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SCCT Recreates Radio Drama Version of 'It's a Wonderful Life'

by and on December 20, 2013 1:45 PM

State College Community Theatre (SCCT) will take audiences on a sentimental stroll this weekend at Mt. Nittany Middle School when it presents the radio drama version of the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life.

Those of us of a certain age might recall the days when radio stations would present different types of programs, including entertaining shows. They would invite the community to watch as actors performed live for the broadcast audience.

“It’s a blast from the past,” according to director Mike Knarr.

The story line follows businessman George Bailey, an idealist and general good samaritan, who has sacrificed his personal dreams to help others. He falls victim to a set of unfortunate circumstances that threaten to ruin him. Believing himself a complete failure, he nearly commits suicide one Christmas Eve.

Clarence, a sort of apprentice angel, rescues him and proceeds to show him how events within his town and family would have unfolded had George not intervened. George realizes the value of his life and Clarence, having saved a human, earns his wings.

The play follows the same plot as the popular film, with eight actors covering all roles. This means that the performers need to portray multiple characters. And Knarr uses a skilled director’s knack for coaxing a variety of voices from the cast.

Each actor develops unique pitches, timbres, tones, inflections and accents for their various portrayals. Actor Frank Wilson, for instance, plays six different characters. Angel Joseph has a soothing, paternal voice and manner to match, while his ‘radio announcer’ sounds like a southern blowhard. Old Man Gower sounds, well, old, and his ‘Ernie’ sounds a little bit Irish.

Of course, no radio drama would be complete without sound effects. At one point, George (played by Dan Landers Nolan) jumps into the river to rescue a presumed drowning man. A bucket of water dumped into another bucket of water will create the needed splash. A fingernail run over a comb will sound like crickets.

“Kids love that stuff,” says Knarr.

Other cast members include Jon Vickers Jones, Chizzy Anderson, Jackie Gianico, Tim Molnar, Margaret Higgins and Matt Loewen. Between them, they will play 40 different characters, each with individual voices, mannerisms and personalities.

The set will include 1940s-style furniture and microphones. And SCCT hopes for plenty of community members to make up the live, studio audience.

Performances will be held Friday, Dec. 20 and Saturday, Dec. 21.

For more information or to purchase tickets click HERE.

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Ann is an Arts and Entertainment correspondent for the Gazette.
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