MONMOUTH — The latest effort at Western Oregon University’s theater pulls back the curtain on what it was like to put on a radio play.

Playwright Joe Landry based “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” on the 1946 Frank Capra holiday classic.

“I always have loved the film that it’s based on,” said director Kent Neely.

He loves the themes and the way the story is told. It’s sentimental, he said, but good.

The story set on Christmas Eve in 1946, in the fictional town of Bedford Falls, or Pottersville, depending on the part of the story.

“The audience for the play feels like they’re the audience for the radio station,” Neely said. “Most of this script is taken from the film.”

Sound effects take the place of sets and props in the telling of this tale.

The audience will see the items on the Foley table being used to make the sounds of everything from a door slamming to water splashing.

“That’s an adventure to try to create those sounds on stage,” Neely said.

Many members of the cast of 10 take on multiple roles.

Neely said he selected them for their willingness to experiment with voices.

“They didn’t have all their voices perfected, but were able to demonstrate creativity,” he said. “This group together worked quite well. I’m very pleased with them.”

Neely said most of the actors haven’t seen “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“I told them don’t watch,” Neely laughed. “I want them to be fresh.”

Radio plays were popular in 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, and Neely said the cast members had not heard one before.

“I showed them some videos,” he said.

One of them showed how radio plays were done in the 1930s.

“They show a little boy who is listening to the radio and a film version of what he is imaging,” Neely said.

See the show

What: It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.

When: 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 14, 15, 16 and Nov. 20, 21, 22, 23. Matinee at 2 p.m. on Nov. 17.

Where: Rice Auditorium, Western Oregon University.

Tickets: Free for WOU students with ID; $14 general admission; $10 WOU faculty and staff; $8 non-WOU students.

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