Live Radio Drama to be Presented in San Miguel

Orson Welles

By Fredric Dannen

From its origins in the 1920s until the advent of television, radio drama was an immensely popular form of mass entertainment. It relied on superior acting, sharp dialogue, atmospheric music, and vivid sound effects. When Orson Welles, whose Mercury Theater presented live drama over the radio from 1938 to 1940, starred in an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Welles fretted over getting exactly the right sound for a scene in which a stake is driven through the heart of a vampire. The sound-effects artist tried puncturing a savoy cabbage with a sharpened broomstick. “Too leafy,” Welles decided, opting instead to squish a watermelon with a hammer.

Performance
Live Radio Drama to be Presented in San Miguel
Wed, Jul 13, through Fri, Jul 15, 7:30pm
Galería Ensueños
Mesones 57A
200 pesos

In recent years, the live radio drama has made something of a comeback—thanks in good part to the efforts of LA Theatre Works and the BBC—and the plays are usually recorded in a theater before a live audience. The purpose is twofold: to captivate the live audience with a crisp, fast-paced drama and to create a high quality recording for future broadcast on Internet radio (or, more accurately, podcast). The fast pacing is crucial because the secondary audience is dependent solely on sound.

While San Miguel’s Playreaders organization has been responsible for many fine productions at St. Paul’s Church, the format is not the radio drama. Playreaders productions are blocked—that is, the actors move about the stage, albeit with scripts in hand. In recent years, San Miguel has seen a few radio dramas—productions in 2010 and 2011 of It’s a Wonderful Life, directed by Chuck Rubin, and John Wharton’s presentation this past April of Donald Margulies’ Sight Unseen at the Shelter Theater.

Now Rubin is inaugurating what is expected to be the first in a series of radio dramas, for future podcast, to be presented live at the San Miguel Playhouse in Col. Independencia. Rubin has chosen Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, a hit play from 1954, based on Wouk’s novel The Caine Mutiny. Unlike the novel and movie, the play centers entirely on the court-martial of Lt. Stephen Maryk, executive officer of the USS Caine, accused of deposing, without proper authority, his senior officer, Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg, during a typhoon at sea. One of the finest, and tensest, courtroom dramas ever written, the play is well suited for the radio format since it is completely set, apart from a final scene, in a military court.

The all-male cast—a rarity for San Miguel—will include veteran actors Fil Formicola and Howard Platt. Los Angeles singer and actor Don Krim, who recently enacted seven different roles in the Playreaders’ production of the British farce Bullshot Crummond, will appear as the brittle, paranoid Captain Queeg.

There will be three consecutive performances, from Wednesday, July 13, through Friday, July 15, at 7:30pm. Reserved-seat tickets are 200 pesos, and can be purchased any day except Tuesdays, between 10:30am and 2pm, at the Galeria Ensueños, 57A Mesones (corner of Reloj); or at the theater one hour before show time.

 

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