From the big screen to the small stage: ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ comes to Perf Hall


The cast of “It’s a Wonderful Life” rehearses a scene from the play, which uses a unique live-radio show format. Photo: Jacob Larsen

“I wish I’d never been born!”

This dramatic exclamation from fictional character George Bailey is what the plot of It’s a Wonderful Life is built around. Under the direction of Hope Ingram, a senior dramatic production major, the play will use the unique conventions of radio drama to present the classic holiday movie in Performance Hall Nov. 29 to Dec. 8.

Because of the confined nature of the radio program format, the cast will act out the story, but not the way they would in a normal play where they could move freely about the stage, transitioning from scene to scene. And this distinctive set-up means the play needs only five actors who will still interact with each other during the performance despite the staged arrangement. Two of the actors play George Bailey and his wife, Mary, while the other three portray around 10 characters each.

“There’s not a lot of movement physically—it’s basically all in our voices,” said Becca Gossage, a senior performance studies major. “I’ve had to practice being very clear in my emotions with just my voice,” she said.

The set will be a cozy radio station decorated for the holidays, and the audience will act as a live studio audience from the 1940s. Ingram considers this type of theater to be more engaging than standard plays because the audience is more involved—there will even be an “Applause” sign cueing interactive responses.

Another unique facet of radio drama is that all the sound effects are performed live on stage. These effects range from doors opening and closing to bells ringing to the splashing of the water when George attempts to drown himself. Ingram believes this format relies heavily on the imaginations of the audience members, and the sound effects are intended to help them fill in the scene in their minds.

“[The story] shows you how wonderful your life really is, even if nothing big ever happens to you,” Ingram said. “It’s the idea that every life makes an impact, whether we see it or not.”

For more information on specific dates, show times or to purchase tickets, visit Programs and Productions.