John Voth, Kaitlin Williams, Peter Church and Diana Squires. in the Pacific Theatre production of It's a Wonderful Life Radio Play. Photo by Emily Cooper.
John Voth, Kaitlin Williams, Peter Church and Diana Squires. in the Pacific Theatre production of It's a Wonderful Life Radio Play. Photo by Emily Cooper.

Some of the most tantalizing theatrical moments are built on chemistry, whether between actors, hiding among the rhythm and words, or in the relationship between director and a talented team of lighting and set designers. And sometimes still, that chemistry is found when mixing two seemingly disparate conceits in a way that remakes both into something new. Enter Sarah Rodgers and It’s A Wonderful Life Radio Play.

[pullquote]“I think that there’s a great charm to this period. I think there’s something about this period that really shines through in the setting of the radio studio. And in that way I actually think it supports the piece even more. I think people are going to find it very moving and uplifting because of having it in the radio studio. It adds another level to a classic story.” – director Sarah Rodgers[/pullquote]The classic holiday tale of one man’s uplifting paradigm shift is thrust into the real-world setting of a 1946 radio studio, as a group of actors gather to do a holiday special – a radio reading of the It’s A Wonderful Life screenplay.

“I think that also we all have in our minds the stamp of the wonderful original film” says Rodgers, director of the show. “So no matter how brilliant the staging or your actors are it will always look like a distant memory compared to the film. What I love about this idea is it allows the audience to use the images of the film – it allows them to use their imagination.”

Reading the screenplay of an iconic film on stage may strike some as an unlikely theatrical event, but Rodgers assures us that it only enhances the source material.

“It isn’t going to be as static as three actors standing at microphones in a small studio,” she says.  “It’s going to be a larger studio in the 40s that’s filled with life and business. The interesting thing is that it’s layered. The actors have two characters. They have the actor from the 1940s who worked in the radio station, and then they have George Bailey. It’s a really beautiful and interesting acting challenge.”

According to Rodgers, it is this challenge that brings the show together; the mingling of characters and the actors who play them offers the audience a unique opportunity to see two stories at once. One told, and one witnessed.

“You will still see the relationships there. There will be subtle behind the scenes moments happening between all of them. It will be very true to life in fact, but it’s through subtext. It’s going to be more between the looks and the gestures and the moments between them.”

It’s A Wonderful Life Radio Play combines nostalgia, the layered performances and a healthy dose of holiday spirit to add a rich new vision of this classic tale. For Rodgers, the project is exciting because it really brings out the heart of the story in an interesting, fresh, and unique way.

“I think that there’s a great charm to this period. I think there’s something about this period that really shines through in the setting of the radio studio. And in that way I actually think it supports the piece even more,” she says. “I think people are going to find it very moving and uplifting because of having it in the radio studio. It adds another level to a classic story.”

It’s A Wonderful Life Radio Play plays at Pacific Theatre (1440 West 12th Ave, Vancouver) December 5-30. Visit http://pacifictheatre.org tickets for tickets and information.