SEQUIM — The fictional past meets the present with the virtual opening of the “Old Time Radio Video Show” season.
Olympic Theatre Arts (OTA) kicked off its online productions with episodes from the classic series “Fibber McGee and Molly,” originally broadcast over the nation’s radio waves in the 1940s and ’50s.
Using a live theatre setting, the show is produced on a set that emulates an authentic 1940s radio studio, with actors in period costumes and using old-fashioned microphones.
Unable to host live audiences with COVID-19 health restrictions in place, OTA is presenting these shows free of charge to anyone visiting the website.
The first of the six episode series available online is “Fibber McGee and Molly’s Raffle at Wistful Vista.”
The format, production members say, is designed to be as close to watching live theatre as possible, with six camera angles capturing action on various parts of the stage, all visible at the same time to the online viewer.
The “live action” is emphasized when the “window” is in color, but other “windows” or views are simultaneously shown in black and white.
“This is our way of sharing the benefits of live theatre with our community,” OTA Executive Director Carol Willis said.
“Our board of trustees agreed that it was most important, during these unusual times, to continue to offer collaborative opportunities for our artistic volunteers, both on stage and as a part of the production process, and to let our community know that we are coping with the situation and intend to be here when things return to ‘normal.’”
OTA held two series of auditions with record-setting participation from actors. A total of 10 shows have been cast — six of them taped and four still in rehearsals — with plans to release new shows online weekly, each Monday.
“We only hope the audience participation turnout can match the enthusiasm that the acting community has shown,” Willis said.
The response from actors has brought not only familiar faces to the OTA stage but some new faces as well.
Casting for the “Fibber McGee and Molly’s” series features Pat Owens as Fibber. No stranger to the OTA stage, Owens has been an actor and director for more than 50 years, the past 20 on the Olympic Peninsula. He’s been seen in “Man Of La Mancha” and directed “The 39 Steps” at Port Angeles Community Playhouse, “Sleuth and I Love You,” “You’re Perfect, Now Change” at Olympic Theatre Arts, “Oliver!” for the Port Angeles Light Opera Association and “The Last Lifeboat,” among many others, with Readers Theatre Plus.
Cast as Fibber’s counterpart, Molly, is Sarah Zamora, newly re-acquainted to the stage, this being her first time back since middle school. She said she’s enjoying the experience and looks forward to many more in the future.
Also new to the OTA stage is Ashley Kramer as supporting actor playing several different character roles in Fibber and Molly’s adventures. She is an alum of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and the Atlantic Theater Company’s Acting Studio. Kramer has performed and directed many plays and noted she’s “grateful for the chance to perform during these socially distanced times; this project has been many weeks of good-spirited collaboration and fun.”
Rounding out the primary cast is OTA’s own marketing and imaging manager, Pete Griffin, in the male supporting actor role. He was previously on the OTA stage as the butler in “Nutcracker, Cracked Up” and, when in session, leads the technical department of the drama program at Peninsula College.
Christy Holy directed the “Fibber McGee and Molly” series. She said she’s “hoping to find some comedy during COVID with this talented cast.” She was also the director of OTA’s musical production “First Date” and has appeared as an actor/singer at Olympic Theatre Arts in “Starting Here, Starting Now” and “Another Night Before Christmas.”
Curtis White landed the part of foley artist, a key role in bringing stories alive through sound effects.
“While I have attended many wonderful productions at Olympic Theatre Arts to see my friends perform, this will be my first time onstage here,” he said.
“This will also be my first time performing as a foley artist. While I have always admired sound effects artists and have done some myself for puppet shows, doing them for a full radio show has been on my list of things to learn and I am excited that OTA is producing these shows.”
OTA is offering those who would normally buy season tickets to help support the theatre the opportunity to sit in the auditorium for the show… sort of.
For $100, patrons can buy a seat for the duration of the season to put their “avatar” in. As opportunities arise during filming, the camera will pan into the audience and viewers at home can see who’s ‘at the show.’
“It brings a whole new meaning to ‘See you at the theatre,’ ” said Willis.