Backstage: Medford theater hosts ‘Radio Days’

Pam Ward, of Medford’s Collaborative Theatre Project, is directing a series of live radio plays from the ’40s and ’50s called Radio Days. I recently saw “The Canterville Ghost,” an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s classic tale, which has had many adaptations. This version, by Edwin Blum, took place during World War II, with locations moving from the English countryside, to the interior of an ancient castle, to the British front line in the height of battle with Nazi soldiers.

In varied productions through the years, the Canterville ghost, Sir Simon, has been played by such luminaries as Sir Michael Redgrave and Patrick Stewart. This ghost was performed neatly by Will Churchill with such supernatural effects as sporting a detachable head and swinging from a chandelier.

With a cast of eight, performing multiple characters along with a full array of sound effects, the play was slickly produced and ran just over an hour. Future productions include “Fibber McGee and Molly” and “The Judas Clock.”

I met with the cast after the show. Here are a few comments from: Lauren Taylor, Pam Ward, Archie Koenig, John Richardson and A J Falk.EH: Why resurrect these old radio programs?

LT: These radio shows are beautiful things, basically like novels, pieces of literature. You shouldn’t get rid of them. This particular piece is becoming a part of history; it’s fading into the past, and you get to bring it back to life. It’s art, so it’s fun.

EH: How do you create a full character within a reading?

PW: It’s amazing the tools you use (that you would use in a fully staged production) just in something that is nothing but voices and sound effects. You still have to create those characters for them to pop. I’ve asked actors for six descriptive terms of their character’s physicality and personality. It affected the way they talked, the pace, the pitch. If you decide that a character is slender and athletic as opposed to being overweight and depressed, it gives you an entirely different sound. You can do it mentally, but if it’s based in emotions and physicality, you come up with a more natural voice.

EH: What attracts you to theater?

LT: In general, theater can take you away from the real world and bring you into it at the same time. It’s a very unique form of art. It can take you and put you into a real place, with real people, with real emotions — and teach you something. Sometimes it can take you to a crazy zany place, and pull you out of your head, and just let you have fun. And sometimes it does both together. It’s happening in the moment. Performing and getting to express to people how much you love it, is the best part.

AK: These days there’s so much going on. Every time I hear the news, my blood pressure goes up. Here we can escape that and get into another place in another time.

JR: Since I was 3 years old, I was playing with my brother and sister, taking on roles. I think that’s a way of maturing and finding out who you are. I’ve done so many different roles, and I find that each one of them is me. Not that I’m it, but it’s me. I find myself in all these different situations, and that’s very satisfying.

AJF: For these radio hour shows, they’re like dessert: They’re quick, they’re rich and utterly delightful. You’re in, you’re out and you’re better for it

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