During the golden age of radio, listeners clustered around their Zenith radios while their imaginations ran wild with the images depicted on air.
It's a scene that enchants Eagan Theater Company member Ken Coy, who is directing the company's radio play rendition of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" in December. Performances will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Cedar Valley Center in Eagan.
The holiday play—like any radio program aired in the 1930s and 1940s—relies less on visual flourishes and more on the audience's abillity to imagine and engage. That idea sits well with Coy, who wants the audience to meet his actors halfway.
"I think that people have gotten to the point where they don’t use their imaginations like they used to," Coy said. "Here, you have to actually think about it. A movie, it kind of force-feeds you."
Coy's six-person cast will portray a total of 32 characters as Dickens' classic story unfolds. But the actors will be supported by Coy's wife, Mary Coy, who will produce live sound effects to accompany details in the storyline.
When the script calls for the sounds of a creaking door, horses' hooves or people walking across packed snow, Mary will use items like coconut shells, plungers and rubber gloves filled with cornstarch to create the audio ambiance, Coy said.
Reading through the script without the effects is "blah in a way", according to novice actor Bob Martin, who is portraying Scrooge in the radio play. But with the addition of sound effects, the play comes to life, he said.
“I describe Mary as being the color in color TV," Martin said. "She doesn’t have any spoken lines, but if she wasn’t there, the play would literally be half of what it is."
Martin, who has limited acting experience, was cast as Scrooge in the production after Coy heard him jokingly imitating a Scottish brogue at church earlier this year.
“I'm am such a novice, such a rookie with this, I little go about this by the seat of my pants," said Martin, who gave credit to his fellow cast members and called the rehearsal experience "fun" and "humbling".
Like Coy, Martin hopes the play engages audience members.
"What I hope they take away from it is an ability to use the images and their mind to form pictures of what’s going on," Martin said. "If people have an open mind, they’ll experience more than what they could if we were all in costume interacting as actors would."
GET THE DETAILS:
WHAT: The Eagan Theater Company presents a radio play version of "A Christmas Carol.
WHEN/WHERE: 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Cedar Valley Center at 2024 Rahn Way in Eagan. Doors open at 6 p.m., with caroling at 6:30 p.m. Running time is roughly 1 hour, 45 minutes.
COST: Tickets for each performance are $10 in advance and can be purchased at www.etc-mn.org or by calling 651-454-6755.