Best Bets: Caesar Rodney travels back for radio show

For their next production, the Caesar Rodney High School Stage Crew and Thespians are going out of the box — literally.

With the coronavirus pandemic putting a halt to stage productions, the Caesar Rodney drama department has had to use innovative methods to keep the arts alive at the school.

The first two efforts were Zoom productions where each actor was in his or her own surroundings acting in short scenes and being viewed separately.

For their next show, they are taking to the air and reliving the Golden Age of Radio. The group will present “A Sherlock Holmes Radio Mystery” online Jan. 15 at 7 p.m.

The recorded audio-only presentation tells the story of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth as he enlists the help of his doctor friend Watson to reclaim incriminating photographic evidence of a king’s past relationship.

Holmes finds himself faced with a puzzle he cannot solve — his own feelings for the very woman he’s investigating, Irene Adler. He admires her for her wit and cunning, but do his feelings run deeper even as he’s hired by the king to retrieve the photo from her possession?

The show is an adaptation of Doyle’s short story, “A Scandal in Bohemia.”

The production is part of a theater class taught by drama instructor John Muller who worked with the students on the first two productions of the school year.

“For this show, we took suggestions from the kids and I went through them and looked at the suitability of each of them knowing we couldn’t go the traditional route of the stage,” he said.

“During the pandemic, the publishing companies have been very generous in allowing shows to be streamed because they aren’t making much money otherwise. and the technology is rapidly improving. The first two shows had each of the students in their own little boxes. This was a chance to get them out of the boxes.”

It was also a chance to have them learn about the bygone era when folks would sit in front of their radios and let their imagination come to life as they couldn’t see the scenes that were presented to them. They could only hear them over the radio.

Mr. Muller said the students were exposed to such classics as the Abbott and Costello routine “Who’s on First?” and another Sherlock Holmes radio mystery play.

The show stars Colby Crawford as Sherlock Holmes, Ryan Limbaugh as Dr. Watson and Fiona Mitchell as Irene Adler. It is student directed by Emma Hardy.

Aside from the obvious technical challenges a show like this poses with everyone in remote locations, the actors say doing a production that is audio only also presents some challenges.

“I think it’s a lot harder to do,” Fiona said. “On stage you have many things to work with but with this, it’s only our voice that we have to convey everything so it’s definitely a challenge.”

Fiona said Emma, as a director, is helping to make the cast better voice actors and running the show more efficiently.

“She gets on us for certain things like pronouncing words properly and making sure we don’t talk over the sound effects and she just knows what we need to do to pull this off,” she said.

The sound effects are a big part of the production. For her part, Jenna Clagett has been hard at work trying to find the right sound for each moment.

“I think I’ve been driving my family crazy trying to work on different things and different sounds to get them just right,” she said.

Jenna, who has worked behind the scenes on a few stage productions at CR, has found this new area of technical expertise fun and exciting.

“I think I’d like to do more of it for the stage,” she said.

Coming up with the different sounds has been difficult, she said.

“There is one scene where we needed the sound of a bunch of change falling to the floor and it took me a while to get the right amount of pennies to drop but I finally got it right and I was really proud of myself,” she said. “That was probably the hardest sound effect to come up with.”

Jenna has even had to come up with the sounds of different characters’ footsteps, both male and female, and make them distinct.

Ryan, who plays Dr. Watson said a lot of voice acting is timing.

“On stage, you have each other to work off of and you can kind of pick up each other. This way, you are by yourself and you really have to be mindful of that and mindful of the sound effects coming in and make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible,” he said.

While they can use their scripts while doing the show, some of the actors have memorized their parts such as Mickenzie Davis, who plays the part of a maid.

“It’s what I’m used to doing for regular shows so I just went ahead and memorized my lines to keep me in my rhythm,” she said. “I’m just used to doing it this way.”

Caesar Rodney High was able to get a spring musical in last year before the pandemic closed schools as they did “Cinderella” in March. Since then, the stage lights have been dark.

But Mr. Muller said the students have made the best of it.

“I’ve just been really impressed with the way they have taken this lousy situation and done with it what they could. Many schools have had their theater program go away during this time but we’ve kept it going and it’s due in no small part to these kids,” he said.

Due to the months of planning that it takes to mount a production, Mr. Muller said there will be no spring musical but he hopes to still do some more virtual productions.

“Ordinarily we would start working on the spring musical in October and back then, there was no chance of doing anything. So unfortunately we did have to cancel that,” he said.

Fiona said they have made the best out of the cards they have been dealt.

“Obviously it’s a (lousy) situation but, as Mr. Muller said, many schools aren’t doing anything as far as drama is concerned. So I’m just thankful that we’re doing anything at this point. I always screw up this line but whenever I get down about it, Mr. Muller always gives us this line from a Bon Jovi song,” she said.

The lyric comes from a recently released song about the pandemic and its effect on people called “Do What You Can.”

“The line goes ‘When you can’t do what you do, you do what you can’ and I think that sums up the situation that we find ourselves in pretty well,” he said.

For tickets and information on how to listen to the Sherlock Holmes program, visit https://www.onthestage.com/show/caesar-rodney-high-school/a-sherlock-holmes-radio-mystery-98407.

Second Friday

Tonight’s 2nd Friday of Milford event at 7 will be an evening with Charlie Paparella.

Mr. Paparella is well known to people all over the Eastern Shore for his “Travels with Charlie” daily segments on WBOC-TV. He is a lifelong resident of the Eastern Shore and is part musician, story teller, muskrat trapper, cabinet maker, dishwasher, aide-de-camp, research analyst and TV news photographer. The event will be broadcast on Zoom.

Jenn Antonik, a Milford local and just-published author will also join and introduce her two new children’s books.

Register for a Zoom invitation at 2ndFriday.Milford@gmail.com.

2nd Friday of Milford is a free, family-oriented program hosted by the First Presbyterian Church of Milford.