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Madhatters presents 'It's a Wonderful Life'

Photos by Rachelle Klemme Doug Curtis, Kevin Olson and Richard Ealy introduce themselves to a hypothetical radio audience during dress rehearsal.1 / 2
The six actors on "It's a Wonderful Life" had a dress rehearsal Tuesday evening. L to r: Rob Pesola, Doug Curtis, Devon Bernard, Sher Linnes, Eichard Ealy and Kevin Olson.2 / 2

An iconic Christmas story is being performed in Wadena: the radio play of "It's a Wonderful Life" is the Madhatters fall production in conjunction with the Christmas Festival.

According to director Michelle Curtis, the stage script's dialogue is virtually the same as that of the 1946 Frank Capra film and follows it very closely.

Curtis also said this is the first radio play that Madhatters has produced.

"I love A Prairie Home Companion, and the chance to do something like that with the sound effects and the actors," she said.

Even though it is a radio play, it won't actually air on the radio - Curtis said that the royalty payments are based on the size of the audience, which would not be able to be counted if it was broadcast.

The stage play, which will be held at the Memorial Auditorium, is a visual experience too with the 1940s production design and most of the actors switching between a variety of different voices. Actors from Wadena and surrounding towns play the voice actors who in turn play the story's characters.

The play also shows the work of the foley artists.

"Part of the fun of it is seeing the sound effects made right before your eyes," Curtis said.

Actors are Kevin Olson of Staples, Doug Curtis of Wadena, Devon Bernard of Wadena, Sher Linnes of Perham, Rob Pesola of New York Mills and Richard Ealy of Wadena. Hanna Larson is playing piano. Producers are Mim Maas and Don Hoffman.

One of the Madhatters board members brought the script of "It's a Wonderful Life" to a meeting, and the play was chosen as the fall production.

"There were two other shows that we looked at and this one just seemed the best," Curtis said.

She said there will not be a Mad Lab play this winter, as the rehearsal and performance space they had used for it will not be available this time around.

Performance dates and times at the Memorial Auditorium are Saturday Nov. 26, Sunday Nov. 27, and Thursday to Sunday Dec. 8-11. All the evening performances are at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday Dec. will have a 1:30 p.m. matinee.

Tickets can be purchased in advance for $8 at An Open Book or Thrifty White, or for $10 at the door. Seating is not assigned, and theatergoers can decide where they want to sit.

"It's all about heart and soul and realizing your life is really wonderful, and that it affects everyone, and that you have friends and loved ones that wouldn't be the same without you," Curtis said.