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SUNY Oswego’s ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ to evoke golden age of radio

The cast of the SUNY Oswego theater department's "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" will treat audiences Dec. 5 and 6 in Pulaski and Oswego, respectively, to a production of the holiday classic that relies on voices, sound effects and music to evoke the drama, much as radio did in its golden age. Joining director Henry Shikongo (standing at far left) are cast members, each of whom will play multiple roles (standing left to right) Keith Gallucci, Clarissa Bawarski (doubling as stage manager), Brian Bueche and Rebecca McCarthy; and (seated left to right) Mike Cothren, Dan Frohm, Sarah Eye and Evan Debevec-McKenney.

The cast of the SUNY Oswego theater department's "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" will treat audiences Dec. 5 and 6 in Pulaski and Oswego, respectively, to a production of the holiday classic that relies on voices, sound effects and music to evoke the drama, much as radio did in its golden age. Joining director Henry Shikongo (standing at far left) are cast members, each of whom will play multiple roles (standing left to right) Keith Gallucci, Clarissa Bawarski (doubling as stage manager), Brian Bueche and Rebecca McCarthy; and (seated left to right) Mike Cothren, Dan Frohm, Sarah Eye and Evan Debevec-McKenney.

OSWEGO — SUNY Oswego’s theater department will celebrate the holidays with a live “radio play” of the classic “It’s A Wonderful Life” on Dec. 5 at Pulaski’s Kallet Theater and Dec. 6 in Hewitt Union ballroom.

The fantasy comedy-drama “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” will open at 8 p.m. Dec. 5, at the Kallet, 4842 Jefferson St. in Pulaski, and run as a matinee at 2 p.m. on Dec. 6.

The cast of the SUNY Oswego theater department's "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" will treat audiences Dec. 5 and 6 in Pulaski and Oswego, respectively, to a production of the holiday classic that relies on voices, sound effects and music to evoke the drama, much as radio did in its golden age. Joining director Henry Shikongo (standing at far left) are cast members, each of whom will play multiple roles (standing left to right) Keith Gallucci, Clarissa Bawarski (doubling as stage manager), Brian Bueche and Rebecca McCarthy; and (seated left to right) Mike Cothren, Dan Frohm, Sarah Eye and Evan Debevec-McKenney.
The cast of the SUNY Oswego theater department’s “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” will treat audiences Dec. 5 and 6 in Pulaski and Oswego, respectively, to a production of the holiday classic that relies on voices, sound effects and music to evoke the drama, much as radio did in its golden age. Joining director Henry Shikongo (standing at far left) are cast members, each of whom will play multiple roles (standing left to right) Keith Gallucci, Clarissa Bawarski (doubling as stage manager), Brian Bueche and Rebecca McCarthy; and (seated left to right) Mike Cothren, Dan Frohm, Sarah Eye and Evan Debevec-McKenney.

This adaptation by Joe Landry tracks the iconic tale of the heartwarming 1946 Frank Capra film that follows George Bailey as he considers ending his life one fateful Christmas Eve. However, rather than as a traditional play, the story will unfold in the form of a radio drama, with in-character narrative, music and sound effects plus minimal staging.

“It’s like a play minus the acting in front of you,” said Henry Shikongo, visiting assistant professor of acting and directing at SUNY Oswego.

The student cast will read off scripts, relying on their voices for dramatic narrative. A crew of students and faculty will support the production with sound, lighting, costuming and a scene that will imitate the setting of a radio station.

“This takes us back into the 1920s when televisions weren’t even invented yet,” said Shikongo. “For entertainment, families were huddled up by their radio listening to stories.”

The presentation is the latest in SUNY Oswego’s efforts to use the temporary closure of Tyler Hall for renovations as an opportunity to take its fine and performing arts to different venues and community audiences.

Hewitt Union box office manager Kelly Cullinan, who assists with promotion of theater department productions, said traveling to Kallet Theater in Pulaski presents a teaching-and-learning opportunity, as well.

“It’s a touring experience for our students to pick up and take a show out of town,” Cullinan said. “It benefits the Kallet Theater, and it gets our theater program out there.”

Voice training

A key element to the play is its music and sound effects. Along with having a mini-orchestra, the production will include a Foley artist who will recreate ambient sounds for a live experience.

Performers are spending hours training their voices. “We do a lot of breathing exercises to help support our voices,” said Keith Gallucci, a senior majoring in cinema and screen studies. “I’ve learned how to take a certain physicality to take on characters.”

With eight cast members, he and the other actors are taking on the roles of multiple characters. Besides Gallucci, the cast will feature Rebecca McCarthy, Dan Frohm, Mike Cothren, Evan Debevec-McKenney, Brian Bueche, Sarah Eye and Clarissa Bawarski.

Besides Shikongo, the production team will include SUNY Oswego faculty and staff members Jessica Hester, department chair and producer; pianist and music director Dan Williams, technical director Sean Culligan, scene and lighting designer Ola Kraszpulska, costume designer Kitty Macey, costume shop supervisor Judy McCabe, properties master Jessica Culligan and master electrician Greg Brewster.

Students on the production crew will include Bawarski as stage manager, Rachael Kepler (sound designer and light board operator), Ashley Barker (wardrobe chief), Nicole Marlowe (wardrobe run crew) and Royshanna Young (make-up crew chief), with costume preparation, scenery construction and props by students in “Introduction to Theatre” classes. Student musicians are Cheryl Goewey on alto sax, tenor Derek Holden and drummer Kevin Clark.

Tickets to the Hewitt Union presentation of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” on Dec. 6 are $10 for general admission (free for SUNY Oswego students with valid ID) and are available at all SUNY Oswego box offices, online at tickets.oswego.edu and by phone at 315-312-2141. Contact the Kallet Theater at 315-298-0007 for information on tickets to the Dec. 5 show.

Parking for the Hewitt Union performance is included in the price of a ticket and is available in the lots in front and to the east of Culkin Hall. People with disabilities needing assistance should call 315-312-2141 in advance of the performance.