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CCHS drama department to present a radio show this fall

  • CCHS sophomores Griffin Franksain and Sophia Jensen read through their scripts at a recent socially-distanced rehearsal of the radio play with will be presented by Charles City High School at North Grand Auditorium on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 30-31. (Photo submitted.)

  • CCHS freshmen Annemarie Hansen and Kalia Richard read through their scripts at a recent socially-distanced rehearsal of the radio play with will be presented by Charles City High School at North Grand Auditorium on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 30-31. (Photo submitted.

By James Grob,

Charles City High School vocal music teacher Derek Sturtevant and drama director Michelle Grob started thinking about it last summer.

What if they can’t have their musical this fall?

“We wondered what was going to be the best plan going into this school year, with all the question marks related to the pandemic,” Grob said. “We didn’t know what we would be getting into, so we thought we wanted to do something that both made sense and would actually be likely to take place.”

Typically, Charles City High School presents a musical in the fall and a play in the spring. Grob and Sturtevant decided to flip that around, and push the musical back to the spring.

“Hopefully things will have settled down a little bit more by then,” Grob said. “That way, we can have a show with singing and dancing, where kids are in very close proximity to each other, like a normal musical.”

Grob said that musicals also typically have many more students involved and much longer practice times than plays do.

With that settled, Grob needed to decide what kind of play to put on this fall. The answer she came up with was a radio show.

Grob said she had concerns about practicing with masks and with social distancing, and worried about whether or not they could even have a live audience to perform in front of.

“I didn’t want to get the kids excited about something that I had no control over whether or not it would actually come about,” she said.

The play, which will run Friday and Saturday evenings, Oct. 30-31, at North Grand Auditorium, will emulate an old-time live radio show, something Grob has successfully directed before.

Grob said the format allows for fewer practices, smaller groups together at once, no memorization and no need for an elaborate set or costuming.

“I can still use a good number of kids, because there is a lot of flexibility in casting, and if someone gets quarantined the day of the show, because they can use scripts someone else can step right in and take over,” Grob said.

Essentially, the cast of 25 actors will be playing a group of radio voice actors putting on a live radio show. Grob said each of the actors in the cast will be used in various places.

“It’s going to end up being a really fun show,” Grob said. “We are hoping to have a socially-distanced live audience in the North Grand Auditorium, and we will also be live-streaming the event, and the event will be broadcast on KCHA radio,” Grob said.

The production will include five short comedy radio plays written by Eric Coble, an award-winning Broadway playwright. Grob contacted Coble personally, and said that Coble has allowed Charles City High School to use the plays at no cost.

There will still be music — CCHS high school vocal group Rhymes With Orange will provide some musical entertainment under Sturtevant’s direction, and local musician Harrison Sheckler will be assembling a bluegrass band to provide more live musical entertainment on stage during the show.

Local writer James Grob will be writing scripts for live radio commercials — featuring local businesses — and other transitionary items between the plays.

“Our sound effects table will be on the stage, and the audience will get to see actors doing various things to make the sounds of doors opening and furniture falling, things like that,” Grob said.

Rehearsals started this week, and the cast will feature CCHS students Cade Williams, Griffin Franksain, Christian Howe, Anders Haglund, Breyer Ellison, Michael Reh, Sincere Collins, Harper McInroy, Sophia Jensen, Eliza Wolford, Elise White, Natalie White, Kalia Richard, Eboni Patterson, Annemarie Hansen, Teagan Prigge, Jillian Mutch and Rosie Baldus.

The sound effects team will include Michael Reh, Rosie Baldus and Anna Herbrechtsmeyer; while the team of commercial voices will include Hannah DeVore, Emily Usher, Anna Herbrechtsmeyer, Emma Schmiedel, Cloey Usher and Sydney Otto.

Grob said there was some discussion of trying to do the play M*A*S*H, which was the play CCHS had selected to do last spring. That play had been cast and rehearsals had already started before COVID-19 shut down school and all school-related activities.

“When I contemplated that, I couldn’t get very excited about it, and I worried that it might get cancelled again,” Grob said. “To have the same show cancelled two times would be frustrating and demoralizing for all of us.”

M*A*S*H is now on the “back-burner,” and may be produced at CCHS in the future, according to Grob.

The assistant director for the radio play is a new face. Erika DeBruyn is CCHS graduate, with a strong local drama background.

“She will bring a lot of new energy to the show, and hopes to learn a lot,” Grob said.