COVID-19 may have canceled most in-person plays and musicals in Camas and Washougal this year, but a group of Washougal middle schoolers have not let that stop them from bringing the arts to the community this holiday season.
The pandemic had already canceled the Jemtegaard Middle School Soundstage students’ plans to perform “Box,” a middle school vignette play by Lindsay Price, so Soundstage advisor Diana Larson started looking for COVID-safe alternatives.
“We had to be creative,” Larson said. “And then someone suggested we do something like ‘A Prairie Home Companion,'” a weekly radio variety show that aired live on hundreds of public radio stations from 1974 to 2016.
“We found that there were a lot of radio show scripts out this year,” Larson said.
The Soundstage group, which has been meeting virtually all summer and learning from several of Larson’s connections in the performance industry, including Shakespearean actor and stage-combat choreographer John Armor, decided to perform the radio play version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
“We were excited to find this classic holiday story and it even came with sound effects,” Larson said.
Larson held virtual auditions in October and the students recorded their lines via Zoom in early November. Adults, including Jemtegaard Principal David Cooke and Washougal School District Superintendent Mary Templeton, will read many of the main roles.
“There were 20 parts for the kids, so we couldn’t take everybody,” Larson said.
Cooke and Templeton will voice the roles of Bob Cratchit and Mrs. Cratchit, while Portland actor John Hugill will play the pivotal role of Ebenezer Scrooge. A few Jemtegaard staff, including history teachers Scott Rainey and Scott Hoisington, also helped out with the upcoming radio play.
The students had to learn the ins and outs of recording a radio play instead of performing live. Sound engineer Vic Sorisio, who helped record and edit the play, taught students how to to “sit in front of their speakers and mute themselves when they’re not on,” Larson said.
The end result is a professionally edited radio play that will be available online, on the school district’s website, for two days only — on Friday, Dec. 4 and Saturday, Dec. 5.
To listen to the play, visit washougal.k12.wa.us/soundstage Dec. 4-5.