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Fredonia theatre department offers unique take on holiday classic
Sunday, November 23, 2014

 Fredonia theatre department offers unique take on holiday classic

Taylor Sheehan, left, as Sally Applewhite, and Andrew Vertucci, as Jake Lawrence, in a scene from “It’s A Wonderful Life – The Radio Play.”

A unique take on a Christmas classic will be offered at Fredonia when the Department of Theatre and Dance presents “It’s A Wonderful Life – The Radio Play” from Dec. 5 to 13.

Seven performances are planned in Bartlett Theatre on the Fredonia campus as part of the 2014-15 Walter Gloor Mainstage Series. Dates and show times are Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. and Dec. 11, 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m.

A cast of seven actors will be charged with bringing multiple characters to life through the power of voice, according to director Marc de la Concha, an adjunct professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance.

“A multitude of characters are played by a small number of cast members,” de la Concha said. “It’s a fun and interesting take on a well-known work. It’s set at the height of the radio era.”

The play is based on the classic film that starred Jimmy Stewart. It was adapted by Joe Landry from the screenplay by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra and Jo Swerling.

Set on Christmas Eve in 1949, the play follows the events at radio station KPNF during a live broadcast of “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

“It’s a big affair for this radio station and they bring in accomplished actors and singers of the day for the production,” de la Concha said. “If you watch closely, you pick up little story lines between these characters.”

In addition to playing dozens of unforgettable characters, the actors create station breaks and commercials, as they would have done in the 1940s. There is also an actor playing the Foley artist, the person who is in charge of creating the live sound effects for a radio broadcast.

“It’s a good challenge for the actors. They play multiple roles and convey the different parts with their voices only, for the most part,” de la Concha said, explaining there are few costume changes and limited movement.

The challenge of recreating the atmosphere of a 1940s radio broadcast has extended to the production team, as well.

“It’s been interesting talking to the designers and sound technicians about creating sound effects like falling snow or a fire using the techniques they had back in the 1940s,” de la Concha said.

The Mainstage production will make it to real radio, as well. The preview performances will be recorded for broadcast on WRFA-LP, 107.9 FM, in Jamestown later in December.

De la Concha hopes that in the end, audience members will walk away feeling the spirit that the original adaption of “It’s A Wonderful Life” created.

“While it’s a different take on a classic story, you still get the feel-good emotion in the end,” de la Concha said.

“It’s A Wonderful Life – The Radio Play” is sponsored by Niebel Realty as part of the Lake Shore Savings Season. Tickets are available through the Fredonia Ticket Office in the Williams Center, by phone at 673-3501 and online at fredonia.edu/tickets.

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State University of New York at Fredonia