It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Clarence the ghost stopping George Bailey on the bridge, but Lora Adams got a sign that a project she dreamed up was on the right track.
Adams, WQPT-TV marketing and local content director by day and frequent actress-director by night, created the idea of her station and Augustana College radio station WVIK FM 90.3 working together on a radio play. It would be a live production, taped for airing on each station close to Christmas.
After some Internet searches, she found the perfect piece: “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“I couldn’t believe the kismet of it all, when at Augustana you have Potter Theatre,” Adams said of the play and 1946 movie, whose villain is Henry Potter, the primary shareholder in the Building and Loan.
There will be three live performances of the play next weekend, at the aforementioned Potter Theatre. Three cameras will record the opening night, and return for the other two performances next Saturday to get different angles.
Adams also produces the “Artists in Profile” series for WQPT, which was funded by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council. With the little money that was left, she paid the royalties for “It’s a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play,” and contacted playwright Joe Landry and the composer who wrote the bits of music in the show for permission to brodcast it.
WVIK general manager Jay Pearce gave his approval and the project progressed.
“We were thinking what we could do together. It was one of those serendipitious things,” Adams said.
As a radio play, the performers carry their scripts with them, although Adams said they’ll only be used for reference. The play is set in a New York City radio station on Christmas Eve 1946, with a set by Susan Holgersson and costumes by Greg Hiatt, both of Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse. Adams’ husband, Michael Kopriva, built the set in the garage of the couple’s Hampton home.
Knowing many performers were involved in October and November shows, Adams said she was initially worried that she would have enough local talent for the roles. Once auditions began, she was assured that there was still loads of talent left.
“Here in the Quad-Cities we’re pretty lucky. We’ve got a deep bench,” she said.
Scott Tunnicliff, program director at the Hilltop Campus Village in Davenport, was immediately chosen as the narrator. Jenny Winn, a Quad-Cities Music Guild and District Theatre veteran, plays Mary and Mike Millar, who played George for Music Guild several years ago, was cast in the role again.
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Not looking for an impersonation of Jimmy Stewart, Adams said, “there was a sincerity when he was reading, frankly, that reminded me of the movie I’ve seen a million billion times.”
Also in the cast are Jason Platt, Erin Lounsberry, Michael Carron, Tom Vaccaro and Tamra McConoughey. Jonathan Turner plays piano for the background music and two 1940s-era commercial jingles.
Actors have had their scripts for months, but will start 16 hours of rehearsals this week to prepare next weekend’s performances.
Adams is already looking for similar radio plays for upcoming years. Half of the $20 ticket price each goes to WQPT and WVIK.
“We’re able to bring to our viewers and listeners a holiday program that is locally produced. We have a lot of stuff that comes from outside the area that we can air around the holidays,” she said, “but it’s not a bad thing to do something that’s ours.”