Play lets audience see sounds of season

Kara Christensen

Kara Christensen

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the voices of a radio show?

Even though the upcoming theater performance of “The 1940’s Radio Hour” takes place almost 60 years ago, audience members will get a peek into the action and see themes that exist today.

“You still get to see all of the activity that’s going on,” said Director Nancy Wheeler. “It’s a glimpse into a radio show as it’s being produced.”

The setting? A small radio station in New York, December 1942. Although the station is not top of the line, Wheeler said the workers take their job very seriously, as if everyone everywhere listens to their programs.

The first half of the performance is a behind-the-scenes look at the people producing the show, and the actual program goes on-air for the second half. Because the play is under two hours long, there won’t be an intermission.

“The fun part of it is watching all the activity going on behind the microphones,” Wheeler said.

Amidst a season of serious plays, the theater department offers up this touching comedy with music that will appeal to both older patrons and students, Wheeler said.

A student orchestra will perform nostalgic numbers like “Old Black Magic,” “Ain’t She Sweet,” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”

“They’re standards, so the music is very recognizable.”

Set during World War II, the play’s references to the “boys over seas” and war efforts are appropriate for American sentiment today.

“This whole idea of the patriotism is very timely, even though it’s set in 1942.”

War is a heavy subject, but Wheeler said this play manages to stay lighthearted by transporting the audience to a time of simplicity and naivety, a time where a Pepsi bottle only cost a nickel.

“It’s seasonal, topical and nostalgic, all at the same time.”

For students under pressure from end-of-term papers and final exams, this play offers an escape from those worries.

“This is kind of a little reprieve,” she said.

Even though the weather and power outage presented rehearsal challenges last week, Wheeler said she is looking forward to seeing the show.

“[I hope] that the people on the stage have a good time and that the people in the audience enjoy their work.”

Within the cast of 13 are recognizable actors and actresses, but Wheeler said there are some new faces.

“I think that’s always a plus.”

Among those new faces is freshman Ryan Siebrasse who plays Wally Ferguuson. He described Wally as a 17-year old drugstore delivery boy who wants to be part of the radio show.

“He hangs around the cast of the show, looking to get his break,” Siebrasse said. “He’s just trying to find his niche.”

One of the best things about playing Ferguuson is his energy. “He never stops moving … It’s fun.”

Keeping this energy going is also a challenge. “I fall down a lot,” Siebrasse said with a smile, adding that it’s sometimes intentional, sometimes accidental.

Playing a former waitress named Ginger has been fun for senior Beth Poppen because she is nothing like Ginger.

How would she describe her character?

“I’m kind of the, what would you call me?” Poppen paused and then said bluntly, “I’m a big flirt.”

After Ginger was discovered at a restaurant by the stage manager, she joined the radio show.

“Now I think I’m a big-time radio person,” Poppen said.

“It’s completely unlike myself and it’s a challenge.”

Sophomore DJ Steckelberg plays Clifton Fedington, the station manager and announcer. This means he gets to portray two different sides of the same character.

“I get to play around a lot,” he said.

At first Fedington is mad, tense and stressed out. But when the program goes on-the-air, he smoothly transitions into a velvety-voiced announcer.

“It’s a small station and I’m trying to get it noticed by the networks,” Steckelberg explained. “I’m really sincere and eager to sell the show.”

He thinks audience members will really enjoy the show.

“Every person up on the stage has a character that you can just watch throughout the show and just love.”