‘Hear it first’ at Cultural Arts Center

Members of the On the Air Radio Players during rehearsal.
Creaky footsteps in an old attic, the desperate rattling of a locked doorknob and a bloodcurdling scream.

These archetypal haunted house sounds are just a few of the audio makings of On The Air Radio Players that will feature in its production “You Heard It Here First!” at 7:30 p.m. on June 4 and 5 at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen.

“The House on Bigelow” turns on a gravelly voiced, adulterous real estate agent trying to sell an allegedly haunted house and get rid of his business partner and wife, two tasks that intersect in a terrifying manner. The play, a creation of Richmond-based actor and director Laurie Follmer, was the first-place winner of On The Air Radio Player's Third Annual Radio Scriptwriting Contest. “The Werewolf and the Yeti,” a science-fiction thriller, and “War of the Worms,” a comedic homage to the infamous Orson Welles broadcast, were the second- and third-place winners respectively.

Members of On The Air Radio Players work to share their passion for radio drama, once the dominant form of entertainment in the U.S. before the advent of the Golden Age of television. Along with voice acting, they strive to add realistic ambient sounds to their “broadcasts.”

“To keep with the spirit of the era,” director Jack Mooney said, “we try to do as many practical sound effects as we can.”

The actors use a variety of props to accomplish this, including pairs of men's and women's shoes to simulate footsteps, plates and silverware for dining scenes and a small door. The company doesn't shy away from using electronic sounds when necessary, such as for the doorbells and telephone rings that occur frequently in “The House on Bigelow.”

“It's a diverse group of actors from all walks of life,” Mooney said of the company. On The Air Radio Players was founded about 15 years ago, he said, and now performs three shows a year through sponsorship by the Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks. Along with the scriptwriting contest winners, the company also has produced adaptations of classics such as “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Philadelphia Story.” Each production draws a new group, Mooney said, and almost half of this play's cast is new to the company.

“I've always been told I can't act with my body, but I can with my voice,” said Corey Hull, a member of On The Air Radio Players for three years. For Hull, this company provides an opportunity to participate in theater, a hobby he enjoyed in high school. Karen Charlotte, the play's production manager, said she liked being able to play many characters in one production, and not having to memorize lines.

“It's always fun for the audience to be able to see how you do it,” Mooney said of why people should come see “You Heard it Here First!”

“Any age can enjoy it.”
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