Like many acting troupes, Encore Players of Livermore has been working on ways to bring performances to the community while conforming to shelter-in-place restrictions.
Despite meeting weekly on Zoom throughout the pandemic, the group still longed to find a way to put together a performance. An idea hatched in the fall. This month, the performers invite their fans to virtually travel to Bedford Falls with them as they present “It’s a Wonderful Life, a Live Radio Play,” based on the classic Christmas movie released in 1946.
“‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is the perfect show for the holidays, especially this year,” said the show’s director, Martie Muldoon. “A radio play lends itself well to Zoom though presents new challenges.”
Muldoon noted coordinating sounds, voices and cameras has been part of the challenge, but the group pressed forward undaunted.
Encore Players was founded in 2014 by former members of the Cask and Mask Association, a performance group active in Livermore in the 1960s. They gave the new group its name because it was an ‘encore’ of the original group. Initially, Encore focused on giving senior actors performance opportunities, but in the last two years, the group has opened its arms to actors of all ages.
Maya Allwardt is a recent graduate of Foothill High School in Pleasanton. Muldoon gives her free reign to create sound effects and compose music for the performance.
“It’s been a challenge but also super exciting to write the music for the show while also voicing some of the characters,” said Allwardt. “I’m having so much fun with this wonderful cast, and I can’t wait for everyone to see the show.”
Muldoon first met Allwardt while teaching music in the Pleasanton Unified School District. Now, they are working on the radio show together and Muldoon said having live music and sound effects adds a great deal to the performance.
“We decided to use live sounds because it’s more authentic, as well as more fun for the cast,” said Muldoon. “We encourage the audience to watch for those live sound effects, as well as live music, as they listen to the story. I’m delighted to have such a large cast, made up of veteran performers along with first-timers. We’ve been having a wonderful time.”
In this story, Clarence the angel arrives from heaven to show George Bailey – a desperate and disillusioned man – what life would have been like if he had not been born. The cast of 17 actors play multiple roles and even have small costume changes to help distinguish their characters onscreen.
Livermore actor Tim Ackerman plays the angel Clarence.
“I am enjoying myself immensely,” Ackerman said. “It feels good to ‘act’ again. And Clarence really lives up to his name – Oddbody. He is quirky but lovable.”
Donna Blevins serves as the production’s assistant director and fills several performance roles. She said working with her fellow actors has been a true blessing this season.
“We all know each other; we have all worked together in the past,” Blevins said. “It’s nice to at least see each other in little boxes on the computer, if nothing else. We are all happy to be in the show and happy to be involved, so I think we are all grateful.”
Encore’s live Zoom performances are Tuesday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m., hosted by the Livermore Public Library; and Saturday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m., hosted by Encore Players. There is no admission fee. Donations are appreciated to cover script and royalty costs.