Just in time for the Christmas season, the Wharton County Junior College Drama Department is putting on a holiday classic – with a unique twist.
On Dec. 7 and 8, the department will present “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” by Joe Landry. The production, which is a radio drama based on the beloved Christmas movie, was the perfect fit for WCJC’s performers, said WCJC Drama Instructor and Director Sam Smith. Smith said that both he and Greg McLarty, WCJC’s Instructor of Theatre, are big fans of the original story – yet loved the nuances of the adaptation. “With this version, you’re able to do what’s important to the story without having to recreate too much on the stage,” Smith said. “And it’s a really good time of the year to do it.”
The show will be truly unique, with microphones planted around the stage, large placards labeled with “APPLAUSE” used to engage the audience, and even two “commercials” during the performance. Sound effects will also play a large part as this is meant to mimic a radio broadcast. “We’ll try to do as many sound effects realistically as possible,” Smith said.
For the performers, it’s a challenging production as many are tackling several roles. Student actor Rob Sandage, for example, plays nine different characters. “I have to look at different voices that don’t sound like each other,” he said, adding that it’s nice to be able to play characters on both ends of the spectrum. “I’ve always wanted to play a sinister role,” Sandage said.
Just having the chance to step into a timeless classic is a thrill in and of itself, said actress Whitney McClendon, who plays the characters of Violet, Ruth, Mrs. Thompson and Janie.
“It’s a fun experience for me because all of my life growing up it was a tradition to watch the movie,” she said. “I used to quote Violet’s lines and now I’m playing her.”
Staying true to the original was a concern of Warren Motamedi, who plays lead character George Bailey. “I’m trying in the best way to do justice to the film but in a different way,” he said. “I like George because there’s a lot of emotion in his character and a lot of flexibility for injecting your own emotions.”
Ensuring that those emotions exhibit themselves at the appropriate time is part of the task of stage manager Sasha Andrade. “This is a large cast so it’s hard to keep them all in line,” she said.
In addition to McClendon, Sandage and Motamedi, the cast includes Victoria Rutledge, Marika Karastamatis, Jessica Galvan, Sam Payne, Bryson Baugus and Issac Cox. Sound engineers are David Hiebert and Victoria Brun.
“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” will be held at 7 p.m. on both Friday, Dec. 7, and Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Duson-Hansen Fine Arts Building of the Wharton campus, 911 Boling Highway. The play is in two acts and will last about one and a half to two hours. It’s free and open to the public. For more information, call 979-532-6300.