Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Staging a Classic a New, Old Way


Thom Hofrichter

Whatzup Features Writer

Published June 1, 2017

Heads Up! This article is 5 years old.

I have been asked several times why we chose to use the radio drama format for this, our fifth re-telling of It’s a Wonderful Life. I think my major influence was revisiting the movie. I wanted to get back to the original story.

In order to tell the story on the stage many liberties are taken with the original script. After all, it is not reasonable to expect Ernie’s taxicab to be on stage, so his role is adapted. The role of George Bailey’s father was deleted to reduce the number of locations required to tell the story.

Where things occur is very important when working on the stage or in movies. Just listening to the human voice, though, like when you hear radio drama, allows the story’s witness to fill in all the details.

But any of you who are radio drama fans will know it’s not just the human voice. There is a thing called the “Foley artist,” or what we would think of as the sound effects guy. Part of the joy of watching a production built for the radio is the joy of seeing behind the sounds. We are very lucky that Duke Roth has taken on that role.

The other character in the play is the music. Jeanette Walsh has created a wonderfully cheesy score (we borrowed and stole from some of the best radio of the 20s, 30s and 40s). The music also helps tell the story by moving you from one place to the next, having time pass and setting mood and tone for the scene. There can be great joy watching how what you hear on the radio is made, and so FPT decided to pull back the curtain on the Christmas story that is my personal favorite.

To those of you young enough to still possess a keen sense of memory, who haven’t frittered away your grey matter for the temporary joys that hedonism and repeated trips to Hall’s and Henry’s supply, you will no doubt be disappointed that I’m repeating some comments from the last time I wrote a director’s note for It’s A Wonderful Life. Well dog-gone-it, as George Bailey would say, it still applies. And to those of you whose brains have atrophied over time from one too many glasses of holiday cheer because you treat every day of the year like a holiday, well, never mind, and enjoy my brand new director’s comments for It’s a Wonderful Life (2016 version).

There are three Christmas videos I watch every year: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Die Hard (hey, it’s set at a Christmas party), and It’s a Wonderful Life. The first two help me recapture the joy of being a child: The Grinch because of it’s cartoon-ish fun (honestly, has there ever been an actor as wonderful as Max the dog?), and Die Hard because little boys love it when stuff blows up real good.

Directing First Presbyterian Theater’s current production of It’s a Wonderful Life made me examine why I go back every year and watch this timeless film. First, the movie never fails to act as a purgative, releasing the tears of sadness that somehow seem inextricably bound up with the holidays. However, I believe its main effect is to reconnect me with what I hold most dear in my belief system. The show’s basic premise is that one single life has tremendous power in it, and I have been asked several times why we chose to use the radio drama format for this, our fifth re-telling of It’s a Wonderful Life. I think my major influence was revisiting the movie. I wanted to get back to the original story.

In order to tell the story on the stage many liberties are taken with the original script. After all, it is not reasonable to expect Ernie’s taxicab to be on stage, so his role is adapted. The role of George Bailey’s father was deleted to reduce the number of locations required to tell the story.

Where things occur is very important when working on the stage or in movies. Just listening to the human voice, though, like when you hear radio drama, allows the story’s witness to fill in all the details.

But any of you who are radio drama fans will know it’s not just the human voice. There is a thing called the “Foley artist,” or what we would think of as the sound effects guy. Part of the joy of watching a production built for the radio is the joy of seeing behind the sounds. We are very lucky that Duke Roth has taken on that role.

The other character in the play is the music. Jeanette Walsh has created a wonderfully cheesy score (we borrowed and stole from some of the best radio of the 20s, 30s and 40s). The music also helps tell the story by moving you from one place to the next, having time pass and setting mood and tone for the scene. There can be great joy watching how what you hear on the radio is made, and so FPT decided to pull back the curtain on the Christmas story that is my personal favorite.

To those of you young enough to still possess a keen sense of memory, who haven’t frittered away your grey matter for the temporary joys that hedonism and repeated trips to Hall’s and Henry’s supply, you will no doubt be disappointed that I’m repeating some comments from the last time I wrote a director’s note for It’s A Wonderful Life. Well dog-gone-it, as George Bailey would say, it still applies. And to those of you whose brains have atrophied over time from one too many glasses of holiday cheer because you treat every day of the year like a holiday, well, never mind, and enjoy my brand new director’s comments for It’s a Wonderful Life (2016 version).

There are three Christmas videos I watch every year: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Die Hard (hey, it’s set at a Christmas party), and It’s a Wonderful Life. The first two help me recapture the joy of being a child: The Grinch because of it’s cartoon-ish fun (honestly, has there ever been an actor as wonderful as Max the dog?), and Die Hard because little boys love it when stuff blows up real good.

Directing First Presbyterian Theater’s current production of It’s a Wonderful Life made me examine why I go back every year and watch this timeless film. First, the movie never fails to act as a purgative, releasing the tears of sadness that somehow seem inextricably bound up with the holidays. However, I believe its main effect is to reconnect me with what I hold most dear in my belief system. The show’s basic premise is that one single life has tremendous power in it, and that each of us constantly shapes the world by the simple acts we commit every day. We celebrate the story of Christmas because Christ’s birth is that moment when a man, armed only with love, entered the world to forever change it. George Bailey can also be seen as a Christian archetype. He’s a simple, humble man who puts others before himself.

The play features Kevin Torwelle as George Bailey, Catherine Harber as Mary Bailey, Dave Sorg as both Clarence the Angel and Mr. Potter and solo vocalists Nancy Kartholl and Kyle Cordova.

The rest of the cast plays dozens of characters and includes: Austin Berger, Linda L. Moore, Will Nicholes, Duke Roth, Lisa Ryan and Zane Sade. As previously noted, Roth is the Foley artist and Walsh provides the background score as well as designing the costumes.

Subscribe for daily things to do:

Subscribe for daily things to do:


Whatzup

© 2022 Whatzup