West Essex Masquers to present Hitchcock radio play | The Progress News

NORTH CALDWELL – The Masquers of West Essex return to the stage for the first time in two years with a live radio play that includes adaptations of three early films directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

“Vintage Hitchcock: A Live Radio Play” will be presented at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12 and Saturday, Nov. 13 in the West Essex High School auditorium.

The play, by Joe Landry, draws from the films “The Lodger,” “Sabotage” and “The 39 Steps.” A narrator leads the audience through the three segments.

Brittany Hernandez, a theater teacher who directed the show, chose it because of its spooky theme.

“With the first show being back on stage, I wanted to do something that set a nice interesting mood for the audience,” she said. “… And the kids really seemed to like it.”

The Masquers’ shows in fall 2020 and spring 2021 were streamed online because of the coronavirus pandemic, and schools were closed just before opening night of the spring 2020 musical, “Mamma Mia!”

Most of the students cast in this show knew of Hitchcock, an English film director, producer and screenwriter known as the “Master of Suspense,” Hernandez said. They did more research after the show was announced.

A group watched the movie of “The 39 Steps” and noted that the dialogue was the same in the radio play.

Alyssa White, a senior from Fairfield, said her mother is obsessed with Hitchcock. “She loves ‘The Birds’ and ‘Psycho’ so I knew who he was.”

While Alyssa has not seen Hitchcock’s movies, she is a fan of horror, mystery and true crime stories.

She found this show to be cool “because it leaves a lot up to your imagination.” “We have the sound effects and we don’t really move too much so you got to like make a picture in your mind basically.”

She plays Annabella Smith, a secret agent, in “The 39 Steps” as well as a few other minor roles.

Bailey Winkler, a senior from Fairfield, plays Pamela Stewart, who helps the falsely accused murderer escape, in “The 39 Steps.”

Having cast members hold their scripts makes this show very different from her previous roles in “Grease,” “Rosie the Riveter” and other shows, including the two streamed online, she said.

She was not familiar with Hitchcock nor radio plays before this show. “It’s a cool concept. I like it.”

She is happy to be back onstage in a live performance. “It’s such a different feeling. … It’s just so exciting.”

Because this show is presented in the style of a 1940s radio broadcast, the actors had to concentrate on their voices more than their movements, Hernandez said. Their costumes represents the 1940s, although the stories are set in London in the late 1800s.

All of the students auditioned using British accents, which are required for most of the characters. A few characters use accents from other European countries.

Auditions were in mid-September, and the cast has been rehearsing for about two months.

This show was different from previous productions “because the kids are actors playing actors in a recording studio,” Hernandez said.

Much of the action takes place in front of microphones. “It’s up to the kids to make sure that they are playing up their voices … to make sure that the characters are reading a little bit differently” from each other.

There are 22 students in the cast and 10 on the tech crew. Each actor plays from two to seven roles.

“For this show, it is one of the first times that we have our tech students coming on stage to make live sound effects,” Hernandez said. “They are actually making a lot of the sounds happen as the show is happening on stage rather than from the sound booth.”

During the Golden Age of radio plays in the 1930s and ‘40s, a mix of recorded and live sound effects were used.

Hernandez said the audience is required to wear face masks but there will be two intermissions to permit mask breaks.

Each group ordering tickets will have two seats separating them from other groups in the auditorium to allow for social distancing.

Masquers of West Essex is the high school theatrical production club, which produces a fall play and a spring musical.

Read More:West Essex Masquers to present Hitchcock radio play | The Progress News

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