In the early days of broadcasting, listeners would eagerly gather around the radio each evening to hear their favorite shows, including mystery series like “The Shadow,” “Lights Out” and “The Inner Sanctum.”
On Oct. 8 the NoneSuch Playmakers theatre group will bring back those days of live radio drama with one difference: instead of tuning in, listeners will log onto the NoneSuch Playmakers’ website, www.nonesuchplaymakers.com, with their computers, phones or other devices.
“We’ve taken two of our favorite plays and adapted them for radio,” said NoneSuch co-founder Brack Llewellyn. “We love mysteries, so we thought we’d bring back a couple of our original thrillers for the upcoming Halloween season, put them on their feet and stream them on our website.”
The two plays – “The Once and Future Murders” and “The Return of Martin Heller” – were both written by Llewellyn. They’ll be performed back to back on the stage of the L. H. Jones Auditorium in Mount Airy under the omnibus title “Web of Fear.”
But the production won’t look like your standard play.
“Our actors will stand at the microphones, scripts in hand, just as they would have in the golden age of radio,” Llewellyn explained. “We’ll also create as many live sound effects as possible. Footsteps, slamming doors, howling winds, thunder – all will be produced by our special effects artists as the plays unfold.”
A live accompanist on piano and organ will provide musical underscoring, just as radio listeners would have heard 75 years ago. The opening piece, which “airs” at 7 p.m. on Oct. 8, is titled “The Once and Future Murders.”
It centers around the disappearance of an eccentric millionaire living in a small New York town. As the local detectives investigate, they discover that the incident may have ties to acts of sorcery more than 300 years earlier.
The cast includes Sarah Carpenter, David Nielsen, Grant Perry, Jane Tesh, Jonathan Jones, Brian Greene, Angela Llewellyn and Evan Barnard.
The “second act” of the evening is “The Return of Martin Heller,” which the Playmakers originally performed onstage in 2011.
The story is set in 1959 at a remote mountain lodge, where a late night séance accidentally unleashes the spirit of Martin Heller, a mentally unbalanced war hero with a score to settle.
Heller’s rampage through the lodge threatens the lives of the 10 people stranded there.
The “Martin Heller” cast includes Gary Maxey, Grant Perry, Todd Gerber, Billie Jo Smith, Olivia Jessup, Jane Tucker, Jane Tesh, Chris Groner, Abby Carpenter, Angela Llewellyn and Evan Barnard.
The webcast announcer for the evening will be Todd Jessup, a local radio personality from WSYD.
Llewellyn hopes to attract a “studio audience” to the L.H. Jones Auditorium that evening as well.
“Radio drama is a form of performance that most people have never seen,” he said. “It typically takes place in a small studio with only the cast, technicians and the sound effects artist present. Our show will give folks the opportunity to see how radio storytelling was done during the medium’s golden years.”
Tickets to watch the performance live are $10 each and will be sold at the door.
The L.H. Jones Auditorium is located at 215 Jones School Road in Mount Airy, on the campus of the Jones Family Resource Center.
The webcast will be carried on the Mixlr application. To listen online, simply go to nonesuchplaymakers.com and click on “Web of Fear” at the top of the home page.
That will guide you to a link to download the free Mixlr app.