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November 4, 2011
For its newest production, Oriental’s Old Theater goes back many decades to the days of radio theater. In three performances — Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon — “Hot Dames, Hot Lead” presents a tale of melo-dramatic politicial intrigue set in 1936 Louisiana. It has gangsters, corruption, and fedoras and smart-looking hats aplenty.The radio play is set in the 1930’s, a time of cool hats, private eyes and sound effects.
The actors voicing their lines are not the only ones on the stage. As a radio play, “Hot Dames” shows what goes in to creating pictures with sound; sharing the stage with the actors is a sound effects team, who fill out the story with an array of noises. In between the acts, a quintet of singers comes out to warble commercial jingles and otherwise pitch merchandise, while an announcer leads the audience through the acts.Per Erichsen is Catfish King, private eye.The sound effects team of Art Whalen and Care Gerdeman wait for the cue to pound the catcher’s mitt. (So as to avoid having to really land a punch on a character.)
“Hot Dames, Hot Lead” marks a debut on several levels. The director is Lynn Whalen, who had decades of experience in community theater before moving to Oriental a few years ago. This is the first play she’s directed here. Her casting call in late September brought players to the Old Theater stage who haven’t been seen there before.Nancy Hiller and Kate Tuttle. Nancy, in this guise, plays a gangster. Kate is Lola.
That infusion of new players comes at a good time, as the Oriental Repertory Company, which had presented several sex farces in recent years, disbanded this fall. As the radio play was about to go before its first audience this week, there were already murmurs of staging other productions.Peter Freeman is the announcer in “Hot Dames, Hot Lead.”
Usually what goes on behind the scenes in a radio operation, stays behind the scenes. But in the spirit of radio playing out on stage, here are some photos from one of the dress rehearsals this week.Art Whalen with some of the tools of the sound effects table. WONC is at 35.02 on the dial, a frequency that does not exist on AM or FM but likely would show up on a GPS. (As announcer Peter Freeman put it, it allows a lot of latitude…..)A glass of water, miked, stands ready for another sound effect. It would be an effervescent one.
And now, a word from our sponsor….Commercial break at the radio show. In this one, some of the singers pitch the virtues of Chevy, while others sell Buick.