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Davis Journal

Live radio shows take center stage at Woods Cross theater

Oct 09, 2023 02:29PM ● By Ariel Harmer

Maddy and Noah, two Woods Cross theater students, rehearse for “Dracula,” a live radio play. Photo by Ariel Harmer

The Woods Cross High School theater department is taking inspiration from the past and performing three live radio plays this Halloween: “Dracula,” “Sherlock Holmes and the Scandal in Bohemia” and “Frances Stein,” a comedic contemporary take on “Frankenstein.”

Liz Christensen, the Woods Cross theater teacher, said this is the first time the school has performed a radio production and expects it won’t be the last.

“I thought it would be good to zero in on an art form that doesn't require [the students] to memorize, that that might be more inclusive and accessible for a wide range of students,” Christensen said. “[It] also allows me to focus on script analysis and the voice as part of their characterization, without having to worry about any of the other barriers to perform.”

Radio dramas first came into vogue in the 1920s and were highly popular throughout the ’30s and ’40s, until the popularity of the television overpowered radio as a storytelling medium. Similar to these radio dramas, a live radio play is an auditory production that uses dialogue, narration and sound effects to tell a story. 

“Actors are using their voices, live Foley artists are performing the sound effects, and visually you can see all of it, but you’re not seeing fully blocked stage design sets [or] full costume, like a realistic production,” Christensen said. “It is still a sound-based storytelling experience, it’s just you get that kick from it being a live performance [that] you don't always get necessarily over the radio.”

Christensen said another benefit of the radio play format is that it has allowed students to explore aspects of theater beyond acting, such as sound, digital and technical production. The students themselves have designed the Foley art, or sound effects, by using different items in the school’s prop storage. For instance, they will be using coconut shells to mimic horse hooves, a tea set to set the scene for “Sherlock Holmes” and an umbrella to signal the arrival of Dracula’s bat wings. 

The students have enjoyed being able to collaborate on ideas and develop skills without the stress that a traditional production can bring. Maddy, a Woods Cross student who will be playing the role of Mina in “Dracula,” said the radio play is very different from what the department has done in the past. 

“You don’t have to work out blocking and objectives for the blocking,” she said. “You can just work on what your lines are for the script and focus more solely on that.”

Fellow student Noah, who will be voicing Harker in “Dracula,” agreed. 

“I’m part of choir, and I’ve had to focus on my voice in this class more than I have in any other class I’ve been in,” he said. “This one, it really focuses on the voice more than your ability to act.”

Christensen said she’s been impressed by the support she’s received while exploring this new production format. 

“I'm really grateful for an administration and a parent community and a student community that are open to trying some new things,” she said. “Especially when the guiding principle of those new things is what’s going to work for our students, what’s going to help us accommodate students who maybe don’t normally participate, and still provide a really exciting and enriching performance experience.”

“Dracula” will be performed on Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. and “Sherlock Holmes and the Scandal in Bohemia” and “Frances Stein” will be performed on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available on λ