Jessamine theater troupe brings new life to old-time radio dramas

Spirit of the Bluegrass

NICHOLASVILLE- There’s no other theater group in Central Kentucky quite like the one that performs in the back room of a store front on Nicholasville’s Main Street. 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, although the shows were paused in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Director Doug Fain said there are two reasons the group formed seven 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.

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.

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.”

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K-CAL stands for Creative Arts League. The group’s next live performance will be two comedies June 25-27. For more information or to reserve tickets, call the box office at (859) 885-5363 or go to www.kcalotr.com.

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