Jessamine theater troupe brings new life to 1940s radio dramas

KCAL Old Time Radio

NICHOLASVILLE- There's no other theater group in Central Kentucky quite like the one that performs in the back room at the Polvino Family Art Center. This troupe puts a new twist on some old material... radio drama scripts from the 1940s.

Four times a year, KCAL Old Time Radio goes live for an audience.

Director Doug Fain said there are two reasons the group formed four years ago.

"One, we wanted to give something back to the community and two, we're all pretty much hams."

These are familiar faces in Jessamine County. Fain is the circuit clerk, David Damron is a local banker and Norman and Denise Cline have both performed in local theater over the years. But faces don't matter in this so-called theater of the mind.

Actress Carolyn Threlkeld jokes, "I can play a tall thin blonde on the radio and nobody ever knows that I'm not."

If they're done right, you should be able to enjoy these shows outside the room and with your eyes closed. But if you're in the audience with your eyes wide open, you're also in on some secrets.

You can watch the actors take turns making the sound effects, which can be as simple as pouring water into a cup or knocking on a wall. Shaking a sheet of metal sounds like thunder; scrunching bags of corn starch sounds like a person walking in snow.

Norman Cline says the reason he got involved is simple. "This is the place I can come and be just as silly as I want to be and it's accepted and sometimes applauded."

His wife, Denise, says the biggest difference between doing a radio drama and a traditional play is obvious. You don't have to memorize lines.

But that doesn't mean you'll just watch people standing around reading. By the time the shows are ready for an audience, they've been polished into something visual with mood lighting, stage movement and costumes. The room holds about 50 people and the actors say it wouldn't work as well in a bigger space. They like being able to make eye contact with the folks in the back row.

Fain says "We try to make it look like it would've looked, but I'm sure if some if the actors from the 40s were to see us, they'd probably roll a couple of times in their grave."

The KCAL crew must be doing something right. Just like in the 40s, the audiences gather around the radio (even if it's a prop) and when a show ends, many of the regulars make immediate plans to be there for the next episode.

"I don't know how long it will last," Fain says, "but as long as we're able to keep selling tickets, we'll keep performing."


K-CAL stands for Creative Arts League. The group's next performances will be a Christmas Show Dec. 8, 9 and 10. For more information or to reserve tickets, call the box office at (859) 885-5363 or go to the KCAL Old Time Radio Shows Facebook page.


Spirit of the Bluegrass is sponsored by Regency Memory Care

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