Butler County high school students rediscover old-time radio play

The health restrictions forced by the coronavirus have seen the students in Fairfield High School's theatre department look to the past for a creative outlet. Students there are creating and performing an old-fashioned radio play instead of a live theatrical production. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)
The health restrictions forced by the coronavirus have seen the students in Fairfield High School's theatre department look to the past for a creative outlet. Students there are creating and performing an old-fashioned radio play instead of a live theatrical production. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)

The coronavirus pandemic has forced some area high school theater students to adopt an old-fashioned radio play instead of their usual live theatrical production.

Students in Fairfield High School’s theater class faced a hard decision after the disappointments of seeing their spring productions shut down due to coronavirus school closures.

Mandated health precautions made performing live theater difficult, said Fairfield school officials.

“We had to get creative,” said Drama Department Director Mike Massie.

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“A radio play allows us to teach theatre, give kids an opportunity to perform something, while also preparing for the possibility that we won’t be able to have an audience. And a radio play lends itself well to a virtual performance should we be forced to go that route,” said Massie.

The students' radio show includes pieces from classic radio shows from the 1920s through the 1960s, as well as two original scripts written by students. Interspersed throughout the show are original “commercials” cast members wrote themselves, along with original jingles.

The creative process has been workshop style with Massie providing guidelines and letting the students have creative freedom in bringing the stories and characters to life.

Fairfield senior Juniper Gibbs, said “this has been a completely different format from what we are used to, especially for the seniors.”

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“Our last fall play is something that we have really looked forward to, and we were sad that it looked like we were going to miss out on performing it. But in a way, it has ended up being so much more special because we’re doing the first radio show, which is special even if it’s during a difficult time,” said Gibbs.

Hannah Neal, a sophomore, said “last spring our musical was canceled a month before performances and I also was involved in three other musical productions that were cancelled.”

“For theatre kids, this is what we live for. We spend months learning lines, developing characters, perfecting each note, and then it all just stopped. Quarantine was hard because I love to create and perform and there was no creative outlet,” said Neal.

“When we learned we were starting the year in a hybrid model and that performing arts had so many restrictions, more than any sport, we were not hopeful about having any theatre this fall. But this radio play has been more than I could have hoped for,” she said.

Massie said the students have been impressive in tackling for the first time an unfamiliar theatrical medium.

“There is more talent in this group that worked on the music than in entire schools elsewhere. Watching them sit at the piano and hash out catchy tunes for jingles, complete with clever lyrics and harmonies is something to behold,” he said.

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