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Work In Progress
Original Broadcast Date
Joe Frank
Absurd Monologue, 58 minutes
Preceded by: Home
Followed by: Sleep

It was twilight, dusk, I was in a deserted part of the city.

Islands is a program Joe Frank produced as part of the series Work In Progress. It was originally broadcast in 1988.


Joe and 6-year-old boy (who, Joe presumes, but isn't sure, is his son; they've just met) find themselves lost in a deserted, run-down part of the city at dusk. Joe tries to hail a gypsy cab, but it crashes and has no one in it. Joe tries to make a call on a pay phone but has no change, recognizes his mother's voice on the recording (she works for the phone company, in the recording department); he tries to get the operator to connect him with his mother, but the operator can't find her. Joe breaks the receiver in anger, can't answer when it rings. They are stuck in the booth as darkness and winter cold set in.[1]

8:30: Joe tells us and god how happy he is.

10:00: Joe tells us why and how he hates Ceil (short for Cecilia), apparently his wife, the terrible things he wishes for her.

14:30 Joe, in a distorted voice, tells us about a wonderful a place, apparently a Caribbean island.

16:50: Joe (voicing a fictional character) tells of a mysterious woman coming for an interview late one night in his office. She's beautiful, leaves behind a box, at first against Joe's objections - but he wants to get rid of her. He calls security, who tell him they haven't seen anyone leave.[2]

28:30: Joe talk-sings about mishaps in the office, interrupted with scat singing. He imagines embezzling bonds and escaping to the islands.[3]

30:30: Joe tells Ceil about a dream he had about a fight with her.

35:40: The distorted voice tells us about unusual fishes.

37:30: Joe returns to the story about the box. Joe looks in the cabinet in which she placed the box, finds it empty. He recounts all the bizarre experiences that have happened at work and to his colleagues.

Joe goes to a bar, calls an old friend in the foreign service in Denmark. He tells Joe to get his blood tested and burn his tie (the mysterious woman had asked for it), acts as though the incident is important, not crazy.[2]

44:30: More of why Joe hates Ceil, more bad wishes for her.

49:00: Joe prays to God to be forgiven for everything wrong he has done.

51:10: Joe defends himself and his administration - he seems to be a dictator in a police state. He tells us what a good cook he is.[4]

Legacy Synopsis

Joe is in a strange part of town at dusk with a child and tries to call his mother from a phone booth. Reading a motivational prayer in an agitated voice. Second person criticism of someone named Ceel. A distorted voice describes an island scene. A mysterious woman visits Joe's office late at night and asks him to keep a box. Paranoid business questions set to rhythmic background. Canvas fish that resemble works of art.


This is an incomplete record of the music in this program. If you can add more information, please do.

Shared material

Additional credits

The original broadcast credits state: "Recorded by Bob Carlson and Ariana Morgenstern, and mixed by Jeff Sykes. Islands was created in cooperation with Arthur Miller and David Rapkin."

Credits from the NPR Playhouse release: 'You have been listening to Joe Frank Work In Progress. This program was called Islands, recorded by Bob Carlson and Ariana Morgenstern, and mixed by Jeff Sykes. Islands was created in collaboration with Arthur Miller and David Rapkin, and was made possible through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts. Support for the national distribution of Joe Frank Work in Progress is provided by National Public Radio member stations and the NPR arts & performance fund. Contributors include the National Endowment for the Arts and the John D. and Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation.'

External links


  1. Joe re-used the story, with alterations, and in the third person, in Fat Man Down.
  2. 2.0 2.1 re-used in The Box
  3. Thus the show's name?
  4. re-used in Live At Market Street