Eric Rowe – Staff Writer
From a moving picture that has captivated audiences for 68 years, the story of George Bailey and his life in Bedford Falls continues to brighten the holiday season as a Dordt Theatre production. “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” opens in the New World Theatre on campus on December 11.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” is directed by Dordt senior, Jon Hageman. Hageman was drawn to the sentiment of the script.
“It’s a Christmas tradition for so many people,” Hageman said. “I am excited to see audiences come in, sit down and enjoy a favorite story in a way you haven’t experienced before.”
The play is set in a New York radio company building in 1946. Cast members play voice actors presenting a dramatic piece for the radio. This production will feature live sound reproduction to emulate that aspect of radio performances from the last century.
“It bridges the gap between theatre we are used to seeing and old radio shows,” Hageman said.
The format of a radio play presents many unique limitations for the actors.
“The story plays out in our imaginations,” Hageman said. “The way that they say lines helps us envision the show in our minds.”
The actors spend their time waiting to go on air and then being tied to the microphone. Cast member Annie Sears is one the people responsible for bringing the audience into the story.
“A lot of work is vocal rather than physical,” Sears said. “We do a lot of improv as our radio show characters.”
Sophomore, Kyle Fosse, plays the foley artist for the show. He provides iconic and recognizable sounds to accompany the live dialogue. The sounds are reproduced on the stage as they would be for a 1940’s radio show.
“I have to pay attention to what actors are doing,” Fosse said. “I keep in time with them and make sure the sounds come at the right time.”
Reproducing the sound of footsteps with a pair of shoes is particularly difficult, Fosse said.
“You have to keep the sound effects in mind,” Sears said. “They are like lines. You need to be sure you aren’t stepping on them.”
Hageman was impressed by the way his cast picked up the unique acting challenge of expressing through the lines and limited action.
“They took to it early,” Hageman said. “I expected it to be a bigger challenge than it turned out to be.”
Though he knew of the classic Christmas movie, Hageman didn’t watch it until after starting work on the production. He didn’t want the movie to influence his directing.
Two of his actors, Peter Rexford and Alex McDonald, shared what Hageman brought to the rehearsals.
“He does a good job of encouraging us to work on our characters individually,” Rexford said.
“He gives you free reign to explore,” McDonald said. “But tells you what he wants.”
“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” will be showing at 7:30 p.m. on December 11th and 13th, and at 2:00 p.m. on the 13th.