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Theatre department returns to radio days for ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’

POSTED December 8, 2009 10:47 p.m.
The classic Christmas story of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” is being retold in a new format at California State University, Stanislaus. The College of Arts Theatre Department production of “It’s A Wonderful Life: The Radio Play” moves the timeless tale of Christmas’ true meaning into the venue of radio dramas from bygone days.
“It was written to be a movie and doesn’t translate well as a straight stage play, but as a radio play it works really well,” said director and Theatre Professor John Mayer. “Before the show I tell the audience to try closing their eyes, listen to the play and get carried off by it.”
The play is a close adaptation of producer and director Frank Capra’s much beloved 1946 movie version starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. The story follows the life of George Bailey and his encounter with Clarence the angel who shows him what life would have been like had George never been born.
Mayer said about 90 percent of the radio play is from the movie script with a few tweaks to keep the story flowing. Adding to the allure of the radio show is the use of a sound effect table that allows the cast to recreate the sounds of the play, like clinking glasses, dancing feet and squealing tires. Mayer said they found ways to create the sound effects through a lot of “trial and error” and Internet searches.
Surprisingly, this story that has become a holiday tradition for so many people is finding a new set of fans on the university campus, including the cast and crew.
“It was astounding to me when I queried my classes and students that the majority of them had never seen or were familiar with the story at all,” Mayer said. “We’re able to bring this story to a whole new audience.”
The radio play features a cast of 18, with almost everyone taking on multiple roles.
“It’s been a positive experience for the cast,” Mayer said. “It frees them from having to memorize lines, which is the bane of so many actors and lets them put their attention elsewhere. I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.”
The production is showing at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Ticket prices are $12 for general admission, $9 for students/seniors. Special family ticket pricing is available. Parking is free during the event only in Lot 2. Ticket reservations are available from noon to 5 p.m. at the Theatre Box Office. For additional information or to order tickets, contact the Theatre Box Office at 667-3166.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.
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