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Reviving radio theater

Three members of the cast of “The Outlander Galaxy,” an EOU radio play, look at their script Tuesday. From left, are Daniel Wagner, Sadie McIver and William Wehrli, who is also the director.  DICK MASON / The Observer
Three members of the cast of “The Outlander Galaxy,” an EOU radio play, look at their script Tuesday. From left, are Daniel Wagner, Sadie McIver and William Wehrli, who is also the director. DICK MASON / The Observer

Students produce first radio play at Eastern in at least two decades

Six EOU student actors will face a challenge this weekend few performers have encountered in the long history of Eastern theater.

The students will perform for two separate audiences at once. One audience will have a clear view of the actors and another will rely on words to paint images on the canvases of their minds.

Daniel Wagner, Avalon Bloodgood, Joshua Gilman, Sadie McIver, Travis Connor and William Wehrli are cast members of “The Outlander Galaxy,” a space adventure radio play that will be performed Saturday and Sunday at Eastern in McKenzie Theatre. 

The production, the first radio play at EOU in at least 20 years, will be directed by Wehrli, who also wrote its script. Connor is the production manager and EOU theater professor April Curtis is the producer.

The “Outlander Galaxy” will be broadcast live by EOU’s radio station KEOL FM during both performances, which start at 7 p.m. The radio broadcast means the play’s cast will have the challenge of speaking to two audiences simultaneously. 

Wagner said this means the cast will have to strive to find a balance. He will have to speak loud enough for the audiences at McKenzie Theatre to hear him but not at such a decibel level that they will blast the ears of radio listeners when speaking into microphones. 

“We’ll have to be careful how we project our voices,” Wagner said.

Adding to the two-audience challenge is the set design. The audience at McKenzie will know where the characters are with help of images projected on a screen. The radio audience of course will not see these props, so the cast will drop clues for it without stating the obvious for those attending the play. 

“We will subtly put it into the dialogue,” Wagner said. “We’ll say things like ‘I’ve never seen a purple sky before’ or ‘Welcome to my planet.’” 

The radio play is about a 12-year-old ill-behaved boy who sneaks into a First Contact demonstration that was concealed in an alien spacecraft.

The play’s cast will be portraying multiple characters, including Wagner who will play seven or eight. Jumping from one character to another will be difficult not only because each has a different vocal signature. 

“We will be changing emotion with different voices,” Wagner said. 

Wagner recalled that in early rehearsals before the script was finalized he did the voices of a father and a son talking to each other.

“It was like I was carrying on a conversation with myself,” the EOU student said with a grin.

The characters the versatile Wagner will play include a robot. Wehrli said he originally intended to use a computer when Wagner was speaking this part to make his voice sound more robotic. Wehrli decided against it though for it turned out that Wagner has a talent for creating convincing robotic sounds.

The “Outlander Galaxy” script does not call for physical acting but characters will be active when the mood calls for it, Connor said. For example, in one part, an adult is lecturing the bratty 12-year-old. The individual playing the adult will be looking at the person playing the teenager who will be looking away.

The McKenzie stage will be set up with microphones and music stands for the actors while they perform their parts. Live sound effects will be performed on the McKenzie stage by Karl Andres, whose job is to take a certain number of instruments and conduct them while the show goes on.

A Slinky will be used to create the sound of blasters during space battles, a box of heavy metal objects will be shaken to simulate the noise of crashes, shoes will be slid to simulate the sound of electronic doors and much more. 

There will also be many sound effects compiled on MP3s that will be run through the McKenzie Theatre’s technical booth. 

A more comprehensive article on “The Outlander Galaxy” will appear in Thursday’s edition of GO! Magazine in The Observer.


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