Theater is coming to a radio near you this weekend for an event that offers a little something for everyone with the Alaska Theater Festival: Radio Plays. Whether in person or next to your radio, KTOO music and arts general manager and vice president said it’s a special opportunity for audiences to experience the energy of live performance.
“It’s super exciting to see this project finally come to fruition,” Snyder said. “We have limited seating here in the studio, only 70 people per night can come, so my hope is that people sort of make an event out of it and get food and friends together and gather around the radio. Personally, it’s been the most fun thing I’ve had to work on in the last year or so.”
Theater Alaska and KTOO along with Juneau Ghost Light Theatre have all partnered up to present the Alaska Theater Festival: Radio plays, which will take place Feb. 10-12. Three of the weekend plays will also be presented live at the KTOO radio station in addition to the broadcast, giving audiences the option of either seeing it or hearing it for themselves.
The three plays performed live in the studio will be Juneau writer Frank Henry Kaash Katasse’s new play “Reeling” at 5 p.m. Saturday (presented by Theater Alaska), followed by an adaptation of Tlingit Eagle stories told by DaaXKu dein Tommy Jimmie called “The Beginning of Eagle” by Vera Starbard (presented by Theater Alaska.) On Sunday at 5 p.m., audiences will hear the classic murder mystery “The Case of the Careless Client” by Agatha Christie (presented by Juneau Ghost Light Theatre.)
Additionally, the festival will also include an encore presentation of Juneau Ghost Light Theatre’s 2021 production of “Dracula,” by Bram Stoker, on Friday at 7 p.m. broadcasted from KTOO News 104.3 FM and 91.7, and online at ktoo.org/listen, as well.
“It is so good, they put together original music, they got really creative with the sound effects,” Snyder said. “There’s one famous scene in the play where someone gets stabbed and Ghost Light had done many practices with stabbing a watermelon, so the sound is so rich, they really perfected it.”
Snyder said the idea of radio plays being performed out of KTOO’s studio has been floating around for as long as 10 years when the studio was first remodeled and staff was trying to come up with different ways of utilizing the space.
“Juneau Ghost Light Theatre came to us with some pre-produced plays that were wonderful and once some other community members heard that, we started getting other theater companies interested in doing something similar and that’s where the idea of creating a festival came from,” Snyder said.
Snyder said once the idea of a festival was solidified, she reached out to Theater Alaska producer/director Flordelino Lagundino because she said she knew KTOO would need a theater partner to pull off the project. Snyder said that since partnering with Theater Alaska, the idea has only expanded. For instance, Snyder said it was Lagundino who brought the idea of commissioning writers to do original works with subject matter that would resonate with local residents.
“We’ve been talking about ways that Theater of Alaska and KTOO could partner together on a project,” Lagundino said. “She (Cheryl Snyder) had been very interested in having a radio play festival for quite some time to be able to share stories on the radio, which is a great way to reach a lot of people with stories that are meaningful to Alaskans and to people here in Juneau.”
Lagundino, who directs Katasse’s “Reeling,” said he saw the Alaska Theater Festival as an opportunity to do new radio plays and concentrate the energy and audience’s focus on different varieties of radio plays and genres.
“It’s been fun for everyone and I’m hoping that if this reaches a lot of people then we’ll be able to do this more in the future,” Lagundino said. “I think these plays are more accessible this way and they’re fun for people to hear and listen to and participate in. You can do it anywhere you are, we’re meeting you where you are.”
Performances feature Shaakindustoow Ed Littlefield providing sound effects throughout, along with actors Jake Waid, Xáalnook Erin Tripp, George Holly, Kelsey Riker, Margeaux Ljungberg, Felix Thillet, Jay Zeller, Ty Yamaoka, Nomi Saxton, Elizabeth Pisel-Davis, Kristen Rankin, Heather LaVerne, Miriah Twitchell and Jarod Olin who, in addition to directing Starbard’s “The Beginning of Eagle,” will also be acting in the production, as well.
Olin said he feels fortunate to have been involved with this project and to work with Starbard, who he said he has much respect for. Olin said while he tried his best to steer away from wearing both director and actor hats, ultimately the experience proved to be invaluable.
“I really tried to avoid that outcome but it mostly came about because Erin and Andrew Tripp are siblings in real life, but would have been playing a married couple in the play, which we thought would be awkward,” Olin said. “I think directing and acting has been an interesting experience to have, this was my first time I’ve been in both positions, I don’t quite favor it but at the same time I also don’t have any qualms about it, I’m happy to do it especially for Vera.”
Snyder said the audio will be available on demand at KTOO’s website after the performance for anyone unable to catch the live or broadcasted performances. Additionally, Snyder said Alaska Theater Festival: Radio Plays is supported in part by the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council and the City and Borough of Juneau, The Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, Sealaska Corp., and by a grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts with additional funding from the Rasmuson Foundation.
Know & Go
What: Alaska Theater Festival: Radio Plays
When: Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 5 p.m.
Where: KTOO Radio Station on Saturday and Sunday, as well as KTOO News at 104.3 and 91.7, and online at ktoo.org/listen.
Admission: $20 in person. Tickets may be purchased at www.theateralaska.org.
• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at firstname.lastname@example.org.