Looking Back to Another Era for Opportunities

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Looking Back to Another Era for Opportunities

The SAG-AFTRA Radio Plays Committee has had a busy few months, with more in the works for year’s end. Originally created by the AFTRA Seniors’ Caucus in 2010 as a tribute to AFTRA’s most senior jurisdiction, the Los Angeles SAG-AFTRA Radio Plays Committee produces four events each year. Founded by David Westberg, the committee and a troupe of dedicated actors have presented more than 40 re-creations of classic radio scripts, complete with sound effects, commercials and, often, live musical accompaniment.  

Sound effects team and committee members Amalisha HuEck, left, and Dea McAllister
Sound effects team and committee members Amalisha HuEck, left, and Dea McAllister

On Sept. 20, the committee presented a live reading of the prize-winning script A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, adapted from the 1943 book by Betty Smith. A timeless story beautifully written about a young girl’s coming of age in the early 20th century, it inspired an Academy Award-winning film directed by Elia Kazan, a musical and a TV movie/pilot. Sixty-five actors gathered in the James Cagney Boardroom at SAG-AFTRA Plaza, anxiously awaiting the lottery that determined who would be cast and who would be in the audience. Twenty-one actors were chosen for parts, from lead roles to one-line characters, and within moments, the reading began. This was a cold-reading in the purest sense of the word. All the actors who participated had an exhilarating experience, saying they would do it again in a heartbeat.  

The performers chosen for the cold reading of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at the Cagney on Sept. 20
The performers chosen for the cold reading of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at the James Cagney Boardroom on Sept. 20.

On June 16, SAG-AFTRA members, an invited audience assembled at the Autry National Center in Griffith Park to witness two episodes of The Adventures of Superman and a murder mystery solved by The Fat Man. About 20 days prior to production, a day of auditions is held and the shows are cast. Rehearsals are scheduled around the cast availability, sound effects and music are conceived, and the whole show is constructed the day before the performance. Each show is performed as originally aired, complete with commercials. 

The final Radio Plays event of the year will be on Dec. 1 and will consist of two episodes of Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch, featuring scripts centered on the holiday season. Auditions will be held Nov. 4 and singers are needed.

While the world of technology keeps changing, performing skills are timeless. For performers, radio plays are a terrific chance to sharpen skills, expand range and find new ways to bring old characters to life.

From left, Superman cast members Joe Coffey, Erich Lane, J. Blakemore, Virtic Emil Brown, David Caprita, Denah Angel, Wayne Mitchell, John Polite, Ed Williams, Iva Hasperger, Alain Benatar, David Franklin with director Susan Franklin Tanner
From left, Superman cast members Joe Coffey, Erich Lane, J. Blakemore, Virtic Emil Brown, David Caprita, Denah Angel, Wayne Mitchell, John Polite, Ed Williams, Iva Hasperger, Alain Benatar, David Franklin with director Susan Franklin Tanner

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