The Woodward News

December 8, 2013

Play will take you back in time

Rowynn Ricks
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — The public is invited to take a step back in time as part of the upcoming performances of "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play."

The play, which is being produced by On Stage Woodward, has scheduled performances for Dec. 20 and 21 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 22 at 2 p.m. at the Woodward Arts Theatre.

"It's being presented as live radio programs were in the 1940s," said Roberta Gilbert, who is co-directing the play along with Charlie Burns.

"We're working to replicate a 1940s radio studio complete with period-looking microphones, 1940s costumes and a foley artist on set," Burns said.

Gilbert said the audience is also "invited to dress in the style of the period" to create an even more authentic experience if they wish.

And for those who may not know, Gilbert explained that in the days of radio, the foley artist was responsible for creating the majority of the sound effects for the various radio programs.  These sounds ranged "from doors opening to footsteps to rain falling to glass breaking," she said.

"Before television, this is what people had for entertainment.  They would turn on their radio at night and have to use their imagination as the story came across the airwaves.  That's where the actors using different voices and the sound effects created by the foley artist helped to make the story real for the listening audience," she said.

"The fun part of our play is that our audience will get a 'backstage' look at how these radio plays were created, or rather 'back of the mic' look," Burns said.

In addition to watching the foley artist work, the co-directors said the audience will also see how the actors use different accents and subtle costume changes to portray different characters.

"We have 12 actors playing 42 parts," Gilbert said.

For example, Burns himself will be portraying guardian angel Clarence Oddbody as well as the smaller roles of Ed, Dr. Campbell, and Mr. Welch.

Alex Mustain and Jessica Kanehl will play the major roles of  George Bailey and Mary (Hatch) Bailey respectfully.

Child actors Samantha Gay and Tyler Zwink will not only portray the roles of young Mary and George, but will also portray two of George Bailey's children, Zuzu and Pete, respectfully.

The remaining roles will be played by other cast members Glenn Dorr, Chad Everett, Liz Gay, Erin Hale, Michael Johnson, Greg Nuse and Victoria Stinnett.

Gilbert and Burns said they are pleased with the cast, which ranges in age from 10- to 60-years-old, and ranges in experience from long-time veterans of the stage to those making their debut in their first community production.

"We have a lot of new talent," Burns said.

"Overall I think we've got some really good actors and actresses," Gilbert said, noting "I really like the energy and camaraderie of the cast."

Burns said the audience can expect "an authentic and entertaining" performance from the cast as they "provide a different perspective on a classic Christmas story."

Gilbert explained that the play's author Joe Landry "was trying to bring the film classic to the stage.  At first he tried to reproduce the whole movie but found that it was just too cumbersome, so he had the idea to turn it into a radio play."

While the play tells the story in a different format, she said it still "brings out the essence of the movie as it tells about the life of George Bailey who hits a crisis that makes him think about taking his life, but then a guardian angel intervenes to make him see what life would seem like if he had never been born.  All to make him realize what a wonderful life he really does have."

For those familiar with the film like Gilbert, who places it as "one of my favorite movies," she said they will find the play "very familiar."

"They'll still see their favorite scenes," she said, noting "I think everyone remembers the scene of George and Mary breaking glass at the old Grandville house or how Clarence and George meet at the bridge, and of course the scene with little Zuzu as she says, 'Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.'"

"Even if people haven't seen the show, they know that famous bell quote," Burns said.

To purchase tickets for any of the show's 3 performances, contact the On Stage Woodward box office at (580) 334-3048.  Gilbert said there are discounted tickets available for children under 12.

She encouraged people of all ages to attend the show saying, "it will be a good evening of family entertainment presented by local talent."

"And it's in perfect time for your family's holiday celebrations," Burns said.