This holiday season, PlayMakers Repertory Company will treat Triangle audiences to a family-friendly live version of a treasured holiday film with its production "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" by Joe Landry.
PlayMakers, the professional theater in residence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will present "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" Nov. 28-Dec. 16 in the Paul Green Theatre at UNC's Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road.
Show times will be 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8, and 2 p.m. Sundays. For a complete schedule, more information and to purchase tickets, call (919) 962-PLAY (7529) or visit www.playmakersrep.org. Tickets are $15 to $50.
The entertainment begins with the theater transformed into a 1940s radio studio with the theater-goers as the live studio audience. A company of radio players take their places to perform the story of Frank Capra's award-winning "It's a Wonderful Life" as a Christmas Eve broadcast, along with music and sound effects, just as James Stewart, Donna Reed and other original cast members reprised their roles for the radio airwaves. Then, the PlayMakers actors step into the iconic scenes from Frank Capra's Christmas classic, assuming the roles of beloved characters George and Mary Bailey, Clarence the Angel, little Zuzu and other denizens of Bedford Falls.
Joseph Haj, PlayMakers producing artistic director, calls the play a story of redemption that resonates with young and old. "'It's a Wonderful Life' has become the American 'Christmas Carol,' an inspirational tale that families share as an anticipated annual event," he said. "We invite everyone to experience the true spirit of the season with this unique opportunity to see one of the classic screen's most cherished gems come to life."
PlayMakers' production of "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" is dedicated to the legacy of Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans, a respected civic and philanthropic leader, who supported education, children's services, health care and the arts. She was a trustee of The Duke Endowment, serving as its first female chair, and a trustee of Duke University for 20 years.
In conjunction with "It's a Wonderful Life," PlayMakers will host "The Vision Series-Directors in Conversation," a behind-the-scenes preview with director Nelson T. Eusebio III, along with scenic designer McKay Coble and costume designer Rachel Pollock, at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 20. At the free public event in the Paul Green Theatre, participants share coffee and hors d'oeuvres provided by series sponsor Jujube Restaurant, learn about the vision for the show and get a sneak peak at the sets and costumes in progress. Reservations are appreciated. Call PlayMakers' box office at (919) 962-7529 to RSVP.
Other special events before and during "It's a Wonderful Life" will include:
• Nov. 12, 7 p.m.: an "In the Wings" discussion with the creative team at the Durham County Library's Southwest Regional branch, 605 Shannon Road, Durham;
• Nov. 19, 6 p.m.: a program with the director and company members at McIntyre's Books in Fearrington Village, Pittsboro;
• Nov. 28-30, 7:30 p.m.: preview performances;
• Dec. 1, 7:30 p.m.: the opening night performance, with a complimentary gala party afterward;
• Dec. 5 and 9: free post-show discussions with the creative team;
• Dec. 7, 6 p.m: UNC's General Alumni Association offers a pre-show reception and conversation with the artists. Call (919) 843-5115 or visit www.alumni.unc.edu to reserve tickets;
• Dec. 8, 2 p.m.: open captioned performance;
• Dec. 11: an all-access performance for attendees with special needs, with sign language interpretation and audio description; and
• Dec.15 and 16: free post-show "Mindplay" discussions sponsored by the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society.
In the New Year, PlayMakers' season continues with Rinde Eckert's Obie Award-winning "And God Created Great Whales" in the PRC2 second-stage series (Jan. 9-13), followed on the main stage by Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun" performed in rotating repertory with 2012 Tony Award-winner "Clybourne Park" (Jan. 26-March 3) and the dazzling hit musical "Cabaret" (April 3-21). Then the PRC2 Second Stage closes with "Spring Training," a world premiere specially commissioned by PlayMakers and Carolina Performing Arts, written and performed by acclaimed musical/spoken word ensemble Universes (April 24-28). Single tickets and season subscription packages are available.
PlayMakers is based in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences. The Drama League has named PlayMakers one of the "best regional theatre companies in America."