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It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play Presented by COS

IN THE December 15 ISSUE

FROM THE 2021 Articles,
andLorie Lewis Ham,
andTheatre
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by Lorie Lewis Ham

This weekend the College of the Sequoias Performing Arts in Visalia will be presenting It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play by Joe Landry streaming via Broadway On Demand. We took a moment to chat about the show with its director, Chris Mangels, who is Professor of Cinema & Theatre Arts at the College of the Sequoias.

KRL: Why did you choose this particular Christmas show?

Chris: During the summer, we had only intended to produce one show in the Fall 21 semester: our ambitious outdoor touring production of Much Ado About Nothing. In late July, however, I suggested to my colleagues that we consider producing a second show if a lot of new students expressed an interest once we returned to face-to-face classes in August. My fellow professor, James McDonnell, and I had really enjoyed Brad Myers’ Fresno State Theatre Department production of It’s a Wonderful Life several years ago, and I knew that streaming rights were available for the play. We hadn’t produced a holiday show since White Christmas in 2016, and we thought it would be a nice thing to share with our community, so we decided to put it unofficially on our schedule. When we wound up having such a huge turnout at auditions for Much Ado, we immediately announced this second production, and that was how we got to where we are now.

Cast of “It’s A Wonderful Life” at COS

KRL: Did you have to adapt the script for performing it virtually?

Chris: No. Since it is written to be performed as a live radio play, it is already a great fit for a virtual production. It requires great actors in costume performing at microphones, and we knew we could add some fun visual elements to bring it to life.

KRL: Will it be virtual only or will there be some live performances?

Chris: It will just be available as a virtual production, streaming via Broadway On Demand.

KRL: Are you filming it ahead of time or streaming live?

Chris: We performed it in front of a live studio audience for two evenings so we could record it. Our streaming audience will see the production, which has been prepared by our brilliant student videographer/editor Logan Jones. He worked on some of our most ambitious virtual projects throughout the 2020/2021 ‘quarantine’ season so I am thrilled to have him bring his great talent to this new endeavor.

KRL: What was the process like to film the show?

Chris: We are very lucky to have recently received funding for a brand-new professional video recording system in the COS Theatre. It features a multi-camera set-up and editing bay which can be operated from the control booth. This will eventually facilitate both live-stream and recording options for any event that we have, be it theatre, music, dance, or other live opportunities. Though the full system is still being installed, we were able to use part of it to set up a three camera shoot for It’s a Wonderful Life, and then filmed the performance over two consecutive nights. Logan now has six different options to choose from as he edits together the production for a streaming audience.

KRL: How does the streaming work?

Chris: We will be streaming through Broadway On Demand, a massive online streaming service that hosts professional, amateur, and educational theatre productions. Patrons can visit our website at www.cos.ticketleap.com, watch a brief video that guides them through the streaming process, and then get a link to Broadway On Demand where they will set-up a free online account in order to stream the production.

KRL: Have you been able to rehearse in person?

Chris: We were fortunate to rehearse virtually AND in-person. We first met via Zoom in late October and discussed character and style. Then we came together for a two-week in-person workshop that was conducted with everyone in masks. We took time off for Thanksgiving and then came back for a week of run-throughs as we prepared the production in earnest. Finally, every one of the actors got daily COVID tests so we could perform without masks on the set in front of an invited audience. It was an ever-evolving rehearsal process, but the cast and crew were incredibly good-natured. Ultimately, everyone was just grateful to be able to perform in front of a live audience so it was easy to adapt to the challenges.

KRL: What has been the most fun about putting this show together?

Chris: Exploring the style of a 1948 radio play, with live Foley sound effects and piano accompaniment, was such a great challenge, but ultimately I think what I enjoyed the most was getting to work with so many new students. The ensemble is comprised of 21 performers, but I had only worked with five of them prior to this production. Our live studio audience absolutely loved the show, so I am excited to bring it to a larger Central Valley audience via streaming. We hope that everyone settles in with their family for two hours of heartwarming holiday entertainment.

KRL: Anything you would like to add?

Chris: I would just like to take a moment to talk about our upcoming Spring 2022 semester. In March, I will be mentoring one of our soon-to-be-graduating Theatre majors, Haley Wallace, as she directs her first full-length production: Jen Silverman’s brilliant new comedy, Witch. In May, we will be producing a fresh new take on Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, presented live on our beautiful outdoor stage on the COS Visalia campus. There are so many incredible opportunities for new students, returning students, and our veteran community members, and I am really excited for what the future will bring!

KRL: Will there be tickets for It’s a Wonderful Life or is it free?

Chris: COS Performing Arts is not charging anything for the show, but BroadwayOnDemand.com requires a nominal $2.95 service fee from each patron to stream the production. More information is available at COS.Ticketleap.com/WONDERFUL.

KRL: When will it be available?

Chris: It will be available to stream on demand from Friday, 12/17 through Sunday, 12/19. Enjoy the show!

You can find more theatre articles, and other entertainment articles, in our Arts & Entertainment section.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can check the podcast out on Apple Podcasts and Google Play, and also on podbean. We just posted 2 Christmas episodes this month!

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and a contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet. Lorie’s brand new mystery novel, One of Us, is set in the Tower District of Fresno and the world of community theatre!

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