Aspiring local playwright to debut new play at Snake River Radio Players Christmas show
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IDAHO FALLS — The Snake River Radio Players, a group of talented local performers that stages productions as if they were radio shows from the 1940s, are hard at work prepping to spread seasonal cheer this weekend with their annual Christmas show. For writer Ryan Atwood, this year’s show will also be the culmination of a dream he’s been working toward for years.
“This year, we wanted to do something different,” Atwood told EastIdahoNews.com. “It was presented that we do an original show that would be more of a variety show and incorporate smaller sketches, as well as musical numbers and some shorter pieces.”
Atwood wrote one of the segments, “A Christmas Peril,” which reimagines the holiday classic “A Christmas Carol” as a hard-boiled detective story. Think of it as Ebenezer Scrooge gone the way of Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon.”
It’s an idea that Atwood has been kicking around in his brain for nearly a decade. Oddly enough, the initial spark of the idea came from Atwood misquoting Charles Dickens.
“I was trying to recall the first line of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, the famous ‘Marley was dead, to begin with’,” he explained. “At some point when quoting it, I slipped up and gave the name ‘Marlow’ instead, thinking of Philip Marlow from Raymond Chandler’s classic ‘The Big Sleep’.”
That small slip-up established a tie in Atwood’s mind between “A Christmas Carol” and the hard-boiled detective stories of classic pulp novels and film noir.
“I thought ‘Why not?’,” he said. “It’s all there. Ebenezer Scrooge has a dead partner. Scrooge and Marley’s could be a detective agency as easily as it could be a counting-house.”
Atwood took these early details and set them in the back of his mind, but never fell out of love with the idea. When the Radio Players were in the early planning stages for “Twas,” he saw an opportunity to transform “A Christmas Peril” from an idea into a reality.
“When I was writing it, I ended sitting at the coffee shop with my laptop, a copy of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and a copy of ‘The Maltese Falcon’ that I could read and reference when I needed to,” Atwood said. “It started to come together kind of slowly and to be honest, I wasn’t sure it was going to work.”
“If this was something I was writing for myself,” he continued, “I would’ve put it away. But since I had told people I was writing it for them, I was kind of stuck.”
Progress was slow at first. With auditions bearing down on him, Atwood finished the minimum of what he needed to have done for the casting process. But hearing actors read his words, sometimes exactly as he heard them in his head and other times completely differently than he ever considered, gave him the fuel he needed to finish his first draft.
“At that point, I got excited,” he said. “I was like ‘I gotta chase this. I want this feeling that I’m feeling right now.’ So I went home and wrote the rest of the script in a day or two.”
Atwood credits SRRP director Tasha Bere and his fellow Radio Players with helping to polish and improve his script.
“It’s been a collaborative process,” he said. “Even as I was writing it, I had other members of the Radio Players group that I could bounce ideas off of. It’s just been a lot of fun.”
“Twas” also includes an adaptation of “Jimsy, The Christmas Kid” which was written by Bere and an original comedic sketch. Atwood says that the show includes a little something for everyone.
“With the different stories we have and the different beats each story touches, we touch upon everything that Christmas can mean, from the secular to the holy,” he said. “Overall, it’s a show that is at times ridiculous, at times funny, at times touching and warm. It’s a tribute and a love letter to a period of popular culture, to the medium of radio and it’s a unique experience in seeing how you can tell a story with only sound and very little visuals.”
You can see the Snake River Radio Players perform “Twas” at Trinity United Methodist Church on Dec. 12, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. There is also a matinee on Saturday the 14 at 2 p.m. Admission is free to the public, and donations are welcome. Donations will go to Shelley Supporters of the Arts and Trinity United Methodist Church.
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