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Theater company takes new direction with radio version of 'Dracula!'

Production is new venture for Theater Ensemble Arts

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Joey Herring
  • "Dracula! -- the Radio Play" will air at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 31 on KSJE-FM.
  • The program has a run time of 90 minutes.
  • The production features a cast of 10 actors and will be presented in an old school radio theater format, complete with sound effects.

FARMINGTON — As part of its effort to reinvent itself during the COVID-19 pandemic, Farmington's community theater organization has recorded a 90-minute version of the "Dracula" story that will air on KSJE-FM twice this weekend for Halloween.

"Dracula! — the Radio Play," which is based on the Bram Stoker novel, will air at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 and 6 p.m. on Oct. 31 on the station. The Theater Ensemble Arts production features a cast of 10 actors and will be presented in an old school radio theater format, complete with sound effects.

The production is the first in a series of three radio theater programs that TEA plans for the next few months, as the company also will deliver a Christmas production in December and a mystery thriller production in February, according to board president Joey Herring, who is producing "Dracula!"

"We haven't selected the scripts yet, but we're open to ideas," Herring said. "We'd like to use this as a way to maintain our connection to the community and also raise some money."

The cast recorded the vocal parts for "Dracula!" last week at KSJE, and cast member and TEA regular Steve Clark is editing the production and adding the sound effects and music. Herring said she had not heard the finished product by Oct. 28, but she was looking forward to it.

Steve Clark

"I'm sure I will be (pleased with it)," she said, noting that Clark is a studio veteran who hosts and produces his own podcast. "I have the ultimate trust in him."

Herring said the company originally gave some thought to performing "Dracula!" as a stage play and filming it for online streaming, since it can't perform onstage for live audiences during the pandemic. But company members have talked for years about branching out into radio theater, and this seemed like the perfect time to do that, she said.

"It's very family friendly. It's a really good script," she said. "We all read it … and we said, 'Yeah, we could do this.'"

Herring said gearing up to do a radio theater production has proved to be considerably different from mounting a stage play. The former doesn't require nearly as much preparation, she said, noting that the actors don't have to learn their lines because they can read from the script. Additionally, the production will not be performed live, so it was possible to do multiple takes of some scenes.

"Dracula!" was the natural choice to kick off TEA's new venture, she said.

"Who doesn't like a good vampire?" Herring asked rhetorically.

Stoker's novel, written in 1897, is rivaled only by Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" (1818) as perhaps the most popular Gothic material ever written. A 1992 film version — produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins and Keanu Reeves — was a huge hit, and vampire-related films and television programming have been a staple of American pop culture ever since.

Herring said because of the restrictions that exist due to the governor's public health orders, TEA did not hold auditions for this production, relying instead on TEA regulars. The cast features Clark, Herring, Ben Burns, Dan Cabrera, Chuck Holmes, Becca Krebbs, Scott Michlin, Christopher Spinner, Dan Ware and Rhonda Ware.

But she said the company may hold auditions for its Christmas radio theater production.

"I wouldn't mind getting new people in the door. But even with a recording, you can only have a certain number of people in (a studio) at the same time," she said, referring to the challenges of mounting any kind of production in the COVID-19 age.

Still, Herring realizes the radio theater series might be a good way for TEA to attract or recruit some fresh faces, especially those who have thought about auditioning before but were intimidated by the thought of doing live stage theater.

"It would be a great opportunity for somebody who is a little bit hesitant to get on stage but who wants to get involved," she said. "It's also less of a time commitment."

Radio theater hasn't been a regular part of American mass media for more than a half century, but Herring said she hopes TEA's production of "Dracula!" acquaints local listeners with the charms of that medium.

"I hope it's really well received, especially by kids, because this Halloween is going to be completely different from other Halloweens," she said. "I hope families will be able to turn on the radio and expose their kids to this kind of storytelling. The golden age of radio is really what we're going for."

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.