October 23rd, 2020

New West to offer online old-time radio plays


By Jensen, Randy on June 12, 2020.

The cast of a New West Theatre production runs through a number during a media call in a past season. Herald file photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Greg Bobinec

Lethbridge Herald

gbobinec@lethbridgeherald.com

New West Theatre is returning to entertain the community through a revitalized form of entertainment, as they are set to perform online old-time radio plays on three different evenings.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the New West Theatre production team brainstormed different ideas on how they could keep engaged with the community, while supporting social distancing guidelines, and found online to be the best option.

“When you look at when the pandemic hit, our immediate response of our organization was online content and we are doing a little bit of that, but the big thing we are doing is in July. We are producing a series of online old-time radio plays,” says Kelly Reay, artistic director of New West Theatre. “The old scripts that rely on the heavy use of sound effects and live performance and making the sound effects live, so we are diving into archives to bring some really well-known stories and characters throughout the last century.”

On three different evenings, people will be able to not only listen to the energetic and well-described radio plays, but also watch the performers live while they do it, through an online livestream.

“Three different evening performances; the first evening is called ‘Vintage Hitchcock,’ and it is a series of three different Hitchcock stories,” says Reay. “The second evening we are doing a kind of adventurous theatre and it is a ‘Flash Gordon’ double feature as well as ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,’ and for our final performance, we will be doing a Sherlock Holmes mystery.”

Luckily for the production company, when COVID-19 hit, it was the end of their season when they begin to plan the shows for the remainder of the year. Not knowing what the future would hold, they had to be innovative in their thinking to keep the love of art and performance live in the community.

“At the time, we didn’t know how things were proceeding and we didn’t know if this was going to be one month or more, but New West Theatre was really fortunate at the time because the months of the pandemic were our downtime,” says Reay. “It’s typically our season-planning phase, so our immediate response was to figure out our next steps because we had a full season planned, but we had to put it on the side for now, and we thought about interesting things that we could do online that our audience would enjoy.”

New West Theatre performers are excited to come back to the community through these three radio-script plays in July, along with a retro-vintage live drive-in theatre show, scheduled for August.

“It is so great for us and for performers to be back doing what we do because for a while there it felt like we were on hold where there wasn’t a clear path forward, but now we can move forward and it is great to be out there engaging with the community again,” says Reay.

A Live Radio Play Series, starring the New West Theatre Ensemble, will be starting on July 9, at 8 p.m. with the production of “Vintage Hitchcock.” “Old Time Adventure Theatre” will take place on July 16, at 8 p.m., and the “Sherlock Holmes Mystery” show will take place on July 23, at 8 p.m.

New West Theatre is still finalizing how the production will work and where it will be broadcasted, and will have updates in the coming weeks on their website, newwesttheatre.com.

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