The radio theater “Comedy of errors” promises “a merry party”
Like most arts organizations, the Northwest Arkansas Audio Theater has been largely hampered by the covid-19 pandemic. The five-year organization, dedicated to keeping the magic of radio drama alive, spent most of 2020 squatting, occasionally posting videos of short radio dramas in order to stay in touch with its audiences. But, starting April 3, they’ll return to full performances with William Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Mistakes”, shown outdoors – allowing audiences to see the fun in a safe and socially remote environment.
“It’s a big comedy, it’s a joke – even in our radio theater style production, we have a pretty big physical humor, a pretty big visual humor in costume,” said director Jacob Christiansen. “It’s going to be a fun show, I think, even for the kids. It’s really accessible; ‘The Comedy of Mistakes’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ are probably the most accessible Shakespearean plays.”
In the tradition of the NWAAT, the cast of around 15 actors will be dressed in costumes that suggest their characters, while the Foley performers – the cast members who create the sound effects in the traditional way of radio dramas – and the musicians are on stage with them. It is, notes Christiansen, a somewhat hybrid performance, somewhere between reading theater and radio theater, which draws the curtain and allows the audience to see the ingredients that make the magic of a radio play.
“It’s actually a pretty fun little business,” enthuses Christiansen, who is an active Northwest Arkansas theater director, although this is his first time working with NWAAT. “You set out to create an audio experience, but you have the added benefit of creating a visual experience. For the audience, he first sees how the audio work is done: the microphones, the sound effects, the like. And then you add in some fun costumes and props and representative actions to help the story out a bit, and it ends up being a cute little hybrid. I think people have really enjoyed what audio theater has done in the past, and I think it’s a show that they will really like. “
“Some of us kind of visualize this as a ’40s radio show, and you’re in the live audience of the performance,” says NWAAT founder Scott Anderson. “Now you can hear the production, you can see how it works, how the sound effects are played. For example, if we need fire, our source of fire is a crumpled chip bag. If you crinkle it and flex it all around, it sounds like a fire. But you would never guess that just by looking at it. “Is that what makes that noise?” “”
In the spirit of “Shakespeare in the Park”, NWAAT will perform “The Comedy of Errors” in two area parks: Turnbow Park in Springdale and Gulley Park in Fayetteville. A third performance will be broadcast live (and available for later viewing) via the Fayetteville Public Library. Parks, say Christiansen and Anderson, are a logical choice for performance when people are always careful about covid-19.
“We feel very comfortable doing outdoor shows and having a mid-sized audience there,” says Christiansen. “We will ask everyone to continue to wear masks and to sit in family cabins, away from each other.”
Alaina Stroud is Luciana, Anna Haslett-Adams is Adriana, Miranda Burger is Antipholus of Syracuse and Marshall Prettyman is Dromio of Syracuse in this rehearsal for the Northwest Arkansas Audio Theater production of Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors”. (Courtesy photo / NWAAT)
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“The comedy of errors”
WHEN / O – 2 p.m. April 3 at Shiloh Square, 106 W. Emma Ave. in Springdale; 2 p.m. April 10 at Gulley Park Lookout, 1850 E. Township Blvd. in Fayetteville; 2 p.m. April 17, Fayetteville Public Library (streaming), faylib.org
INFO – facebook.com/NWAAudioTheater