Battle Mountain students present ’It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play’ over KZYR The Zephyr
‘Tis the season for holiday classics, and there are hardly any stories as timeless as “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Battle Mountain High School theater is bringing the story immortalized in the 1946 James Stewart film to the Vail Valley this December.
“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” as performed and produced by about 25 BMHS students, airs on KZYR The Zephyr at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12. Next Saturday, Dec. 19, a video stream video will be available, and details for that will be released soon.
“I can’t reiterate enough how proud I am of the kids for proving that if we all cooperate and have patience with the situation that we’re in right now, we can make great things happen,” said Courntey Lorenz, choir and theatre director.
Lorenz, who’s lived in the valley for several years while working in part-time music and theater education roles at local schools, joined the BMHS faculty this school year. She wanted to choose a smart and poignant fall play for the pandemic era.
“We knew that knew we wanted to select a production that we could approach in a mindful way during the pandemic, and knowing that there is a possibility of not having a live audience,” she said. “The hope is to bring families together in their homes around the holidays and just spread the joy throughout the community. It’s a feel-good classic.”
And radio has historically brought people together from home during times of national stress: take, for example, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats during the Great Depression, or during World War II, when radio was a popular source of not only news, but it was a connection to the world beyond their immediate surroundings, which was often the only community people experienced at the time.
But while the choice was meant to work with the pandemic rather than in spite of it, rehearsing it still came with challenges. Instead of the typically congenial after-school rehearsals, where friends hang out and work on homework while not workshopping their parts, everyone was assigned seating and socially distanced.
“I think that any of the actors or crew members would tell you that it was different from any other show that they’ve been involved in,” Lorenz said. “At the end of the day, they were just happy to come together and be with each other. I think they have a family within the theater. It meant so much to them to be able to be together.”
Maintaining public health standards also meant that actors were focusing less on the visual and physical aspects of performance — like action or blocking and character movement — and focusing more on vocal characterization.
“On a radio show, it’s not so much the emphasis on what you’re seeing but the emphasis on what you’re hearing,” Lorenz said.
To that end, several students are also serving as live Foley artists, using props to create sound effects as would have been done, and is still done today, in the entertainment industry. Students are also working as audio and lighting crew members, as well as photographers, makeup artists, costume designers and more. While the original play was only written for five actors, Lorenz worked to make sure everyone was involved and had a role to play, whether it was a literal role in the play or a role in the production.
“Many activities are being canceled and compromised right now. We want to get all of them an opportunity,” Lorenz said. “It couldn’t happen without their creativity.”
The production also worked with technology students to create the final video, which will be broadcast as the stream in Dec. 19. Along with Lorenz, set designer and co-director David Mayer, who’s worked on many BMHS productions in the past, also helped the students bring their artistic direction to reality.
The most rewarding part for Lorenz comes in seeing the effort everyone put in to come together over this project.
“I’m not going to lie, I definitely had my doubts and my concerns that it wouldn’t happen just with everything canceling,” Lorenz said. “The team pulled together, and they wouldn’t take no for an answer, and they wouldn’t lower the standards. That was the most rewarding part was seeing how remarkable of an outcome they could yield in a time like this.”
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