‘Bah, humbug’ hits the airwaves

  • Audiences will be brought back in time to enjoy a classic style telling of one of the most beloved stories of the holiday season with “A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play,” live on stage at the Silverthorne Theater Company, 289 Main Street, Greenfield. Contributed Photo

  • Audiences will be brought back in time to enjoy a classic style telling of one of the most beloved stories of the holiday season with “A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play,” live on stage at the Silverthorne Theater Company, 289 Main Street, Greenfield. Contributed Photo

  • Michael Haley (pictured) will return as Ebenezer Scrooge for “A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play.”  Contributed Photo

  • Contributed Photo Contributed Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 12/11/2019 4:25:44 PM

GREENFIELD — Audiences will be brought back in time to enjoy a classic style telling of one of the most beloved stories of the holiday season with “A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play,” live on stage at the Silverthorne Theater Company, 289 Main Street, Greenfield.

The classic story of “A Christmas Carol” was originally published in 1843. The very next year, it was presented as eight stage productions in London alone. Over the past 176 years, the story has been retold in numerous forms. There have been approximately 28 film versions to date, and an undocumented number of radio presentations. The local “radio play” has been held for three years now.

“We live in a completely visual age,” said John Reese, director of “A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play.”

“Films these days leave so very little to our imagination, whereas radio broadcasts in the ‘30s and ‘40s stirred the senses of the listener,” he said. “The art of actually listening seems to be disappearing in our world in which television, tweets, Facebook posts and ultra realistic movies dominate our lives and entertainment.”

Theater fans can experience the radio play format as the show travels around Franklin County next weekend. The radio play adaptation comes to Hawks and Reed in Greenfield Friday, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m., the Centennial House in Northfield Saturday, Dec. 14, at 7 p.m. and the Deerfield Inn Sunday, Dec. 15, at 4 p.m.

Tickets cost $15 for general admission and $10 for seniors and students. Tickets are limited, Reese said, but inquiries about availability can be directed to https://silverthornetheater.org/special-events/ or call 413-768-7514.

“We’ve sold out the past two years that we have done it,” Reese said.

The radio play came to be a few years ago after Silverthorne theater members were looking to create a fundraiser event. Reese said because of time and financial restraints, they were inspired to do the radio play version instead of a full-scale production. Ultimately, it turned out to be a hit.

“A Christmas Carol is a perfect theater piece for a holiday revival,” Reese said. “It not only entertains an audience, but it directly addresses the meaning of being human.”

Reese and actor Michael Haley revised a script that was adapted from a full-length version of the Christmas Carol story. The hour-long version, performed by Silverthorne members, presents the recreation of a 1930s radio-play production as if it was broadcast live from a radio studio.

“When I grew up you would listen to the radio all the time,” Reese said. “I still have vivid memories of being able to listen. You would see in your mind what these people looked like. It really stirred your imagination.”

“A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play” is staged with six actors in 1930s-era clothing, gathered around standing microphones and voicing multiple characters. The returning cast includes Haley as Ebenezer Scrooge, Ann Steinhauser as Mrs. Dilber, Joanie Haley as Mrs. Buttwinker, David Rowland as Nephew Fred, David Rowland as Bob Cratchit and Marvin Shedd as the narrator. Each actor performs multiple other roles.

“The range of the characters they play goes from one extreme to the other,” Reese said.

Performers use only their voices — and live sound effects created by John Iverson — to transform into the full list of 33 characters spread between the actors. Iverson recreates the excitement of the early days of live sound production. He uses an assortment of “weird-looking and weird-sounding” machines which he wields in full view of the audience.

Iverson creates the sound of closing doors and windows, or the patter of characters’ footsteps. He uses a wind machine and thunder sheet as part of his tools. Additionally, Iverson and the cast perform “commercial breaks,” researched from real commercials.

“We are doing four commercials that were actual commercials from the time-period,” Reese said. “One is for Clorox Toothpaste. There is one for Turpentine that was used like a gargle.”

The radio play engages its audience with its creative story telling and enthusiastic performances. Reese said the play captures people’s attention as they “rediscover their imagination.”

This year’s production of “A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play” is sponsored in part by Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center and Centennial House Bed & Breakfast. The play is a fund-raiser benefit for the Silverthorne Theater Company, a non-profit arts organization dedicated to bringing the best in entertainment to the Upper Pioneer Valley. Donations to the theater company are fully tax deductible.

Silverthorne Theater Company was founded in 2014. Its mission is to present thought-provoking theatrical experiences, including new and classic works for traditional audiences and diverse populations. Next year, Silverthorne plans to present a fully staged Holiday production in December, as part of its regular 2020-2021 season.

A lifetime in the theater

Reese, 79, has worked in theater since he was a freshmen high school student in 1954.

“My first job was cleaning the dressing rooms,” Reese recalled.

He said his high school created a ticket book for events, including plays, concerts and sporting events. The book contained tickets for the entire year’s worth of events. It cost just $4.50 at the time. Reese chuckled as he said people thought that was too expensive.

Reese went onto college, majoring in theater and American history, where he began to direct plays. Following college, he moved to New York City for one year where he earned a small role on the soap opera “All My Children.”

“I ended getting a character name and I became a regular on that,” Reese said.

He went on to earn a Masters in Fine Arts in 1979 from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. After some time working in public school systems, Reese returned to the Upper Pioneer Valley for a job as a teacher and head of the theater program at Deerfield Academy where he worked for 27 years.

Reese retired from Deerfield Academy in June 2011. For the last nine years he has kept busy working with Silverthorne Theater and other local efforts.




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