Radio play challenges actors
‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ opens Dec. 3
By Scott Bellile
For the Wolf River Theatrical Troupe’s upcoming holiday production, audience members will need to open up their ears.
Over the first two weekends in December, the troupe will perform a radio play based on the classic 1946 Christmas film “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Director Margie Brown said the difference between a radio play and a traditional play is “everything.”
Among those differences: the actors don’t memorize their lines, their voices carry the play and not their body language, their lines explain more to the audience than in the movie version, and there’s even a sound effects crew on stage ready to produce the right noise at the right time.
In the radio play, actors will stand on stage at microphones reading from a script in hand. Some actors said they feel like a professional voiceover actor on a cartoon.
Liam Fitzgerald, a 16-year-old who takes on child and adult roles in the play, said he finds doing a radio play easier.
“You don’t have to memorize. You don’t have to move around. You don’t have to act,” Fitzgerald said. “All you have to do is manipulate your voice.”
On the other hand, actor Jim Sexton, who plays Uncle Billy, said playing a character by voice only is harder.
“You’ve got to convey the emotion that that person is going through, or that audience isn’t going to believe what’s going on on stage,” Sexton said.
Emma Hathorne, a 17-year-old sound effects operator, said the script states what sounds have to happen when, such as a gunshot, but gives no guidelines on how to produce each noise. Online research and creativity led them down the right path.
She demonstrated a gunshot by clipping a clipboard hard. Cracking ice is achieved by squeezing an empty Nestle water bottle. A creaking floor is produced by a squeaky paper cutter blade. Walking in snow is pressing a bag of corn starch. And splashing water is done by submerging a plunger.
Another thing audiences may pick up on is the radio commercials throughout the play are for actual 1940s products and New London businesses that existed at the time.
“The commercials are a lot of fun. They add some humor to it,” actor Walter Campbell said.
Campbell said he enjoys that “It’s a Wonderful Life” has heart and is about doing the right thing.
“This is about community coming together, and I think it’s really nice,” Campbell said.
Brown said she first watched the movie on TV after a day of teaching in her mid-20s. She couldn’t take her eyes off the screen.
“It’s my favorite Christmas story,” Brown said. “I like the messages—how important everybody is. Everybody can make a difference.”
The Wolf River Theatrical Troupe’s play will run Thursday, Dec. 3, to Saturday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m. each night. The following week it returns for two more days: Friday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 12, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. All productions will take place at the REAL Opportunities Outreach arts center, 304 St. John’s Pl. in New London.
The lead actors are Chris Clowtis (George), Laura Sorenson (Mary), Chris Renner (Clarence), Clint Danke (Mr. Potter) and Jim Sexton (Uncle Billy).