Townsite Actors Guild is gearing up for Christmas with its latest production, a radio play of Frank Capra’s 1946 classic, It’s A Wonderful Life, which originally starred legendary actor Jimmy Stewart.
This will be the second radio play from guild founders Stephen and Stephanie Miller. In the summer they put on a production of the 1943 radio play Sorry, Wrong Number after COVID-19 restrictions put a halt on live theatre.
“It went so well that we thought, ‘let’s do another one,’” said Stephen. “We’d love to do a radio production every two months.”
The Millers formed the guild three years ago with hopes to entertain, educate and engage the community through theatre.
“Over the three years, one of our goals was to grow our stable of actors and at the same time grow our audience within our community,” said Stephanie.
Stephen said 2020 has been a tough year on people and small businesses, from self-isolating to restaurants not being able to have indoor dining.
“We thought what better way to remind people with this play that it’s still a wonderful life,” he added.
Stephen produced the latest production while Stephanie took on the role of director. Fourteen local actors will be featured in the play that took three months to complete.
“It was great working with our amazing actors,” said Stephanie. They were willing to try new things. They are brilliant.”
With social distancing restrictions, a series of individual rehearsals were held, followed by performance rehearsals with the entire cast over Zoom. Then began the task of editing and adding the music and sound effects.
“From a technical point of view, in live theatre the actors are the ones making the noise, but in radio you have none of that,” said Stephen. “Music and sound effects are added later and are so critical because you can’t have dead air on the radio.”
Radio effects become like another actor and drive the mood, said Stephanie.
“It’s like when you’re reading a book, you need to fill in the visual with your imagination,” she added.
The guild has found incredible talent in Powell River, which wouldn’t have happened without COVID, according to Stephen.
“From an actor’s point of view, if you’re not comfortable in front of a camera, or you don’t have the memory capacity for live theatre, with radio the whole focus on your acting performance is in [your] voice,” he said.
Stephanie believes the story and characters have stayed relevant over all these years because of how relatable the overall plot and characters still are.
“The script was so well written that you can draw things out of it; 1946 still rings true today with all of the themes,” said Stephanie. “It’s an interesting story to work with. Weaving parts of the 1940s into today and really bringing it into contemporary times was fun and interesting.”
Stephen and Stephanie said they are grateful for the support of the community and local small businesses.
CJMP will be airing the radio play throughout the month of December. Residents can tune into CJMP 90.1FM or online at CJMP.ca at 7 pm on December 6, 8, 9, 13, 22 and 23 to listen to the broadcast.