Friday, June 21, 2013

Live Radio Soap Opera Sets Sail For Laughter Land

Barbara Reyelts featured prominently in a cast with many familiar faces.
Wednesday evening after hours I slid over to the Belknap Lounge to see and hear the new Superior-based theater company Twin Ports Stage in their inaugural live radio soap opera called "Twin Ports," a comedy-drama designed to entertain. And entertaining it was, even without Garrison Keillor's Fred Newman on sound effects. Here are a few words in retrospect about the experience.

First, it wasn't until I was writing this that I realized that the title of the show is probably a take-off on the David Lynch serial drama Twin Peaks. I guess as a reviewer of the Twin Ports arts scene I've come to take the words Twin Ports as a literalist might, and not pregnant with meaning. Alas, pregancies did figure into the evenings experience, but I'll get to that later.

I was talking with someone after the show who made an interesting comment. They said the Twin Ports arts and theater scene could be compared to Paris in the Twenties. "Not only is a lot happening, but there is such a pool of talent that it’s like a 'talent co-op' here." Twin Ports Stage is but another configuration of a number familiar faces, still having fun and sharing it in new ways.

The basic story (at least in episode one here) was a dramatic presentation of the effects of a major snow storm in a Northland community, with snapshots of people in various situations from bars to a hospital birthing room and everything in between. The thread stitching all the various scenes and stories together was the radio station K-R-A-P (It's KRAP), with Miss Candy Landers (Barbara Reyelts) offering up storm updates held in place by comically rendered radio commercials.

The sound effects throughout were indeed fun as the "storm of the century" continued.  And the radio spots repeatedly brought involuntary laughter from the packed lounge.

One of the scenes took place at a hospital where an anxious doctor (Brian Matuszak) was attempting to deliver an abnormally large baby. After the first head popped out, a second and third followed. To everyone's surprise it was a world first: Siamese triplets. The father cried out, "How can they be Siamese when I'm Swedish?"

Ironically Christa Lawler, on hand to cover the show for the News Tribune, is eight pregnant and looking large. That's one thing radio and newspapers have in common. What you read and what you hear reveals nothing about what is.

Victoria Main and Lori Kempton were the scriptwriters. Main said her mom was in theater when she was eleven and that she's been in plays all her life. 

"Twin Ports" is a project of the John D. Munsell Legacy Fund. John Munsell ran the theater department at UWS for thirty years and was a major inspiration for a whole generation of young people in the theater arts. Main called him "a remarkable teacher and an amazing director."

One of Munsell's complaints, however, was that all too often actors and actresses and all the others involved are essentially unpaid while giving so much to the communities where they perform. The John D. Munsell Legacy Fund is an attempt to rectify this to some extent.

A good sound man is always helpful.
The premiere episode of this serial drama succeeded in its primary aim: to shake off opening night jitters and produce a satisfying slice of entertainment. The lines sparkled and the execution was dead on, peppered with plenty of one-liners like this one: “If it’s not pickled or smoked, it’s not food.”

Over at Nifty's Tailor Shop we heard this exchange: “This cheap vodka improves your looks, too.”

“I don’t know if it’s you or the vodka but I’m warming up nicely.”

The other partner in this project is Wisconsin Public Radio. I'm guessing that if you missed it Wednesday evening it will be re-broadcast sometime soon.

Much more could be said about the cast, which consisted of many familiar faces. But if I mention them all I will leave one out and never live it down.

ON ANOTHER TOPIC, today is Free Friday. N&L Publishing is making available my first eBook novel The Red Scorpion as a free download from Here's the link.... and tell me what you think by leaving a review. :-)

Have a great weekend. Don't let the rain dampen your spirits, even it it does dampen Grandma's Marathon tomorrow.

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