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Fall Drama Production Hits Radio Waves

An annual staple in the St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) events calendar, the Fall Drama will debut a brand-new type of performance this year, a change from the traditional dramatic production.

“We felt that without having done a production on stage since the fall of 2019, and not being able to build a stage crew and work with experienced stage actors, producing a radio play would not require an elaborate set, complex blocking, and lighting etc.,” says James Oatt, Music Department Head and one of the directors of the Fall Drama. “It would be a little simpler to produce but still rewarding for the students.”

SMCS Fall Drama - Frankenstein: A Radio Play on stage rehearsal
SMCS student actors and Foley artists rehearse Frankenstein: A Radio Play on stage.

On November 11 and 12, the SMCS Drama Department will present Frankenstein: A Radio Play. The production is based on the novel by Mary Shelley and adapted by Philip Grecian.

“Frankenstein is designed as a radio play as would have been commonly performed during the golden age of radio in the 30s and 40s,” says Oatt. “What is unique in this medium is the background sound effects like wind, rain, lightning, footsteps, and doors opening and closing are performed live on stage by a team of student Foley artists.”

Foley artists re-create sounds for film, radio, and other media. They enhance audio quality in the post-production of sounds that could not be properly recorded on a film or television set and create the sound effects used in radio.

“Originally, I wanted to participate in the Fall Drama because I was interested in voice acting and just having a taste of what it’s like to participate in our school productions,” says Eric Xiao, Grade 11 student and one of the play’s Foley artists. “However, I have always been interested in sound design and audio engineering, so it was great to have the opportunity to work as a Foley artist. I wish to learn from this to become better at acting, both with effects and voice from the other actors.”

During the radio play, the stage crew and Foley artists will be up on stage along with the voice actors allowing the audience to watch the sounds being created in real-time.

“The creaking floor, the sound of a ship stuck on the ice, a violent thunderstorm. And it’s Frankenstein, so lightning and thunder are key ,” adds Oatt.

SMCS Fall Drama - Frankenstein: A Radio Play on stage rehearsal
SMCS Foley artists are set up on stage beside voice actors for a rehearsal of the Fall Drama, Frankenstein: A Radio Play

“I’ve never performed in a radio play before, but after learning about what goes in to making one, I’m very excited to see how it all comes together,” says Matthew Chiarotto, Grade 12, who will be playing the part of Dr. Victor Frankenstein.

“I’d say that the process of rehearsing is very similar, but minus the blocking and stage direction that goes into a traditional dramatic production,” he adds. “That being said, there’s a heavy emphasis on timing and spacing between each line. We have to create an image of what’s happening within an audience member’s head. As a result, our timing has to be perfect in order to create a more authentic and realistic image in the audience member’s mind.”

While the annual Spring Musical aligns with the school’s Grade 11 and 12 musical theatre courses, the Fall Drama is an entirely co-curricular activity. This year’s Fall Drama will feature 10 voice actors (six male and four female students), six Foley artists, and four to five additional stage crew members who will assist backstage and in the booth.

“Learning to work with others and establish positive relationships is huge as you can’t create a production like this on your own,” says Oatt on the experience students gain through their participation. “They’re learning self-discipline and personal organization as they must balance the rehearsal and performance commitment with school work and other outside involvement. Plus, the experience of being on stage or backstage can lead to many more incredibly rewarding opportunities in post-secondary or community theatre. Or, who knows, the professional stage!”

The SMCS Fall Drama of Frankenstein: A Radio Play will be performed in the Centre for the Arts on November 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. Guests are invited to pay what they can at the door on the evenings of the event.

SMCS Fall Drama - Frankenstein: A Radio Play poster

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