighting, scar stories. Story: scene in a church, stained glass featuring the resurrection of a wealthy donor, animals communicate with god. Joe: hammering a nail into your heart with your own brocaded slipper. Panel: man wasn't meant to read, college course reading lists. Joe: Melville's physical struggle when writing. Story: a scene in a cafe, she begs him to stop fighting bulls, a model bull fight using steak knives tied to a chair. A man and woman fight - he wants to watch TV and she wants to read. A television program: the fastest piano player interview. Panel: the consciousness lowering group. Joe: finding a dead whale on the beach, the mess in one's bathroom.


Shared material

Additional credits

The original broadcast credits state: "Written and produced by Joe Frank. Directed by Arthur Miller, with sound by David Rapkin. Performers included Annalee Jefferies, Arthur Miller, Bernie Mantell, Rosemary Foley, Eric Sears, Joe Frank, and Tim Jerome as the bullfighter and God."


  1. An homage to how The Eighty Yard Run ended?
  2. Luis Miguel Dominguín was a famous bullfighter. Thanks to Chris Pirazzi for this reading.
  3. I haven't figured out how many voices are in this segment.
  4. Note the previous date was July 15.
  5. originally aired in Laughing Back - A Movie For Radio
  6. Re-used in Emergency Room
  7. Re-used in Till You're Gone