Saturday, November 16, 2013

Radio City Playhouse Features Three Classic Radio Shows

The Senior Actors Theatre of Slidell (SATS) will transform Slidell Little Theatre tonight into Radio City Playhouse.  They will perform three shows from the golden age of radio and WGSO 990 AM will broadcast the show over the internet and the radio.  The three shows SATS will perform are Little Orphan Annie, Our Miss Brooks, and Stagecoach.  These shows were very popular and eventually turned into other mediums: one a television show and one had the honor of becoming a movie and a Broadway production.  Stagecoach was originally a movie re-enacted for the radio.

Little Orphan Annie
 Little Orphan Annie was a fifteen minute show that debuted in Chicago in 1930 on WGN.  It was adapted from the comic strip that was created by Harold Gray.  Gray got the name from the 1885 poem Little Orphant Annie by James Whitcomb Riley. The show followed the adventures of Annie and her friends.

When the show debuted there was not a coast-to-coast radio network established so two casts performed the show.  There was a cast in San Francisco and one in Chicago.  In 1933 the coast to coast networking was established and the cast from Chicago became the only cast to perform.  Shirley Bell was the voice behind Annie and was replace by Janice Gilbert in 1940.

Ovaltine was the main sponsor of Little Orphan Annie and if you drank enough Ovaltine you could redeem the proofs of purchase for the secret decoder ring and then you could decode the secret message at the end of every show.

Little Orphan Annie went off the air in 1942 but the comic lived on until 2010 and this show was turned into a movie and into a hit Broadway production.

 Our Miss Brooks
Our Miss Brooks was a comedy about an English teacher at Madison High School, Connie Brooks.  It was a radio show on CBS from 1948 to 1957 and starred Eve Arden.  The show was written and directed by Al Lewis and would eventually be a television show.

Connie Brooks was clever, sarcastic and kindhearted and her character was related to by many teachers across the country.

Arden would receive letters from teachers who shared with her their experiences and Arden even had several job offers to become a teacher.   

Our Miss Brooks was ahead of its time.  It was the first show who had a strong independent woman who was witty and held a professional job.  The radio show did outlive its television counterpart and still to this day the situations portrayed in the show are relevant.

John Wayne, left, and Ward Bond
Stagecoach is the tale of nine strangers traveling through Apache territory and the hardship they faced on their perilous journey across the Wild West.  The movie was John Wayne’s breakthrough role.  He played the character Ringo Kid.  The radio broadcast was adapted from the movie and was converted to a half hour radio show that aired on NBC Theatre on January 9, 1949. John Wayne and Claire Trevor and other members of the cast reprized their roles for the radio show and the script was almost identical to the movie.

Ernest Haycox wrote the original story with Dudley Nichols writing the screenplay and John Ford was the director of the movie.  In 1986 Stagecoach got the remake treatment from Hollywood.  It starred Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.

These three shows will make for a great night of entertainment and will broadcast 7pm on WGSO 990 AM or you can be a part of the audience and watch the performance.  The Radio City Playhouse is sponsored by Slidell Memorial Hospital.

Friday, November 15, 2013

'Junior' Member of SATS Making a Lot of Noise

 Joel Sweetland isn't old enough to technically qualify as a member of the Senior Actors Theatre of Slidell (SATS) program-- the minimum age requirement is 50 years of age -- but this teenager's contribution to the group has earned him the title of  “honorary” SATS member.  

Joel Sweetland as Sound FX engineer in SATS' premiere production
of Slidell Radio City Playhouse in July 2013.
Photo by Justin Redman
Joel is part of the sound effects crew for the Radio City Playhouse production.  All the gunshots, doors opening, phones ringing and any other sounds that you will hear during the broadcast, Joel will help produce.  Sound effects is not the only part of a theatrical production Joel has participated in.  He has been involved in several aspects of play production: he has directed skits for his Vacation Bible School; worked in lighting and sounds for Slidell Little Theatre; and he has acted in several plays.  His most recent role was in Seussical where he played the Grinch and one of the Wickersham Brothers.  He was also involved in the sound effects and lighting for Duck Hunter Shoots Angel.  We caught up with Joel and discussed what an honorary member of SATS feels like and what challenges he faces for a radio broadcast.

How did you become an honorary member of the SATS program?
Sweetland:  I saw a post on Slidell Little Theatre’s Facebook looking for volunteers to help the Senior Actor’s Theatre of Slidell.   Even though I knew I would be the youngest there I asked if I could help and they said yes.  It has been a lot of fun and like any other production we feel like family.

Is there any difference between sound effects for a play and radio?
Sweetland:  Yes there is.  During a play I push a button on the control board or computer and the sounds are played on the sound system but for a radio broadcast we produce the sound effects by hand.  For the radio broadcast we are opening doors, shooting guns with blanks, dialing on a rotary phone and using other ways to produce sound effects.  In fact one of the members created a cool hand turned device to simulate the riding on a stage coach effect

What is the most difficult sound to create for a live radio broadcast?
Sweetland: The most difficult sound is the gunshot for Stagecoach.  We only have two pistols so we have to time it just right so that while one pistol is reloading with blanks the other is still shooting.

What is the easiest sound?
Sweetland: The opening and closing of the door is the easiest.  All you have to do is make sure that is loud enough for people to hear it as you turn the knob and open or close the door.

Which of the three shows is your favorite, Little Orphan Annie, Our Miss Brooks, and Stagecoach?
Sweetland:  Stagecoach is my favorite.  It is the most challenging but it is also a western.

Interview conducted by Justin Redman

Thursday, November 7, 2013

An Interview with Scott Sauber

Making Directing Look Easy

Scott Sauber is no stranger to Slidell Little Theatre, having directed and appeared in several productions, including SLT’s Theatre for Young Audiences’ most recent production of Goodnight Moon, and the main stage smash hit Seussical, which launched our 51st Season.

Scott Sauber
Sauber has more than 20 years of theatrical experience and education and teaches Theatre in the Talented Arts Program at Slidell High School. He  is a graduate of the University of New Orleans’ Theatre Department. He is a multiple-award-winning actor, light designer, director and educator.

We  recently caught up with Scott to find out more about his experiences in theatre and maybe learn a little more about him as a person.

Q: What was your earliest involvement in theatre?

SAUBER: I saw the 1991 Wing and a Prayer production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in New Orleans and can vividly remember thinking, "I will do that...and only that... for the rest of my life."  I now have directed the Wing and a Prayer productions since 1999.

Q: What attracted you to theatre to begin with?

SAUBER: The philosophy at Wing and a Prayer is that you were never judged if you were willing to participate.  You were never singled out, never made part of a competition and always guaranteed a spot in the cast in the exact place that you fit perfectly for the production.  I maintain that approach to this day.  I cast anyone interested in being in the theatre.  You have to trust that I will put you exactly where you belong.

Q: What is it about theatre that holds your interest today?

SAUBER: I love the fact that every 6 weeks, my "goal" will change.  I may be parading around in the world of Seuss, or tap dancing my way through the rain.  I can do every dance number in Joseph, and follow it up by singing something from 1800s France in Les Miserables.  If I get bored with a project, in just a few weeks, it is guaranteed to change.  In 21 years, I have never been bored with a project -- just sad to let them go in the end.
Scott Sauber starred in and directed
'Goodnight Moon'

Q: What are five plays that you’ll never forget and why?

SAUBERJoseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat started my career. I have directed it 8 times, I love every song, and it was the first production I created on my own (with  best friend and work partner, Frannie Roseberg.)

The Full Monty at LePetite because it was my first LePetite show...and it was a big deal...and it touches your heart...and we won awards...and I went THE FULL MONTY!

Rent at LePetite.  Because we were the first non-Broadway Company given the rights...and it was good...and we won awards...and as a cancer survivor, to stand on stage and sing, "...Because reason says I should have died three years ago..." followed by LaVieBoheme and Seasons of Love is UNFORGETTABLE!

Beauty and the Beast at Jefferson Performing Arts Society - because it was my first professional credit. I played Lumiere, the role of a lifetime and we did 23 performances including an 18 show run at the Grand Theatre in Biloxi where we were titled "the Talent" and I had the privilege of repeating the show (with the same company) for three years.  I could do that show every single day and never get tired -- also never get used to the marathon!  Like Sutton Foster said, "it never got easier -- and I thrived on that!"

Big River at Rivertown Repertory Theatre - not because it earned me a star on the wall, but because the role of Huck Finn was complex, but fun.  A huge line load, but fun.  A lesson in humility, endurance, kindness, adventure -- but still fun.  And one night, the final scene touched me so deep, that I cried my way through the scene and the curtain call -- because I wasn't acting, I was living. And that is fun.

Q: What play do you think people should see, but probably haven’t?

SAUBER: The one-man show Cotton Patch Gospel.  AMAZING!

Q: What was the best advice you ever received about acting?

SAUBER: Sonny Borey at LePetite would say at the end of every prayer circle, "We have worked so go out there and make it look so easy."

The interview was conducted by Don Redman.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ opens January 17 at Slidell Little Theatre

Auditions for SLT’s upcoming production of the dark comedy “Arsenic and Old Lace” will be held Sunday, December 1 and Monday, December 2, at Slidell Little Theatre, at 7 p.m. both nights.

The play is directed by Ronald Brister. Performance dates are weekends January 17- Feb. 2, 2014.

Audition updates will be posted on SLT’s website, as well as its social media outlets including Facebook and the community theatre’s blog site. Or, direct your questions by email to

All auditions are open to the public. Some cast members may receive multiple roles.

A farcical black comedy revolving around Mortimer Brewster, a drama critic who must deal with his crazy, homicidal family and the local police, as he debates whether to go through with his recent promise to marry the woman he loves. His family includes two spinster aunts who have taken to murdering lonely old men by poisoning them with a glass of home-made elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine, and "just a pinch" of cyanide; a brother who believes he is Theodore Roosevelt and digs locks for the Panama Canal in the cellar of the Brewster home (which then serve as graves for the aunts' victims); and a murderous brother who has received plastic surgery performed by an alcoholic accomplice, Dr. Einstein, to conceal his identity and now looks like horror-film actor Boris Karloff.

Character Descriptions:

Kind and sweet elderly spinster who prides herself on having strong social conscience and doing the morally right thing at all times, like poisoning elderly men who are all alone in the world.

Martha’s elderly spinster sister who also prides herself on having strong social conscience and doing the morally right thing at all times, like poisoning lonely, elderly men side-by-side with her sister.

Martha and Abby’s nephew. A theatre critic who has publicly stated he hates the theatre, he finds himself in love with the daughter of his aunt’s next door neighbor, a minister. His whole world is about to be turned upside down.

Martha and Abby’s nephew. He truly believes he is Teddy Roosevelt.

Mortimer’s fiancĂ©, Elaine is the daughter of the Rev. Dr. Harper. She is surprisingly wise in the ways of the world for a minster's daughter.

REV. DR. HARPER - male
Next door neighbor, minister and Elaine’s father. The epitome of a good pastor, he believes that the Brewster sisters are the salt of the earth.

OFFICER KLEIN - male or female
Hardworking officer of the law; with Brophy lays out the background for the show.

OFFICER O'HARA - male or female
A police officer who fancies himself a playwright, even though everything he writes has a double meaning in connection with what’s going on in the house itself.

OFFICER BROPHY - male or female
Hardworking beat cop; with Klein, provides the exposition of the Brewster sisters’ good works as a backdrop for the show.

Lieutenant ROONEY - male
Hardworking law officer who is definitely in command. Can turn a phrase and his attitude on a dime.

Mortimer’s murderous brother. He has no problem in using his aunts to hide his murders even though it might put them in harm’s way. To escape from the law, he has had several surgeries, the last one leaving him disfigured.

DR. EINSTEIN - male or female
Jonathan’s accomplice who is a timid man who would like to escape the life he has been living on the lam with Jonathan, but does not know how to do so. It becomes easier just to do what Jonathan says, because he knows what Jonathan is capable of.

MR. GIBBS - male
A lonely, disillusioned, disgruntled man who feels the world has been against him and that he has nothing to live for.

MR. WITHERSPOON - male or female
Executive Director of the Happy Dale Sanatorium, Witherspoon is lonely, a bit crotchety and unhappy with life in general.

The Northshore’s premier community theatre since 1963, Slidell Little Theatre is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, all-volunteer organization dedicated to engaging, educating, and involving members of the community in high quality theatrical productions. SLT is supported by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council as administered by the St. Tammany Commission on Cultural Affairs.