Article by Lisa Purchase Kelly

It's Christmas on the radio at Saginaw Valley State University's theatre department this weekend. The staff and scholarship students are appearing in A Christmas Carol—A 1940s Radio Play, bringing a fresh approach to a holiday classic.

Professor Ric Roberts said, "It's a great tradition to have, doing a holiday show that carries over from year to year. This is something we've been wanting to establish for a while now, but the schedule just didn't permit us to fit it in." Co-director David Rzeszutek added, "Other places that do this sell out every year, people plan it into their holiday celebrations. We wanted to find a way to get that kind of happening here." With the theatre department's season always crowded with other productions, it took some doing to figure out a way to work in another show. And then, it came to them—RADIO SHOW.

Roberts explained, "In a real radio show, there's no set, no blocking, no memorizing, so it's something we can do on a short schedule. And the radio setting brings something new to the audience. Our technical director Jerry Dennis has set up two Foley stations, where the actors will create all the sound effects used throughout the show, just like in an old radio broadcast. There will be no recorded sounds, only what the performers are able to do live on stage."

And despite the short rehearsal schedule and the limited movements, the cast are having to stretch their acting abilities in new directions. Rzeszutek pointed out that the scripts were only being distributed to the cast on Sunday, four days before Thursday's opening performance. "Just because they can have a script in front of them during the performance doesn't mean they're not acting. If anything it can actually be harder to convey different levels of emotion and energy with just your voice, without being able to rely on gestures and movement. It's a great challenge. And it makes them have to trust their instincts. They don't have weeks and weeks of rehearsals to work through it, they just have to do it."

Roberts and Rzeszutek adapted this radio [lay version of A Christmas Carol from an actual 1939 Orson Wells radio script. In the tradition of the great radio broadcasts that everyone listened to in the 1940s, the story will be interspersed with kitschy commercials from the time period. It is their hope that this will be the start of a new holiday tradition for the local community: a different holiday classic every year, presented in the radio play format. With an already low ticket price (only $10.00 for General admission, $7.00 for Students and Seniors), SVSU is sweetening the holiday deal by offering free tickets for children 12 and under (with the purchase of an adult ticket). This is great affordable family fare that will make everyone's holiday season a little more festive.

SVSU's A Christmas Carol—A 1940s Radio Play runs this weekend only, Friday December 10th and Saturday December 11th at 7:30pm (Thursday's performance is a Student Night). Call the Box Office at (989) 964-4261, or get your tickets at the door, but don't miss this chance to treat your family to some extra Christmas festivity this year!

© Lisa Purchase Kelly, 2010