Wednesday, Nov 14 2012 04:07 PM

CAMILLE GAVIN: Nostalgia, humor in days of radio

By The Bakersfield Californian

This year's edition of "Wrinkles" takes us back in time and space. The setting is a radio station in Cincinnati whose call letters are WRKL. I'm sure fans of television's "Wheel of Fortune" will quickly translate that into the word "wrinkle."

Dan Schaffer, who's a radio person in real life -- he's operations manager of KAXL 88.3 FM -- wrote the script for the Bakersfield Music Theatre production, which opens Thursday evening for four performances.

Related Info

GO & DO

'WRKL is on the Air'

When: 7:30 p.m. today and Friday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: Harvey Auditorium, 1341 G St.

Admission: $25; $10 children 12 and under

Information: 325-6100

'A Day in the Death of Joe Egg'

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: The Empty Space, 706 Oak St.

Admission: Free, donations welcomed

Information: 327-PLAY

'Emerald Duo' concert

When: 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: First Congregational Church, 5 Real Road

Admission: Free

Information: 327-1609

His wife, Kathleen Schaffer, the director, said he's also a history buff and the show is set in 1942, during World War II. And that fits in with the experience of many of the 35 cast members, who range in age from 55 to 87.

"There are references to the war and our brave men and women (who were) in harm's way," she said. "I chose all the music from the 1920s, '30s and '40s -- so many wonderful songs."

Among the old standards are "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree," "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" and, as a finale, the chorus will sing "This is My Country."

Schaffer said this year's show is much shorter than the 2011 production, which ran close to three hours. I'm guessing that it will be more tightly knit as well since it has a definite script as opposed to last year's "Wrinkles," which was more in the nature of a revue or a variety show.

"The show has some excellent actors," Schaffer said. "(They) keep the storyline moving along, as we give the audience a glimpse of what an old radio show was like."

Apparently there's a considerable amount of humor along with the nostalgia. I asked one of the actors, Hank Webb, about his role. Turns out the retired Bakersfield College drama teacher plays several parts.

"I play different characters -- Dicky Duncan, one of the regulars at the station, a Fibber McGee-type character, and a Nazi spy as well as singing in several of the musical pieces," Webb said. "It's a fun show; I think it will go over well."

To add to the authenticity of old-time radio, Gerald Starr, playing a character called Knocks Nelson, will produce sound effects using pots, pans, dishes, silverware and shoes while seated at his table in the WRKL studio.

Char Gaines is the vocal and music director; Gail Johnson, choreographer; and Kathi Lowry, costumer.

Dark comedy at The Empty Space

Brian Sivesind never shies away from tackling tough roles. In fact he seems to thrive on such challenges. His latest venture is "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg," a dark comedy about a sensitive subject that opens Friday at The Empty Space.

Sivesind directs and also has one of the lead characters. I asked him why the play, by Peter Nichols, appeals to him.

"I was drawn to this play because of the central issue of parenting a special-needs child," he said. "The couple in the play have to find ways to cope with the challenges that come with raising a child with a severe case of cerebral palsy."

Lexie Watkins portrays Joe Egg, the child who remains inanimate as the play progresses.

Sivesind portrays the child's father; his wife, Ellie Sivesind, the mother. After 10 years of marriage, the characters' lives have become mundane and they use comedy to get through their everyday lives.

"Ultimately, I don't think there is a right answer about how to deal with the situation, and that is true for a lot of parenting," he said. "This play raises questions, and I love theater that does that. Hopefully, it spurs conversation while also being entertaining."

Also in the cast are Bob Kempf and Amy Hall, playing a couple who are friends with the central characters, and Barbara Gagnon as the child's grandmother.

Dukes Concert series

Violinist Susan Doering and cellist Dieter Wulfhorst, who perform as The Emerald Duo, will make a return visit to Bakersfield on Sunday as part of the Fred and Beverly Dukes Concert Series at First Congregational Church.

The Fresno-based musicians last appeared here in March 2011. That performance, like the upcoming one, was also part of the Dukes series, which is co-sponsored by Valley Public Radio, KPRX-FM 89.1.

"This is a dynamic duo," said Margie Bell, publicist for the series. "Everyone has absolutely loved their performances here."

Both are members of the music faculty at Fresno Pacific University. They also have an active concert schedule throughout the school year and spend their summers teaching and performing in Europe. Their program on Sunday will include works by Stamitz, Massonneau, and several pops variations of classics.

Winds concert

This is a landmark year for the Bakersfield Winds, an impressive 60-member concert band that will present its first concert of the season on Monday evening at Olive Drive Church (for more on the anniversary, turn to Page 31).

I attended the Winds patriotic concert in July and enjoyed it thoroughly. The band delivered a full-bodied sound and a well-rounded program that included a stirring salute to the Armed Forces. The band is made up chiefly of woodwind and brass instrument with a percussion section and a string bass.

"We are excited to be celebrating our 10th season," said Mitch Garcia, vice president. "This year's program promises to be the best ever as artistic director John Biller conducts the south San Joaquin Valley's finest musicians in a wide range of band music in a way that energizes an audience and renews a person's love of music."

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