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Students prepare radio adaptation of the classic film “It’s A Wonderful Life”

Posted on 11.07.2018

The Theatre Department is preparing to stage their first radio play for their annual fall performance. “It’s A Wonderful Life” will be onstage at the University of Indianapolis on Nov. 29 and Dec. 1 through Dec. 6.

In the radio show format, the story will be told by the actors voicing parts over the radio.

Associate Adjunct Faculty Member and Director Kyle Thomas explained that he was interested in the format because radio plays were common before television was implemented, and the department had been wanting to do a radio play to target new audiences.

Sophomore Seni Tekle (left) and senior Zech Saenz (center) practice a scene between their characters Mary Bailey and George Bailey for the upcoming production of "It's a Wonderful Life" with director Kyle Thomas. Photo by Kiara Conley

Sophomore Seni Tekle (left) and senior Zech Saenz (center) practice a scene between their characters Mary Bailey and George Bailey for the upcoming production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” with director Kyle Thomas. Photo by Kiara Conley

Senior theater education major Zech Saenz, who stars as George Bailey, said that the format of the show will challenge the cast.

“[Acting for the radio] really is the testament to everything,” Saenz said. “If you’re here in the audience when we’re doing the show, obviously you can tell that’s the same character because it’s the same person, but on the radio if there’s just a small switch in their voice, is it a new character? Is it a new person entirely? So that’s kind of exciting and I’m really excited to see how this pans out.”

Saenz and sophomore theater major Seni Tekle, who plays Mary Bailey, both said that the biggest challenge of the format is knowing how to use vocals in new ways. Many actors were cast in multiple roles and will have to change pitches and accents to sell the act.

“I guess that’s one thing to keep in mind when you’re an audience member,” Tekle said. “They’re not playing one character, it’s not a traditional show, so they’re genuinely going to be playing a different character… so many different things they’re incorporating into the show, so it’s pretty cool.”

The university’s radio station, WICR 88.7, will be airing the show live during one of its performances and play it again on Christmas Eve.

Despite the performance being a radio show, the atmosphere is still a priority for production staff. The seats in the studio theater will be taken out and replaced with couches, recliners and other comfortable decorations to create a feeling of a radio station. This is because the actors will be interacting with the audience and moving around the theater.

“You don’t feel like you’re watching a play, but more like experiencing something…”

With the comfortable couches, live sounds and multiple characters, the performance aims to immerse viewers.

Freshman theater major Noah Fields, who will play the part of George Bailey’s guardian angel, Clarence, said even though he and his fellow cast members have had only a few rehearsals, he feels the production is going to succeed because of the additional work of everyone involved in the performance.

“Kyle, our director, is very adamant in his directing style, so he’s told us about breaking the barrier between audience and performers and wants to create an environment where the two are almost one, [where] you don’t feel like you’re watching a play, but more like experiencing something,” Fields said. “And he felt like doing a radio play, in that regard, would be a really good way of doing that. Once you see the show, you’ll see how he makes this more than just a typical radio play.”

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