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A live radio play this Christmas season

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival presents It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play by Joe Landry on the Octagon Stage December 2-31.

This twist on a Christmas classic transports guests to the 1940s – not long after the film takes place – where they are immersed in a Rockefeller Center-inspired radio studio. There, the live studio audience will watch the transformative storytelling of five characters as they bring the story of “It’s a Wonderful Life” to life, complete with Foley sound effects, singing commercials and flashing “Applause” signs.

The story remains the honest story that has moved audiences for decades. On Christmas Eve, George Bailey is deeply saddened and contemplates suicide before his guardian angel, Clarence, intervenes. Clarence shows George what the world would be like if he had never been born and teaches George that despite all the dreams that have passed him by, every life has meaning.

The ensemble cast includes William DeMeritt (The Skin of Our Teeth, Twelfth Night, The Death of the Last Black Man) as Jake Laurents; Evan Andrew Horwitz (Anne Frank Live at the Plaza, Evil on Paramount) as Harry Heywood; and Jimmy Kieffer (Peter and the Starcatcher, A Christmas Carol) as Freddie Filmore. Madeleine Lambert (The Agitators, Alabama Story) returns to ASF as Sally Applewhite and Cassandra Lopez (Twelfth Night, Hairspray, Oklahoma!) portrays Lana Sherwood.

Kate Bergstrom will make her ASF directorial debut (Letters That You Will Not Get, Is Edward Snowden Single?, The 39 Steps). Bergstrom says that at the heart of this story is community.

“This is a great American story about what it means to care for one another,” Bergstrom said. “The value of being able to give each other strength is worth more than all the money in the world.”

The story is shaped by the emotionally difficult topics of suicide and depression, which can be particularly difficult to deal with during the holidays. Bergstrom said she hopes the story will inspire others to find inner strength during difficult times.

“We are all part of something bigger than ourselves,” Bergstrom said. “I hope this piece encourages us all to become the guardian angel in our own lives.”

Bergstrom says the audio drama stays true to the original screenplay and the short story it’s based on, The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern.

“Older generations who appreciate the film can watch and enjoy this show with younger generations of their families,” Bergstrom said.

Sound designer Michael Costagliola enhances the immersive experience with bells and whistles and the use of Foley sound effects. As in the radio plays of the era, viewers will watch as the actors on stage use objects ranging from hammers and glass to chimes and wind machines to create a symphony of sounds.

Behind this 1940s world are set designer An-lin Dauber, costume designer Val Winkleman, lighting designer Thomas Rodman, stage manager Emilee Buchheit and production assistant Brooke Morgan.

Ticket prices start at $25. To buy, call 334.271.5353, visit the ASF Box Office (Monday through Saturday, doors open at 12:00 p.m.), or buy online at ASF.net. Evening performances begin at 7:00 p.m.; Matinees begin at 2:00 p.m

The state’s theater, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, builds community by engaging, entertaining and inspiring people with transformative theater performances and compelling educational and community programs. From its inception in an Anniston high school auditorium in 1972, to its appointment to the Alabama State Theater in 1977, to the stunning $21.5 million performing arts complex in Montgomery (built 1985), ASF has been a leader in of the performing arts across the world state, region and country. A popular Alabama arts institution, ASF expands the cultural identity of the South by producing classics, Shakespeare, contemporary plays, musicals, theater for young audiences and exciting new works. Since its inception, ASF has provided educational programs to more than a million students; annually, SchoolFest, a student matinee program, presents high-quality theatrical experiences for nearly 35,000 students.

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