'It's a Wonderful Life' at Ensemble Stage

By Derek Halsey (reporter@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Nov. 28, 2013 | Modified: Dec. 1, 2013
'It's a Wonderful Life' at Ensemble Stage

Blowing Rock’s Ensemble Stage is tuning in to a holiday classic Nov. 30.

The stage company presents “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” a recreation of the popular Christmas movie, performed as a radio play reminiscent of those from the 1930s and ’40s.

And that includes performers creating their own sound effects live on stage.
Adding to its authenticity, the show will be recorded and broadcasted on local radio station WATA-AM (1450) at a later date.

The live performance starts at 7 p.m. and will take place at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium, located at 160 Sunset Drive in downtown Blowing Rock. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for kids 16 and younger. Tickets and more information can be found at http://www.ensemblestage.com and by calling (828) 414-1844.

The motion picture, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” was released in 1946 and was not very successful at the box office. As years went by, the movie, directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart, was broadcast on television during the Christmas season, and this now-classic film was resurrected.

What makes Ensemble’s production stand out is that it will be performed as if it were a 1940s radio show, replete with actors playing multiple roles.

“It will be cool, because a lot of people will come and see the live show and see how everything is done and watch the performance on the stage,” artistic director Gary Smith said. “Then, when the program is broadcast and they listen to it on radio, they won’t have that same visual (of the live production), and it gives them a different feel, like they are listening to a whole other show. When people come to see the show, especially kids in grade school, junior high and even high school, they seem to enjoy it, because they have never seen that form of entertainment. So, it is neat to give some insight into the way things used to be.”

One of the highlights of seeing a radio play performed live is watching the actors use various tricks of the trade to make the sound effects needed to bring the show to life in the imagination of the listener.

“It is really interesting to watch,” Smith said. “For gunshots, you use balloons that you can pop. It looks a little silly up onstage, but when you just hear it, it sounds just right. In this particular show, the scene where Mr. Gower slaps (young George Bailey) on his ear, onstage they will see the actor standing in front of a microphone slapping a head of cabbage.”

Ensemble Stage was founded in 2009, and while it is a professional theater company, it’s also an organization dedicated to bringing the experience of working in theater world to local talent.

“We’re a professional theater, but in the fall and winter months, we bring the community into the theater for a number of reasons,” Smith said. “It gives people who enjoy doing theater an opportunity to perform, those who have so-called regular jobs, who don’t normally have the time to devote to our professional season. Usually, it is six days a week and six to eight hours a day of rehearsal, and people that have real jobs can’t do those kinds of things. I want people to get a microcosmic feel of what it takes to put on a show. It is all about educating people and understanding that there is a lot more behind it than the old Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney thing of, ‘Hey, let’s put on a show out at the barn!’”

For more information on Ensemble Stage, visit http://www.ensemblestage.com.

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