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Mid-Ohio Valley Players to give radio play

The Mid-Ohio Valley Players cast of “Cheap Labor” from “Gunsmoke” from left, top, Ben Bradley (Matt Dillon), Kathy Biery (Miss Kitty), Doug Reed (Ben Stancil), Sarah Rose Drake (Carrie Stancil), David Scheimann (Foss Caper), Amber Smrek (Eleanor), Mack McHale (Hank) and Corey Rutter (Chester). The episode will be presented 8 p.m. Friday as part of the Players WMOVP Radio Theatre series created during the pandemic. (Photo Provided)

Staff Report

MARIETTA — A radio play presentation of an episode from one of America’s most popular westerns will be presented 8 p.m. Friday online on Zoom by the Mid-Ohio Valley Players.

Part of the WMOVP Radio Theatre social distancing theater initiative, the troupe will present “Cheap Labor,” an episode of “Gunsmoke,” which originated on radio before U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty appeared on television.

The radio series ran for nine seasons between 1952 and 1961 on CBS and was brought to television in 1955.

“Gunsmoke” is set in post-Civil War Dodge City, Kan., with the main characters being Dillon and Miss Kitty, who owns the Long Branch saloon. “Cheap Labor” was made into an episode in the TV series in 1957.

Dillon and Miss Kitty are played by Ben Bradley and Kathy Biery.

“I grew up loving the western genre from watching westerns with my pops to donning cowboy gear pretending I was the Man with No Name,” Director Tim Tuten said. “To bring ‘Gunsmoke’ to life like this combining radio, television and movies all in one is wonderful.”

Tuten credits the cast for making the Old West come alive.

“I’m excited to be a part of ‘Gunsmoke’ with WMOVP. I haven’t been part of a western show before, so this experience has been a lot of fun,” Sarah Rose Drake, playing Carrie Stancil, said. “I’m planning to watch a few old westerns to prepare for the role.”

The troupe tries to bring a new element to the series with each performance of the social distance theater, Becca Buck, sound and visual designer, said.

“Most weeks it has been a new technical element, such as adding backgrounds, more complicated sound effects, or visual components, as we have learned by doing,” she said. “But this week we wanted the audience to be able to get a sense of what the old radio westerns were like so we decided to go with only a voice to portray the Stranger.”

Kirk McCall, a local radio personality, plays the Stranger. McCall, who retired after 45 years in radio, has performed in several productions with the Actors Guild of Parkersburg, but health issues have prevented him from on-stage participation for many years.

“For ‘Gunsmoke’ I am using a voice in the part of the Stranger intended to take the listener to the dirt streets of Dodge City and through the swinging doors of the Long Branch Saloon,” McCall said.

To view the live performance at 8 p.m. Friday, join the webinar link at https://mariettacollege.zoom.us/j/93626779110 or call in to hear the audio at 301-715-8592 or 312-626-6799, Webinar ID: 936 2677 9110.

If unable to join in for the live performance, the show will be available on the Mid-Ohio Valley Players Facebook page beginning as a premier video at 7 p.m. Saturday.

When the pandemic closed the Players Theatre in late March, the organization looked for a way to bring live entertainment to the valley and to provide a creative outlet for local talent. Marietta College allowed its employees to use its Zoom accounts to help local nonprofits.

Founding director Suzanne Walker decided to try Zoom to bring old time radio to life in a new way.

“Each week we have tried to offer a new genre of the classic radio dramas,” Walker said. “This week we are excited to bring a glimpse of the Old West to the valley.”

Also, the Mid-Ohio Valley Players is continuing its pledge drive, organization President J.R. Wells said.

“Since we have not been able to open our doors and sell tickets, we like many other non-profit community theatres are having to rely on the generosity of our supporters,” he said.

The goal of the drive is $20,000 to meet overhead costs and continue to work on renovations.

October’s showbill will include work from Alfred Hitchcock, Edgar Allan Poe and an original Halloween script from Will Anderson. The next show is 8 p.m. Oct. 2 with Hitchcock’s “The Hitch-Hiker” from the “Suspense” radio drama series.

The cast of “Cheap Labor” is:

∫ Kirk McCall as The Stranger

∫ Ben Bradley as Marshal Matt Dillon

∫ Amber Smrek as Eleanor

∫ David Scheimann as Foss Capper

∫ Corey Rutter as Chester

∫ Doug Reed as Ben Stancil

∫ Sarah Rose Drake as Carrie

∫ Kathy Jackson Biery as Miss Kitty

∫ Mack McHale as Hank

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