BEMIDJI -- In days gone by, radio theater was a thing. Thanks to the coronavirus, it’s making a return in Bemidji.
Members of the Bemidji Community Theater have teamed up with RP Broadcasting to produce a pair of shows airing this week on Mix 103.7 and Real Country 98.3 FM stations. The first play will be on the air at 7:20 a.m., 12:20 p.m. and 3:20 p.m. on Thursday, April 30, and the second will begin at the same times on Friday.
With its spring production of “Treasure Island” postponed indefinitely, the BCT was sidelined by the pandemic. That all changed when Mark Ricci, RP’s general manager, came up with an offer the actors couldn’t refuse.
“I always wanted to do something like this,” Ricci said. “Just being in the business my whole life, I always marvel at the old radio days and how important radio was.”
He called Vicki Stenerson, BCT board vice president and director of “Treasure Island,” and asked if the community theater had ever thought about a radio show.
“In my mind I pictured a radio show on stage,” Stenerson said. Once Ricci explained what he meant, she said "heck yeah. The board was all in favor.”
She found old radio scripts that are no longer copyrighted, and chose Agatha Christie's “The Case of the Careless Victim.” It was not difficult to recruit actors.
“I had more people than I needed,” Stenerson said.
Some of the actors recorded their parts at home, and a few went to the RP studios to record theirs.
“It was so much fun seeing everybody again,” Stenerson said. “Everybody’s been sheltered in place. We’re all good friends, so we’ve texted and emailed. But it was so much fun to actually see people again. We all did the Hollywood kiss, instead of getting too close.”
Ricci did all of the editing and sound effects, but he said the actors made it go very smoothly.
“I marvel at the talent we have in the community and the passion they have,” he said. “They took it very seriously. I was surprised that there weren't a lot of edits. They read through once and we went in the studio and laid it all down. They just did a really good job.”
The second play, to be aired starting Friday, is "The Thin Man" by Dashiell Hammett.