A Merry Production, “A Miracle on 34th Street”

Westerville Parks and Recreation Civic Theatre’s first holiday production is coming to life December 11, 12 and 13 at Westerville South High School. The classic story of “A Miracle on 34th Street,” will be performed in a radiocast format.

“After a great run with ‘Seussical’ this summer, we started looking for a special holiday show to bring to the Westerville community,” said Derrick McPeak, Westerville Parks and Recreation Program Leader. “When the script for this radiocast came our way, we knew we could have a lot of fun with this type of production.”

You may be wondering what a classic radiocast entails, so here’s a preview of what to expect.

The production is set in a fictional 1940’s Westerville radio station as actors re-enact a holiday tale during a live radio show.

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“As soon as you take your seat in the theater, you become part of the live studio audience for this radio broadcast,” said McPeak. “The nine actors enter the stage as if coming into work for the day. From then on, you will see these ‘players’ tell a ‘A Miracle on 34th Street’ through voice work and sound effects.”

Many of the actors play several different characters that are completely unique.

“I have been directing shows for many years and I love to act too, but had not found the right opportunity perform in a while. When I learned about this script and the ability to play multiple characters in one setting within seconds of each other, I had to audition,” said Cast Member Luke Bovenizer.

Actress Debbie Schindehette was drawn to the radiocast style as well.

“It has been a fun challenge developing the characters, and there has been a lot creative freedom during this process. I’ve been playing around with accents while raising and lowering my voice to make sure each role is distinct,” she said.

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Although you will not see every piece of scenery or costume that is mentioned, you will hear everything. Patrons will see a foley artist create sounds to make the story come alive audibly.

“From car horns to footsteps, our foley artist, Tiffany Sisson, does small reenactments of these motions rather than using a sound board. She really is our 10th actor,” said McPeak. “The sounds she produces make this show full-bodied whether you watch in the theater or if you were to actually listen over the radio. You should be able to close your eyes the entire time and know exactly what is going on.”

But that doesn’t mean there will be a lack of visual entertainment.

“The actors never leave the stage expect during intermission. They get to improv in their ‘down time’ during the work day in the background. So the actors may seem relaxed reading a magazine, but they have to stay focused and stay in character for an hour straight,” he said.

This means every show will be a little different and even interactive.

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“We want you to laugh, cry and cheer as you would at a live talk show. The entire experience is meant to be engaging, and the cast gets to play off the crowd’s energy each performance. There will even be an applause sign that will light up for the audience to clap.”

And in the words of Kris Kringle, or at least Michael Dwyer who plays him, this is a performance you won’t want to miss. “This production combines the nostalgia of a story we know and love with a spin. It is sure to get you and your family in the holiday spirit.”

Tickets for “A Miracle on 34th Street” are still available, and can be purchased in advance at the Westerville Community Center for $10. For more information, please call 614-901-6500 or visit www.westerville.org/art.

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Creative Arts

A Colorful Community Production, “Seussical”

Brilliant colors, bright personalities and beaming performances…the cast and crew of “Seussical” have come together to create an entertaining musical for all ages.

The Westerville Parks and Recreation Civic Theatre production of “Seussical” hits the stage this week at Westerville Central High School. The show runs July 30, 31 and August 1 at 7 p.m. with a final performance on August 2 at 2 p.m.

“This musical takes the stories of Dr. Seuss, including characters and images that we are very familiar with, like the ‘Cat in the Hat’ and ‘the Whos,’ and combines them into a clever show that teaches everyone a lesson about the true meaning of friendship and community,” said Derrick McPeak, Westerville Parks & Recreation Program Leader for “Seussical.”

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In its third year, Westerville Parks and Recreation Civic Theatre is continuing its commitment to providing a high-quality and family-friendly theater outlet for the City.

“Every year, we are growing our theater program and aiming to bring a professional and affordable experience to not only theater patrons, but to those participating in the production,” said McPeak.

After performing with Westerville Parks and Recreation Civic Theatre last year, Westerville resident Char Anderson was thrilled to act again this summer in “Seussical.”

“I’ve been doing local theater for 10 years; and this is best group I have ever worked with. It is absolutely a step up from many other community theater programs,” she said. “The staff is organized and respectful of the actors and their time. The whole team is so talented from the set to the lighting and costumes.”

And the cast and crew itself is embracing the show’s theme of friendship and community.

“I live five minutes from where we rehearse. So not only am I getting the opportunity to fine-tune my craft, but I am meeting new people and making friends with neighbors in Westerville,” said Anderson.

Despite a large cast of more than 100 actors, participants say the comradery that has developed in the past two months is astounding.

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“I went out on a limb and auditioned not knowing anyone else going out for show. Since the first meeting, I’ve felt included. Everyone is supportive and works really well together,” said Cast Member Luke Hassenpflug.

“Seussical” is also bridging generations as a wide-range of ages are involved in the musical. The show’s youngest cast member, six-year-old Claire Munger, is acting alongside fellow cast member and mom, Katey Munger. This mother-daughter duo is just one of a few families performing together this year.

“We have a lot of fun. We get to dance and play at rehearsals, and are constantly singing ‘Seussical’ around the house or in the car. It gives us another way to bond and spend time with one another,” said Munger.

Munger hopes other families can experience the arts together too.

“This theater group is filling a performance arts void in Westerville. It is important for children to see live theater. Now families here don’t have to travel far or break the bank to see a great kid-friendly show. They get to watch friends and colleagues perform, and see how talented their community is.”

Tickets for “Seussical” are still available for purchase at the Westerville Community Center for $10. For more information, visit www.westerville.org/art.

Creative Arts