Let’s say that it’s the 1940s, and your family is gathered together at the end of a long day in the part of the house that you call the parlor. All attention is on the large radio that occupies most of an end table. Emanating from the radio is the evening’s entertainment, a play by Norman Corwin: a prolific writer and producer for the CBS Radio Network in the ‘30s and ‘40s who will eventually, by the end of his long lifetime (1910-2011), acquire a reputation as “the poet laureate of the Golden Age of Radio.” Unlike today, when radio plays a background role to whatever else we’re doing and television does the visualizing for us, the focus on the radio in that parlor is laserlike, as an enthralling story is brought to life with vivid sound effects that create crystal-clear images in the minds of those listening.
This Saturday, September 8 at 7:30 p.m., “Rosendale Radio LIVE” offers the opportunity to revisit the glory days of radio with a full evening of entertainment at the Rosendale Theatre that pairs a live theatrical performance of two of Norman Corwin’s ‘40s-era radio plays with dancing to live swing music performed by seven-piece band Soul Purpose. The band will set the mood for the evening, ushering the audience into the Theatre with live music before the performance of the Corwin plays, Double Concerto and Anatomy of Sound.
About a half-hour in length each, the radio plays will be presented as live theatrical events, with accompanying sound effects created on a Foley table set up right in front of the action. “The Foley table is a big part of the show,” says director Ann Citron. “This is the second year we’ve done this type of production, and we’ve found that people are just fascinated by watching sound effects made.”
The audience will hear more than 100 different sound effects being created, says Citron, the sound crew using actual objects to do the job; footsteps will pace and dogs will bark without the use of any electronics. The sound crew will be led by Fre Atlast, a music educator and fellow board member of Citron’s at the Rosendale Theatre Collective, the group that owns and operates the Theatre. The cast for the plays includes Virginia Ferri, Stephen Jones, Carrie Wykoff, Doug Motel and Mourka.
The two Corwin plays to be performed are humorous in nature, according to Citron. “I love to do his work as live theatre,” she says. “He was a very interesting man, and a lot of people are interested in keeping his work alive.”
When Corwin died in 2010 at the age of 101, the Los Angeles Times wrote of him that he “moved and entertained a generation of listeners with landmark broadcasts ranging from celebrations of the Bill of Rights and the Allied victory in Europe to a lighthearted rhyming play about a demonic plot to overthrow Christmas. Corwin’s programs, which CBS aired without sponsors, are considered classics of the era when radio was the primary news and entertainment venue for Americans.”
Corwin was praised for his ability to combine the sophisticated and literary with an easy accessibility. The actor Charles Laughton is quoted as having said, “There’s not an actor who will not drop what he is doing to be in one of Norman Corwin’s radio shows. We all look up to him as a writer of the greatest importance.”
Intermission at “Rosendale Radio LIVE” will feature a trio of singers modeled on the ‘40s-era Andrews Sisters, who’ll perform jingles based on local area goings-on. “We ask the audience to play with us a little bit,” Citron says. “The evening is meant for everyone to have a good time.” After the conclusion of the second play, an area within the Theatre will be cleared for dancing to live music performed by Soul Purpose (wear your stompers). Tickets cost $20, with proceeds benefiting the renovation of the Rosendale Theatre.
The Theatre was purchased two years ago by the Rosendale Theatre Collective, for the purpose of preserving the historic building and enhancing cultural and economic life in the community. “We operate it very much like the family that owned it for the 62 years prior to us did,” says Citron, “as a warm, family-oriented place where we know your name.”
Volunteers from the community help operate the Theatre, with over 350 people so far signed up to assist, says Citron. “Last month, 93 volunteers worked shifts at the Theatre; they sold popcorn, worked the box office and did whatever it took just to be a part of it.”
Funds are needed, Citron says, to redo the façade and marquee out front and to make the bathrooms handicapped-accessible. They also plan to renovate the lobby and put in a new concession stand. Architect Rick Alfandre has drawn up some plans, says Citron, “that are very beautiful in their simplicity, that will be very much in keeping with the architecture on Main Street and the original design of the Theatre.”
On Saturday, September 8 at 7:30 p.m., the Rosendale Theatre presents “Rosendale Radio LIVE,” a live theatrical performance of two 1940s-era plays originally written for radio by Norman Corwin. The performance includes live sound effects delivered onstage. There will be live music by Soul Purpose and dancing afterward (wear dancing shoes). The cost is $20. Proceeds benefit the renovation of the Rosendale Theatre, located at 408 Main Street in Rosendale. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.rosendaletheatre.org or call (845) 658-8989.