WMOVP Radio Theatre will return this week at a new time – 8:00 p.m. WMOVP Radio Theatre is the social distance theatre outlet of the Mid Ohio Valley Players. When the pandemic closed the Players Theatre doors in late March, MOVP looked for a way to bring live entertainment to the valley and to provide a creative outlet for local talent. When Marietta College allowed its employees to use their Zoom accounts to help local nonprofits, founding director, Suzanne Walker, decided to try Zoom to bring old-time radio to life in a new way. “Each week we have tried to offer a new genre of the classic radio dramas. This week we are excited to bring a glimpse of the old west to the valley,” she explained.

Cheap Labor, an episode of Gunsmoke, will be presented via Zoom on Friday, Sept. 18. Gunsmoke was an American western radio series set in and around Dodge City, Kansas, in the post-Civil War era. It centered around United States Marshal Matt Dillon as he enforced law and order in the city. Fans of the show will enjoy seeing their favorite characters, Matt Dillion and Miss Kitty brought to life by Ben Bradley and Kathy Biery. The radio series ran for nine seasons between 1952 and 1961 on CBS and was brought to television in 1955. 

Director Tim Tuten said, “I grew up loving the western genre from watching westerns with my Pops to donning cowboy gear pretending I was the ‘Man With No Name.’ To bring Gunsmoke to life like this combining radio, television, and movies all in one is wonderful. I credit this cast for the amazing way they bring the aesthetic of the old west alive from the appearance, the voices and acting. I am tremendously humbled and proud of everyone involved.” Sarah Rose Drake, playing Carrie Stancil, said, “I’m excited to be a part of Gunsmoke with WMOVP.  I haven’t been part of a western show before, so this experience has been a lot of fun. I’m planning to watch a few old westerns to prepare for the role.”

Each performance, the troupe tries to bring a new element to the production. “Most weeks it has been a new technical element, such as adding backgrounds, more complicated sound effects, or visual components, as we have learned by doing,” said Sound and Visual Designer Becca Buck. “But this week we wanted the audience to be able to get a sense of what the old radio westerns were like so we decided to go with only a voice to portray The Stranger.” Kirk McCall, who plays the Stranger, is no stranger to radio. After a 45 year career, he retired from the radio business in 2014. His career started in 1969, receiving a First Class Radio/Telephone license from the FCC, after which he worked on-air in several markets in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida as a DJ, newscaster, production voice, and ultimately in sales and management. He has voiced thousands of radio and TV commercials and narrations over the years, for several years he was the voice of Napolis, McHappys, and numerous auto dealerships and the “Little Al” character for Sid’s Furniture for close to 20 years. With his wife and daughters, he settled in the Mid Ohio Valley in 1976. He was the General Manager of 95XIL and Results Radio for some 14 years, finally retiring as Director of Sales for the iHeart Radio stations of the Mid Ohio Valley. He was inducted into the West Virginia Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2019.

Over the years McCall performed in several productions with the Actors Guild of Parkersburg, but health issues have prevented him from on-stage participation for many years. Responding to a MOVP Facebook post calling for actors to participate in a new form of theatre, he found a new medium where he could once again practice his craft. McCall said, “I have experience on stage, in the streets, on camera and on radio and am finding the online experience to be very rewarding. I learned early in my career that ‘Imagination’ is at the very core of success in communication. The employment of one’s own Imagination and the ability to capture an audience’s imagination is central to debate, advertising, on stage, on-air, on line…all means and measure of communication. We are learning how to bring our own imagination to the performance and cause an audience to embrace their own imagination with our performances. ‘Theater’ is bigger than the stage and reaches far beyond the walls of an auditorium or the building in which it is housed. ‘Theater’ is as big as our imaginations will allow it to be. For Gunsmoke, I am using a voice in the part of The Stranger intended to take the listener to the dirt streets of Dodge City and through the swinging doors of the Long Branch Saloon.”

To view the live performance, join on the webinar link, Friday, September 18 at 8:00 p.m. or call in to hear the audio at 301-715-8592 or 312-626-6799, Webinar ID: 936 2677 9110.  If you are unable to join in for the live performance it will be available on the Mid Ohio Valley Players, Inc. Facebook page as a premier video on Saturday, Sept. 19 at 7:00 p.m.

MOVP President JR Wells invites the faithful WMOVP audience to tune for a visit to Dodge City and urges those who have not had a chance to see a performance of WMOVP Radio Theatre to give it a try. “We are continuing our Pledge Drive and ask that the people of the valley take this opportunity to see that we are still delivering quality community theatre. Since we have not been able to open our doors and sell tickets, we like many other non-profit community theatres are having to rely on the generosity of our supporters. The goal of the pledge drive is $20,000 which will help us to meet overhead costs and continue to work on renovations now that the new roof is in place.  Producing original scripts, offering creative outlets for actors, directors and technicians, educating the next generation through Jr. Players and Youth Theatre, and providing family entertainment for the Valley is what it’s all about and we need the community’s help.”

WMOVP Radio Theatre will bring the valley thrills and chills in the month of October with offerings from Hitchcock, Poe, and an original Halloween script from Will Anderson. WMOVP will return in two weeks on Friday, October 2, at 8:00 p.m. with the Hitchcock classic, The Hitch-Hiker, from the radio drama Suspense.