Radio: The new theater in the age of COVID-19


The welcoming image as “A Night of Radio” starts. (Courtesy of Lane Drama Department)

By Emily Delgado and Isabella Bryant

As you hit the play button on the screen, eerie music starts, and Ms. Meacham, in an iconic radio voice, announces the start of the annual fall production of the Lane Drama Department, “A Night of Radio.” 

Like everything this year, the fall production was affected by the rise of COVID-19 cases in Chicago. In an effort to still hold production for the season, Meacham, a Lane drama teacher and the director of “A Night of Radio,” chose to pay tribute to the radio shows of the 1940s and 50s. 

The cast and crew performed the radio show for a small group of family and friends on Oct. 31 via Google Meets. A version of the show is available to all to watch on the Lane Tech Website

“I can’t say I would change anything except, you know, always wishing it was in person,” Meacham said. She said she was beyond proud of the cast and crew who had to battle through the numerous connection issues.

The radio show consisted of the main play, “The Haunting Hour,” which was broken into parts with commercial breaks, which were also done by actors. 

“So we basically mimicked an exact 40s and 50s radio show,” said Grace Herning, Div. 186. Herning was in the radio show, specifically, “The Haunting Hour.”

“So it was one main play and then a commercial and then like the main play. It was divided into segments with commercial breaks and then there was a smaller mini play in those sets of commercial breaks,” said Herning. 

The radio show was a great opportunity for Meacham and the cast to explore voice and face acting, according to Meacham.

“Being able to work with voice as a character,” Meacham said when asked what was the most challenging part of directing the radio show. 

The radio show was a learning experience for cast members, according to Herning.

“I definitely learned how to communicate better and think more about my individual sound and how I sound and expressions impact characters in a scene instead of actions,” Herning said.

For Abby Mac Kenzie, Div. 187, who was in the tomato soup commercial and was the girl in the audience at the beginning of the show, it was challenging to play two characters.

“In the tomato soup commercial — there is something different about doing a commercial as opposed to doing performing. When you are performing, you are taking on a character, and when you are doing a commercial, you are taking on a character whose goal is to sell a product. Those two were different experiences.” Mac Kenzie said. 

For Nova Gomez, Div. 150, who was in “The Haunting Hour,” it was a different experience working away from the cast and director. 

“The radio show did offer the experience that I don’t think any other students at Lane are gonna get to have where the focus is more on your voice than what’s on the screen. Because I was like, I had the option to wear pajama pants during the show, which is crazy!” Gomez said. 

Meacham said her biggest concern, besides having technology problems, was that her cast wouldn’t get that feeling and experience many were used to. 

“I was nervous that it wouldn’t give them enough of the play experience that they have come to enjoy and appreciate, but that was my concern,” Meacham said.

The cast was able to get creative making and putting together their own costumes and putting on their own makeup. The pre-show activities were a small aspect of the show that the actors missed. 

“I tried to mimic some of the adrenaline so I got on a different FaceTime call with my friends before, and I was like WOO PRE SHOW! But like I mean it wasn’t the same. You don’t get the same adrenaline and the nerves weren’t there,” Herning said. 

Mac Kenzie said the thing she missed most was the feeling of working together on the Lane auditorium stage with her castmates.

Although there was no big stage or a big audience, there was still a sense of nervousness, according to Gomez.

“I think it was a different flavor of nerve-racking … when it’s an audience [in real life] like. oh God, I’ll know, a thousand people will see it, you know. But with this, it was like if I do bad how am I gonna know I’m doing bad?” Gomez said. 

Beyond having to use her laptop as her stage to direct and see her cast, Meacham also had the difficult task of not being able to double-cast the show. Double-casting would have allowed Meacham to have more students in the show. 

“[It was] heartbreaking. Absolutely heartbreaking. I mean all auditions break hearts. All auditions do. I mean, gosh, we have so much talent in this school. Oh my gosh, we have so much talent,” Meacham said.

Meacham, in light of not being able to double-cast, decided to add more shows and commercials to “A Night of Radio.”

In an age of uncertainty, the Lane Drama Department, specifically the team behind the fall production, came together to give the student body and drama students a version of a fall production. 

“I learned the theater always prevails and finds a way to happen,” Mac Kenzie said.