Reenacting radio drama of the 1950sA local theater group is producing episodes of a western and a science fiction drama just as they would have been heard by radio audiences in the 1950s.
By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
A local theater group is producing episodes of a western and a science fiction drama just as they would have been heard by radio audiences in the 1950s.
While being aired on the radio station KDIX 1230AM, the audience will see what goes on behind the scenes during the performances.
The actors will be dressed in period costumes of the mid-1950s, talking into microphones as if in a New York studio, said Kevin Holten, coordinator of communications, events and marketing for the Dickinson State University Alumni and Foundation.
“The commercials, fictitious of course, are almost better than the script,” he said. “You get to see the actors switching around and playing more than one role — and watching the sound effects is the gravy.”
The episodes are presented by Sneak Pique Productions, in conjunction with DSU Foundation and the Odd Fellows Lodge. Proceeds are donated toward DSU scholarships.
The radio program opens with “Gunsmoke,” followed by an episode of “X Minus 1.”
Director Pat Barnhart selected a script from the 450 “Gunsmoke” radio shows that ran from 1952 to 1961. Another 635 episodes aired on television.
He was looking for an episode with a strong woman’s role, in response to his cast of performers.
The episode opens with Mavis McCloud coming to Dodge City looking for someone to marry. Rumors fly that she is to marry the sheriff, Matt Dillon. Then a “bad guy” comes to town vowing to kill the man she marries. The mystery unfolds as to his reasons and the outcome.
“I guess the biggest thing for me is the sound effects,” Barnhart said.
Jackie Hope provides the music and sound effects, such as soup cans for a squeaking door, shoes for walking and a tire pump to mimic a choo-choo train.
“As a musician, I think I hear sounds — when I hear something, I remember it,” she said.
The “X Minus 1” series ran from April of 1955 to January of 1958. The episode of “Tunnel Under the World” was written by Frederik Pohl and aired in 1956.
It’s about a man who wakes up from a horrible dream to live the same day over and over, somewhat like the film, “Groundhog Day.” Then he runs into a passenger on the bus, who also wonders what’s going on. They discover a tunnel under the city and realize that an atomic blast has killed everyone. But what happened to them? The ending has a twist only possible through science fiction.
Barnhart relies on a seasoned set of performers to bring the scripts to life. Unlike a theater performance, they have four or five rehearsals in which to understand their characters.
Scott Hanson, assistant professor of accounting at DSU, plays the role of Chester in “Gunsmoke.” He described Chester as a likeable, but goofy, country guy.
Comparing theater to radio, Hanson added, “There’s more ability for the actors to develop themselves very quickly and be more dependent upon the chemistry among the actors.”
The performance is 7 p.m. on Thursday in the Odd Fellows Lodge, 30 First Ave. W. There is seating for 60.
Tickets may be purchased at the DSU Alumni office or by calling 701-483-2004.