Radio Days Brings the Past to the Stage at Delray's Arts Garage

Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman shares observations, insights, and updates relating to South Florida's musical environs. This week: Theatre at Arts Garage goes back to the future.

Forget the internet, live streams, social media and cyberspace. Delray's Theatre at Arts Garage has announced a series of innovative radio play performances that mute the technological aspects of modern time and substitute instead some old-school options.

Dubbed Arts Garage Radio Theatre, the programs recreate a vintage entertainment option, specifically, a series of radio plays as they were once performed in the '30s and '40s. It's a performance type that dominated when radio was the main form of entertainment and communication, before being relegated to occasional news, conservative rants, and formulaic music.

"From Orson Welles and the thrilling Mercury Theatre broadcasts of the 1930s to Guy Noir and the hilarity of A Prairie Home Companion, the radio play has been one of America's most beloved art forms," Artistic Director Lou Tyrrell said in a press release.

"Scripts adapted from classic movies during the heyday of radio will be performed live, with performers utilizing specially designed sound effect devices, providing a nostalgic trip to the past with a modern twist."

When asked about his interest in this aspect of theater, Tyrrell made it clear he has some history with the format. "As a young guy at drama school in London In the early '70s, radio theater was part of our major course of study," he recalls. "Never an anachronism, it was part of the BBC's central programming, and, as we learned, is huge fun to produce. Today, revisiting the old tradition, making it part of a live theater experience, seems like the most fun in the world. And it's a perfect fit for Arts Garage!"

The season debuts with the perennial classic A Star is Born, and will be followed by the venerable show biz staples It's a Wonderful Life, Casablanca, and Sunset Boulevard. The programming will unfold as follows:

Thursday, August 15, 2013: A Star is Borno

Inspired by an otherwise obscure play Beyond the Rainbow, A Star Is Born became one of Judy Garland's most famous films. In this not so cheery tale, aspiring actress Vicki Lester rises to stardom, while her once famous husband Norman Maine sinks into a downward spiral of alcoholism and obscurity. Anthony Weiner, are you listening?

Thursday, December 12, 2013: It's a Wonderful Life

A perennial holiday favorite, Jimmy Stewart's classic performance makes this a must-see Christmas treat. An angel helps a goodhearted but desperate businessman find redemption by showing him what life would have been like if he had never been born. Ring them bells...

Thursday, February 6, 2014: Casablanca

One of Humphrey Bogart's most revered films, this timeless tale of lovers caught up in the midst of war and chaos resonates as much now as it did when it made its debut in the 1940s. Set in the exotic environs of Rick's Café in Casablanca, misfits and malcontents meet, mingle, and become entangled in espionage and intrigue. Ah Bogey. "Here's looking at you, kid."

Thursday, April 3, 2014: Sunset Boulevard

Norma Desmond is a silent-screen goddess who dreams of her grand comeback in the new era of talkies. Joe Gillis is a hack writer who becomes her lover. As they say in showbiz, let the madness and mayhem begin! (Or maybe not...)

Arts aficionados take note -- Arts Garage is a multi-faceted cultural destination that offers events in a variety of disciplines, including theater, music, visual arts, and other areas of live performance. It also offers cabaret, community roundtable and a performing arts academy for all ages. This series is produced by John Watts, Executive Director of Arts Radio, a podcast website dedicated to South Florida's arts community.

All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. at Arts Garage, 180 N.E. First Street, Delray Beach. Tickets cost $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Visit, or call 561-450-6357.

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Lee Zimmerman