Ada — The Chickasaw Nation wants to whisk you away to 1946 when radio ruled, television was waiting in the wings and skilled actors and actresses were just as effective over radio waves as flickering on the silver screen in America’s movie houses.
The Chickasaw Nation’s Arts and Humanities Division will usher you back in time with the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” -- only with a twist.
The play will be presented as a live radio broadcast just as it would have been 67 years ago. The twist is the radio actors will be performing the “radio show” from the McSwain Theatre stage in Ada.
“The audience will see the players as they would have appeared if they were performing a radio broadcast in a studio,” Chickasaw Nation performing arts coordinator and the play’s director James Wallace explains.
And, while the production will feature cast members in 1940s haberdashery, each will portray several characters and be “acting” with their voices through microphones.
Probably the most entertaining element of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Show,” will be the “Foley Artist.” That’s theater lingo for the person doing the show’s sound effects.
The foley artist for this production is Clete Robins, whose day-job is a software quality assurance analyst for The Chickasaw Nation. The play will feature Chickasaws and non-Native participates on stage, Wallace noted.
Audiences will get the rare opportunity to see how sound effects were reproduced in the studio to make the play come to life over the air waves.
Robins also has a role in the play, so he will be doing double duty.
“Probably the most important sound effect in the show will be the bell ringing when actress Mayme McClure, playing Zuzu Bailey, delivers the movie version’s most famous line: ‘Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings,’” Wallace said.
“A radio play is a different kind of entertainment than people are accustomed to enjoying,” Wallace observed.
“It is especially different for younger audience members because all they know is computer generated imagery, so the play is entertaining and is also a learning experience.
“They will see how the sound effects are done. We have costumes and we have a set, but they are kind of props as well,” Wallace said.
“It is the actors and particularly the dialogue that move the story along. It is fun for the audience to see the actors portraying more than one character.
“You do a show and it gives people an opportunity to enjoy it but it also gives them the opportunity to escape to a different place,” Wallace explained. “If we can give people the experience of a different emotion or thought than what they came into the theater with, then we have accomplished our mission,” he added.
The Frank Capra-directed film began production in April 1946 and concluded in July the same year. It was released to box offices in January 1947 to mixed reviews.
The movie production company, RKO, said the film lost $525,000. Based upon a wildcat novel written in 1939 titled “The Greatest Gift” by Phillip Van Doren Stern, it never found a publisher but instead was mailed as a Christmas story to Stern’s friends.
Film and copyrights to the story – about a small town banker contemplating suicide who is saved by a bumbling, but lovable, guardian angel – languished for years until Capra decided to take on the project.
The film starred Hollywood heavyweights James Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore.
In 2006, it was ranked as the most inspirational film of all time by the prestigious American Film Institute.
Despite poor reviews, Americans loved the film and it is a staple among Christmas-themed movies shown annually this time of year.
Performances will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13 and Saturday, Dec. 14. A Saturday matinee will begin at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $5 and are available at the McSwain Theatre at 130 W. Main in Ada. For more information, visit www.mcswaintheatre.com.
If You Go
Who: The Chickasaw Nation Arts and Humanities Department and many talented regional and local actors and actresses.
What: “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Show,” an adaption of the famed 1947 Frank Capra movie that has become one of the most beloved Christmas-themed shows of all time.
When: Friday, Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14 with a 2 p.m. matinee and a 7 p.m. final performance.
Where: The McSwain Theatre, 130 W. Main in Ada. For more information, visit www.mcswaintheatre.com.