A whole new show: BCLUW Drama preparing radio play production of "It's a Wonderful Life"

Seniors involved with the show (from left to right): Megan Murty, Lane Schnathorst, Dillon Jacobson, Britlynn Klaas and Zach Stanfield. Not pictured: Noah Cross and Abigail Frank. (Courtesy of Jackie Stevens)
Robert Maharry
The Grundy Register

CONRAD- As the prolonged shutdowns of Hollywood and Broadway productions have shown, it’s difficult to stage a show or a film during a global pandemic. On a local level, however, BCLUW Drama Director Jackie Stevens has sought to work around those challenges with a format she’s never explored before: the radio play.


“I did a whole lot of research this summer and consultations looking at other theatre directors and resources, and I tried to keep in the mind of something that would give us the opportunity to get back up on stage but also do social distancing,” she said. “It’s still a stage show, if you will, it’s just a different type of thing. I still wanted something that’s a very classic kind of piece.”


And the show itself may provide just the message the world needs at this turbulent moment. Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” based on the 1943 short story The Greatest Gift, has become one of the most iconic Christmas movies in history since its initial release in 1946. The story follows George Bailey—originally played by Hollywood icon James Stewart— and his desire to commit suicide on Christmas Eve until his guardian angel Clarence Odbody intervenes.


“It’s a very hopeful show, which I think we all kind of need right now,” Stevens said.


Dillon Jacobson will provide the voice of Bailey, and Lane Schnathorst will play Clarence. While he’s aware of the film, he said he didn’t have a great level of familiarity before taking on the role.


“It’s a challenge going in with a very well known show just dry, not knowing much about it, but it’s also really rewarding because you get to see everything and picture everything the way they want to perceive it,” Jacobson said.


Schnathorst added that he’s always been a fan of classic Christmas movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and was excited to bring it to the stage.


“It’s not something a lot of high schoolers or a lot of thespians get to do, and I think that it’s a good change of pace,” he said.


Of course, without actors moving around and sets changing, the finished product will look decidedly different come November, but the actors and director are relishing the opportunity.


“It’s kind of a trade off, but I’m actually really happy that I’m going to be experiencing a radio play format,” Jacobson said.


Stevens hasn’t heard if other schools in the area are moving toward a new type of show—especially as audiences seem to be reluctant to return to enclosed theaters in the U.S.—but if BCLUW turns out to be a trailblazer in that regard, she welcomes the distinction.


“What I’m most excited for is that first stepping out on the stage on opening night. It’s always a thrill that never, ever grows old,” Jacobson said. “Just being able to perform again.”


More details about seating and streaming capabilities will become available as the show date nears.


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