By Jennifer Von Ohlen
DASSEL, COKATO, MN Every year, families gather together to watch some of their favorite Christmas classics, whether it’s about Santa Claus, the Nativity, or another story about giving.
One famous holiday tale focuses on the gifts people don’t realize they’re giving through their simple, seemingly mundane acts in life.
“It’s a Wonderful Life,” the story of George Bailey (who feels as though life has passed him by) and his guardian angel, Clarence (who shows Bailey the difference his life has made to Bedford Falls and the people within it), has been capturing American hearts since the film’s 1946 release, and will now be performed by Dassel-Cokato’s theatrical group, the FungusAmongus Players.
This production will be slightly different from what audience members, and the actors, are used to, however; because this retelling takes the form of a live 1940s radio play.
The play’s 10 actors each have their own radio persona, who then need to portray the radio show’s multiple characters vocally rather than using a variety of costumes to help with distinction.
“It’s an interesting challenge for most of them, playing so many different characters,” stated director Tom Nelson, “because it’s really important that they define the differences with their voices.
“A couple of them have to have conversations with themselves,” he added. “So, they have to be able to slip in and out of character.”
Staying true to the nature of radio theater, all of the show’s sound effects will be live (not recorded), and the actors will have their scripts in hand.
Nelson emphasized, however, that the scripts will be mainly used for reference and as props rather than for recitation.
Since the show doesn’t require the usual amount of memorization, and doesn’t include choreography or set changes, Nelson said it’s a good production to help ease himself into the directing role especially since this is his first time directing community theater.
“It helps that I know the story so well,” he stated.
While directing a well-known story does have its advantages, Nelson shared it can be challenging, as well.
“It makes it a little bit easier from a preparation standpoint, because you’re reading the script, kinda know how the lines are delivered in the movie kinda what people are expecting. But then, at the same time, the expectation is, ‘it’s going to be just like the movie,’” said Nelson.
Overall, there are “very few” differences between the script and the film, so Nelson believes audiences will be very comfortable with what they see.
As viewers leave, Nelson hopes they will take the story’s message with them: that every person’s life matters.
“I think most of us, especially this time of year, can forget about the meaning of Christmas, and just the impact we can have on people in our daily lives,” Nelson stated. “The simple things we do that might not seem like a big deal, but if we weren’t there we just have no idea how many lives we touch or can touch in life. For good or bad. And that’s just kind of the message people need to hear.”
Performances will take place at the Dassel History Center Dec. 1, 2, and 8 at 7 p.m., and Dec. 3 and 10 at 2 p.m.
A dinner show will be presented at the Bait & Hook in Cokato Saturday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. Meals include a Caesar salad with a choice of grilled chicken breast marinated with fresh ginger, honey, scallions, and soy sauce; or grilled salmon served with an apple shallot ginger glaze; or a vegetarian option. Fresh garlic green beans and grits will be served with each meal. Dessert is included, and a cash bar will also be available.
Tickets can be purchased at fungusamongusplayers.org/tickets or at the Dassel History Center. Remaining tickets will be available for purchase at the door before all performances, excluding the Dec. 9 dinner show. Those tickets must be purchased in advance.