Three years ago, Valdosta State University Theatre & Dance created a twist on its seasons’ conclusions. Instead of ending with a play or a musical or a dance performance, it opted to bring the curtain down with showcases of its talented student performers.
Not just one showcase, but two, featuring a musical theatre revue, or themed readers theatre performance, or a dance show. The Emerging Artists Showcase proved popular with faculty, students and audiences.
The Fourth Annual Emerging Artists Showcase series kicks off tonight, opening with the VSU Interpreters’ “Radio Theatre Project,” which also plays Saturday evening, rotating with the Musical Theatre Showcase playing Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
RADIO THEATRE PROJECT
Director Karl Wildman wanted to do something different with this year’s readers theatre project. He wanted to recreate the radio shows of yesteryear in a live theatre setting similar to the live audiences that once listened to the broadcasts when they originally aired.
Wildman has enjoyed listening to archived radio shows since his early years. He wanted to give audiences a mix of the type of programming they may have heard on the radio back in the 1940s and early 1950s before the rise of television.
He selected two actual scripts from past radio shows. They are “The Rileys’ First Date” which aired in 1950 on “Life of Riley” and “Always Room at the Top” which aired on “Suspense” in 1947.
“Life of Riley,” Wildman explains, is a blue-collar comedy similar to Jackie Gleason’s later television portrayal of Ralph Kramden on “The Honeymooners” or Kevin James’ character in the more recent television show, “King of Queens,” — shows revolving around a blue-collar worker “who is not the sharpest knife in the drawer but a nice guy,” Wildman says.
“Suspense” was a mystery drama show. This particular episode was only aired once and is a story of a woman who becomes a ruthless executive in the 1940s. Playing as the showcase’s second act, “Suspense” relies on numerous sound cues to bring the story’s atmosphere to life. Wildman says this segment uses nearly 100 sound cues developed by VSU sound designer/operator Allison Stephenson.
Audiences should be aware with the stories like the original radio shows, everything from characterization, plot, comedy and action relies on sound. The audience will see the actors as they speak their parts, but they must listen to see the story via their imaginations. Featuring freshmen to seniors, the cast has had to rely on voice to become the full character, Wildman says.
For the audience to understand the versatility of the radio era’s character actors, he uses the same cast of performers to play roles in each show.
CAST: April Coleman, Richell Hart, Ryan Stillings, Cassandra Stowe, Tyrell Ruffin, Allyssa K. Blair, Vaughn Stevens, Jong Soo Park, James Burch, Kara Harrison. Director: Karl Wildman.
This show plays 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday, April 17, 19, Sawyer Theatre, VSU Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood.