In the 1930s, American families gathered around the radio. They listened to live dramas, musicals and comedies, complete with sound effects.
This fall — decades later — families can gather together to enjoy 3 Sunday plays, courtesy of Staples Players.
They’ll be broadcast — free! — on WWPT-FM.
It’s a novel, creative way for the high school drama troupe to put on a show in the midst of a pandemic.
And — because this is 2020 — the professional-quality entertainment can be enjoyed by Players’ relatives, alumni and many fans all around the globe. You can listen on any internet-connected device, via the school radio station’s livestream.
The shows span genres: a musical (“The Wizard of Oz”), a beloved novel (“Pride and Prejudice”) and a classic (“It’s a Wonderful Life”). The dates are October 25, November 8 and November 22, respectively. Airtime is 6 p.m.
Though Players were initially disappointed not to mount their traditional fall mainstage musical, they’ve embraced the radio shows eagerly. Over 50 students are in at least one show. Many are in 2; a few are in all 3.
The live action will be broadcast from the Black Box theater, with actors separated by Plexiglas booths. Sound effects — like the tornado in “Oz,” doors opening and feet creaking — are courtesy of the tech crew, seated next door in Staples’ TV and radio studio.
There’s live music too: Don Rickenback’s piano.
No radio show is complete without ads, of course. With no auditorium audience, Players lost an important fundraising opportunity. But local businesses — including major sponsors Gault, Melissa & Doug, Mitchells and Steve Madden Shoes — will air old-time radio ads.
(There’s still time to buy ads. Players will custom-write a jingle — and sing it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Most rehearsals have been by Zoom, though some have been in person (socially distanced, of course). Good weather has allowed plenty of room outdoors.
Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long have made this special project a community event. Each Sunday show will have a food tie-in.
The “Wizard of Oz” menu is curated by Little Barn. Menu choices includes Wicked Witch Wings, Tin Man Tacos, Munchkin Burger (for kids) and emerald City Cocktails.
For “Pride and Prejudice,” Gruel Brittania offers Pemerley’s Prime Rib dinner complete with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and sticky toffee pudding, while “It’s a Wonderful Life”‘s classic meal comes from Dunville’s: George’s Yankee Pot Roast, Zuzu’s Scallops and Mary Hatch’s Stuffed Sole. Ordering details will be available soon.
Meanwhile, Cold Fusion — the locally owned gelato and sorbet company — is celebrating the 3 shows with limited edition special flavors.
“Somewhere Over the Rain-dough” is available for order (before Thursday, October 15!) to enjoy with “The Wizard of Oz.” “Bennet Bananas” is the perfect pairing for “Pride and Prejudice,” while “George Bailey’s Irish Cream” is on tap for “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Click here to order.
The directors are as excited about the radio plays as the actors and tech crew. “Rehearsals have been a lot of fun,” Roth says. “Each show has a different style. There’s a lot of creative energy.
“Of course they’d love to be onstage. But they love this opportunity. They appreciate all the efforts everyone is making for them. They can’t wait to perform these plays.”
(The 3 radio shows can be heard on WWPT, 90.3 FM. For the livestream, click on www.wwptfm.org.)
ENCORE: Though there’s no dancing on radio, Players are keeping their skills sharp. Choreographer Rachel MacIsaac leads dance classes 4 times a week, on the school tennis courts.
There are no costumes on radio either. But Players’ costume crew is doing designs for every play, just as if they were onstage.
Players runs tech workshops 2 to 3 times a week too. Students get special instruction in skills and tools.