The Central Wisconsin Area Community Theater (cwACT) invites the public to attend “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” for the second year in a row at Sentry’s Theater@1800. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21.
The play will be performed by characters reading from scripts in front of a microphone without props or costumes to give the audience the opportunity to see a holiday performance in a new way.
“The play is based on the classic Christmas movie and the action is presented in the style of a 1940s live radio broadcast,” said co-director Joe Battaglia who will also double as this year’s sound effect technician. “It follows the television movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ spot on.
“The audience will get to see the production as if they were a live audience in a radio studio; they will be able to see the sound effects and how they’re being made: doors opening, walking on snow, a train whistle; it is pretty neat in that sense,” Battaglia said.
The lack of time-consuming rehearsals and costume fittings associated with the performance allowed new individuals to get involved. Actors have practiced two times per week for a month, only a small fraction of what rehearsals would be for the annual musical or comedy performance.
“Winter production is a lot less stressful on actors and lets them spend time with their families during the holidays,” said co-director Scott Price. “It is also more intimate and not as stressful.”
This year the winter production has only two returning actors and more than 10 newcomers. Everyone who auditioned for this year’s performance was cast in a role and some actors even have more than one part.
The play was originally designed for five actors but Battaglia and Price customized it to allow more actors to become involved with theater.
“Plays like this are a good way to get a family involved in production; for first-timers it is a great avenue to work your way onto stage past apprehensions,” Battaglia said.
Instead of having props or a set to exaggerate scenes, the actors will use their voices to intensify the performance allowing the audience to imagine the show, making it a more unique experience for those who attend.
“I grew up on radio performances,” Price said. “If you close your eyes it will sound just like it would if you were watching the movie.”
cwACT plans to continue radio broadcast type performances for upcoming holiday seasons and plans to change it up next year with a performance of “A Christmas Carol,” instead of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“We were looking to branch out and add some additional shows and productions outside of our usual season, which includes a drama, musical and comedy,” Battaglia said. “We’re hoping to add a summer show this year, maybe ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and keep rotating ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ every few years down the road.”
Tickets for open seating will be available at the door only and will cost $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 5 to 16; and free for children younger than 5.