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News Archive

SCC Radio Suspense Theatre Has Long History

Radio Suspense Theatre: The First Episode
November 20 and 21 at 8 p.m.
Stoner Little Theatre
Tickets: $4 Advance, $6 Door
Box Office Information:
Beginning November 9, 2015 the box office will be open Monday through Friday, noon to 3 p.m. The box office is located on the first floor of Stoner Hall on Somerset Community Colleges North Campus, 808 Monticello Street, Somerset.
Radio Suspense Theatre

Radio Suspense Theatre has long been a favorite of theatre audiences at Somerset Community College.

I never intended for it to be much more than a unique style of entertainment for my students to perform, said Steve Cleberg, SCC Theatre Director and author of the series. I certainly never thought that it would have a history that would span over 20 years.

The prequel to the popular Radio Suspense Theatre series will be performed in Somerset Community Colleges Stoner Little Theatre on Friday and Saturday, November 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. Tickets go on sale Monday, November 9. The box office, located in SCC's Stoner Hall, 808 Monticello Street, Somerset, is open noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and one hour prior to curtain. You can also call to make phone reservations at (606) 451-6766. Tickets are $4 when purchased in advance and $6 at the door.

I remember working on the set for a production one Saturday afternoon while I was listening to some music from the 1940s; the era of the show that I was working on at the time, said Cleberg. I was intrigued by the way these little audio dramas got into my head. I couldn't help but wonder if there was a way to translate that same experience into a stage production.

At that point, Cleberg began to work on a play about a radio company presenting a live radio drama on the air.

Part of the fun of the production would be seeing how that unique style of storytelling worked, said Cleberg. Manual sound effects and individual actors playing multiple roles were the wheelhouse of radio drama.

Cleberg became determined to see that same magic played out live on the stage. In the late eighties, Cleberg gathered a small company to present two popular Radio Lucille Fletcher radio mysteries, Sorry, Wrong Number and The Hitch-hiker, along with songs and commercials of the era. The audience responded very favorably.

I knew that there was more theatrical gold to be mined from this simple reenactment of a radio production, Cleberg said. It wasn't until the late 90s that I began to work on the idea again in earnest. We were organizing a Summer Theatre program at the Center for Rural Development and it was determined that we would present two shows on alternating nights over two weekends. The actors in the Summer Stock Company would play roles in two different shows at the same time.

Since the reenactment of the radio show called for performances done from a script, Cleberg saw both aesthetic and practical value to employing a radio show as one of the options. The actors would perform one traditional play in repertory with the radio play.

SCC's director of theatre went about the business of creating a fictional radio company. The audience would learn about the back story of these characters as they prepared to present two radio dramas.

About twenty-five percent of the play was done in the traditional manner, Cleberg added. We would be introduced to the actors of the radio dramas and learn about their personal lives. Wed then witness the connections made between their personal dramas and the radio mysteries that they presented in the studio style.

The play was so well received that Cleberg continued the idea for the next summer season. After the summer stock program ran its course, Cleberg would periodically present additional radio plays at SCC utilizing recurring characters and introducing others in debut performances.

In the years following that maiden voyage, six separate plays were produced. Somerset Community College Theatres Radio Suspense Theatre ensemble became familiar favorites to the Somerset audience.

I decided to end the series with the company's final episode a few years ago. Cleberg recounted, The last production was set in 1956, the year that most radio dramas were dying out in favor of television shows. In my mind, that was the last time wed see these characters.

However, many actors and audience members continued to encourage Cleberg to produce another Radio Suspense Theatre production.

I couldn't imagine how I could write another episode. We had run through the entire history of the show and the actors who played the recurring roles had become older. I couldn't see a path to writing another.

It was last year, during his spring sabbatical that an idea came to Cleberg. He realized that he had written a series which followed the company from 1936 to 1956 but he hadn't written a script for the very first episode the company did.

I worked on the idea of a prequel where we would see all of the recurring characters at a younger age, Cleberg said. A new generation of actors would play the roles showing how it all began.

The result is Radio Suspense Theatre: The First Episode. The play was finished this summer and will be presented on SCC Theatres Stoner Little Theatre stage once again in November.

The play will feature performances by Bryan Roberts, Kassidy Catron, Greg Moore, Theresa Kibby, Chris Harris, Jade Ellis, Mark Isham, David Daring, Brianna Phipps and Chris Dickens.

For further information regarding Radio Suspense Theatre contact Sommer Schoch, Theatre Assistant, at (606) 451-6766 or by email at sommer.schoch@kctcs.edu.