Jennifer Hodi

Inspired by old-time radio

Ladysmith Little Theatre is delving into something new this summer with LLT Radio Troupe Theatre of the Mind.

Ladysmith Little Theatre (LLT) is delving into something new this summer with a pair of shows dating back to the golden age of radio.

The LLT Radio Troupe’s summer series, Theatre of the Mind, features The Adventures of Philip Marlowe — The Green Flame, a gritty crime drama revolving around a “hard-boiled” detective, and Fibber McGee and Molly — Piano Lessons, a light-hearted comedy about an aspiring pianist with no musical talent whatsoever.

Gale Lawrence, LLT’s apprentice producer and sound effects manager, said Theatre of the Mind is designed to mimic the live radio broadcasts of the 30s and 40s.

“Basically, the golden age of radio was in the 30s and the 40s and into the early 50s,” Lawrence said. “During the 30s and the 40s, 80 per cent of people had radios and listened to them daily, so it was a big deal.

“Apparently, until the late 40s, all of these plays were broadcast live because the recording equipment wasn’t of a good enough quality for them to record and edit — it wasn’t until the late 40s that the equipment got good enough for them to pre-record and edit. And so for some shows, they would do two performances, one for one coast and one for the other coast because they had to do them live.”

Radio plays would be performed live for studio audiences, Lawrence said, while sound effects engineers used props of various sorts to mimic doors creaking or someone sneaking up a back stairwell.

And it’s that experience the LLT Radio Troupe hopes to recreate, Lawrence said.

“One of the things that I’ve enjoyed while working on this show is trying to figure out how to get certain effects,” Lawrence said. “Trying to to get the right kind of crashing sound takes quite a bit of creativity.”

“One of my favourite things to do in the world,” Lawrence added, “is to go down to a thrift store or a garage sale and wander around tapping on things. People don’t know what you’re doing, but what you’re doing is trying to figure out how to make some noise.”

Lawrence and the LLT Radio Troupe will employ their knack for noise to create an eery soundscape for Philip Marlowe as he investigates “a case of libel that quickly turns to intrigue, murder and possible romance” and the comedic backdrop for Fibber McGee’s merry, misguided musical foray.

LLT’s special blend of murder and mystery with a side of slapstick comedy is “for contrast,” Lawrence added.

The LLT Radio Troupe is scheduled to perform its debut production on a matinee-only basis on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from July 20 through August 11. Doors will open at 1 p.m. prior to a 2 p.m. show featuring complimentary ice cream sundaes.

Tickets are available at the door for $10, with one child under the age of 12 admitted free with each paid adult admission.

Individual tickets will not be sold in advance, Lawrence said, but groups of four or more will be able to reserve “part or all of a table” by calling Lawrence at 250-924-6667.

For more information on the LLT Radio Troupe, visit LLT’s website.

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