Yuletide • Episode 9 of the RADIO HOUR Series

by Matthew Ivan Bennett

Celebrate the Holidays, with three stories. The first two are family-friendly classics: “The Gift of the Magi,” originally published in 1905, it is a straightforward adaptation of the beloved classic adapted for radio. It’s the story of a young couple – a man and wife each willing to make deep sacrifices, to show their love at Christmas by giving the perfect Christmas gift to the other. The Little Match Girl is a short lyrical adaptation of the tragic and moving holiday story by Hans Christian Andersen. A girl in desperate straits tries to make money for her family by selling matches on the street in wintertime. When you have nothing, where do you turn for warmth and comfort? The Match Girl strikes a match and in the brief flicker of the flame, she sees her fondest dreams. The last one, though, is a deliciously dark thriller for the holidays, The Black Knight recounts the French/German legend of the demon Hans Trapp, charged with punishing the wicked at Christmas.

The very dark “Knight” has some mild language and intense and verbally-gory situations not recommended for children. “The Little Match Girl” deals with the death of a child, and some very young children may be sensitive to that, though it is a compassionate treatment of the subject.

RADIO HOUR is a co-production between Salt Lake City’s Plan-B Theatre Company and the University of Utah’s Public Radio station KUER’s Radio West.


PLAY DETAILS

  • CHARACTERS: Entire Company, 3-5 performers possible with doubling
    The Gift of the Magi – 1F 2M (no doubling)
    O. Henry – Narrator
    Della – A young newlywed woman
    Jim – A young newlywed manThe Little Match Girl – 1girl 1boy 4M 1F 1 either M or F (can be doubled to 3 performers)
    Match Girl (girl)
    Describer (M or F) Narrator
    Revelers – Can be played by all listed characters except GIRL
    Driver (M) – a man in a hurry
    Urchin (boy) – A homeless boy
    Boozer (M) – A homeless man
    Father (M) – An abusive father
    Grandmother (F) – A kindly matron
    Gentleman Passing (M) – A concerned citizen
    POSSIBLE DOUBLING:
    ACTOR 1 — Revelers/Urchin/Boozer/Father/Gentleman Passing
    ACTOR 2 — Grandmother and Match Girl
    ACTOR 3 — Describer, Driver and others as neededThe Black Knight – 1F 4M(including 1 boy) (Doubling may be possible, if needed)
    Adeline Meyer (F) – A dedicated mother
    Jacob Grimm (M) – Of the Brothers Grimm. Collecting the story of The Black Knight
    Edsel Meyer (M) – A spiteful and petty man
    Con Meyer (boy) – A sensitive child
    Hans Trapp (M) – A supernatural evil being; a demon
  • Period Costumes or contemporary clothes
  • Radio Station setting
  • Sound Effects required (can be Foley, recorded, or a mix of both. Music required.)
  • 53 minutes
  • ORDER #3243

 


REVIEWS:

The Salt Lake Tribune

Salt Lake theater company finds new voices in holiday stories. Radio theater • Company finds new voices in a trio of classic yuletide tales — and adds a dark twist.

By Ellen Fagg Weist

Playwright Matthew Ivan Bennett says two Christmas stories were burned into his brain as a child: O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” and Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl.”

For “Yuletide,” Plan-B Theatre Company’s 11th radio hour, Bennett drew upon those two sentimental tales. He also added a third tale with a darker twist, inspired by a macabre French-German myth about a black knight, a kind of anti-Santa Claus satanic figure. For “The Black Knight,” he invented a frame story about Jacob Grimm collecting stories for an anthology of folk tales, when he comes across a woman who reveals her own dark domestic drama. Bennett gave himself the task of writing a psychological thriller “without slipping into gore.”

The show’s varied sound design is matched to each tale, with whimsical sounds for “Magi,” more meditative notes in “Match Girl” and more straightforward effects for “Black Knight.” “I want to make people feel like they are inside that farmhouse when the door is busted open by the Black Knight,” Bennett says.

Radio theater asks listeners to disconnect from visual stimulation. That’s evident in the way Cluff chooses to direct with her eyes closed or with her back turned to the actors. “I’m trying to hear what the audience at home is going to hear,” she says. “If I look at them, I’m letting visual stuff influences what I hear, and I can’t hear as clearly.”

Bennett adds: “In live theater, you can sit there and be worked on. But in radio, you kind of need to be worked with.”

Perry, a Utah-based actor, has performed in all 11 of Plan-B’s radio shows, including last year’s “Otherwhere,” where he played an increasingly unhinged author of a book on paranormal activity being interviewed by RadioWest’s Doug Fabrizio. At the time, some listeners called in thinking the drama on air was real, à la “The War of the Worlds.”

Cluff says there’s some kind of indescribable secret sauce in Perry’s vocal versatility. Perry says he has long been intrigued at the imaginative and physical work of creating different characters with his voice, drawing upon his childhood fascination with comedians such as Robin Williams and “Saturday Night Live” cast members.

Audiences and actors together “get to imagine a world that is just as big as your imagination can create,” he says. For actors, “when the world starts to come alive in your mind, if you start to see streets and things, then you know you’re doing something right.”

Radio scripts require actors to change characters, vocally, on a dime. “Sometimes you have to answer yourself in a different character’s voice,” Sanderson says. “It’s just such a great exercise for an actor to find the characters just through the voice.”

In “The Match Girl” segment, Sanderson has the additional challenge of creating a character who speaks very few words, but instead is represented mostly through reactions, sighs or laughter or tears.

Fabrizio says he likes the live element of radio theater. “Because I gave up acting a long time ago, I don’t have any illusions about my chops or my gifts, but it’s something I really love,” says Fabrizio, who acted at Viewmont High and studied theater at the University of Utah before turning to radio. “What I do anyway is kind of a performance, but this is completely legitimate acting.”

In past Radio Hour shows, Fabrizio has voiced parts in “Frankenstein” and “Sherlock Holmes and the Blue Carbuncle,” but he appreciates in this year’s show the rare chance to play a villain, creating the “scumbag husband” in “The Black Knight.”

Stories, classic or new, have a particular appeal at the holidays, say Fabrizio and RadioWest producer Elaine Clark.

The Utah Review

Good, poignant and devilish dimensions of Yuletide in Plan-B Theatre’s latest Radio Hour episode

“Plan-B Theatre’s RADIO HOUR series returns this year for its 11th episode, and while this is the third time the one-hour live broadcast production appears during the end-of-the-year holiday season, Yuletide also beckons some chilling elements that have defined many of the series’ best episodes which have premiered during Halloween.

A master of the short radio hour format, Matthew Ivan Bennett returns as playwright for the eighth time. Yuletide comprises, in part, adaptations of O. Henry’s The Gift of The Magi (1907) and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl (1845) – both among the most poignant, emotional stories of the holiday season. For the final story, Bennett adapts one of the most infamous ‘anti-Santa’ characters of French and German folklore – Hans Trapp – and offers up Jacob Grimm, one of the twin authors of German folklore, as one of the characters.

Yuletide, which like all Radio Hour episodes is being broadcast live by KUER-FM’s Radio West show, carries Plan-B’s brand of unconventional holiday entertainment that speaks to the season’s most avid celebrants as well as those who either are exasperated by the incessant reminders of the holidays or who don’t mind a bit of darkness as a counterpoint to joyous exultations.

Along with Doug Fabrizio, Jay Perry, who has appeared in every Radio Hour episode, and Teresa Sanderson complete the cast. Cheryl Ann Cluff directs the production and handles sound design. In addition to classic holiday season music, Dave Evanoff is providing original music and Jennifer Freed will operate all of the prerecorded sound elements for the production.

Bennett is particularly good at adaptation, mindful of making even old stories sound fresh and relevant to contemporary ears while keeping the original’s integrity. He renders faithfully The Gift of The Magi, which is actually among the briefest stories with a holiday theme. In the original, the author wrote, “Eight dollars a week or a million a year—what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer….Two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest.”

Bennett’s rendering for radio drama underscores the empathetic epiphany at the heart of the story, going beyond the point of generosity to the thought behind the gift itself:

And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish lovers in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

Economists would tell us that most holiday gift-giving is utterly irrational but the humanist tells us that our most profound challenge as humans is to move from our mindset and preferences to see another mindset and the gift that would really be best suited to the recipient.

The mood darkens but in a most poignant way with The Little Match Girl, a children’s story that has defied persistent attempts to sugarcoat or lighten it. It is a rather brutal, stark tale. The girl’s abusive father sends her out on New Year’s Eve to sell matches but she is completely ignored on the streets. She cannot return home because she has raised no money. She lights the matches to try unsuccessfully to stay warm and passes the time thinking about spending Christmas at her grandmother’s home. As she slowly succumbs to the bitter cold, the memories intensify until they engulf her and her frozen body, with her clutching a bundle of spent matches, is discovered.

Bennett’s adaptation rings poetically. The memories become “blinding trails of fire:”

A Christmas tree, magnificent. A thousand candles on spring-green branches. The ornaments gaily-colored pictures, like the ones she’d seen in the shop windows—peacocks and angels, cardinals and mangers, sandy beaches, blue sleepy townships, bells, stars, the stars, higher and higher, the pine needles brushing the heavens. The girl, her fingers reaching, and then—

Bennett’s tone in the adaptation conveys an icy, gorgeous rendering of a breath-taking humbling, tragic tale. The story often lends itself to easy emotional manipulation but Bennett leavens it with a subdued elegiac sense.

Two years ago, Bennett’s Radio Hour contribution was an adaptation of three Grimm Brothers fairy tales, as raw and unfiltered as possible that amplify the remarkable storytelling folk tradition covering many centuries. While there is a Black Knight tale by the Grimm Brothers, Bennett’s is a different literary beast.

Originating in the Alsace-Lorraine region, Hans Trapp’s legend is connected to Christmas but in a most evil way. Trapp was portrayed as a rich man excommunicated from the Catholic faith for worshipping Satan. He would dress as a scarecrow, hiding in the forest so he could capture an unsuspecting child, roast the body and eat the flesh. Some variants of the legend include Trapp, dressed as a scarecrow, visiting children and scaring them into behaving properly.

Bennett’s story casts five characters: three members of a family (Adeline, Edsel and Con), Hans Trapp and Jacob Grimm, who is seeking out a complete version of the legend’s story. Recounting her tale, Adeline tells Jacob:

I kept my eye on that sagging lonely scarecrow in the winter wheat. Edsel had a mean barking laugh at me for “talking to an empty field,” but…I grew up in a place where a girl has to pay attention, Mr. Grimm. You town folk’ll say, “Hans Trapp is coming!” to scare a girl into soapin’ behind her ears. If we say it, we mean the man’s shadow is in your yard. So if I was keepin’ one eye on that scarecrow, I had my reasons: Who put a scarecrow in a field that’s gone half wild? Who needs a scarecrow that’s six-and-half feet? Why was it not swayin’ in the wind?

Indeed, it’s not traditional fare but there are numerous anti-Santa legends that have captivated readers for many centuries. Fans of Krampus, for example, will delight in this deliciously dark interpretation.”


PERUSAL MATERIALS:

  • A copy of the PERUSAL SCRIPT (in PDF format) which contains half of the script of the play is available, (it also has an extensive Author’s Note.): Yuletide (RADIO HOUR) PERUSAL
  • The shorter play: THE GIFT OF THE MAGI is available for production as a self-contained performance HERE
  • The shorter play: THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL is available for production as a self-contained performance HERE
  • The shorter play: THE BLACK KNIGHT is available for production as a self-contained performance HERE
  • VIEW other plays in the RADIO HOUR Series HERE
  • VIEW our list of other plays available as Staged Radio Plays HERE
  • LISTEN to the original broadcasts from KUER’s Radio West Productions HERE

PRODUCTION/REHEARSAL MATERIALS:

(Any PDF purchased will be emailed to your email address — if you need to provide that to us (not the one on your PayPal account?), email us. CDs will be mailed to a snail mail address. Do not purchase rehearsal materials or pay for royalties until you have performance clearance.)

  • Script in PDF format  — Order #3243a : $20.00 (from which you will be authorized to copy for your production)



  • First Performance Amateur/Educational Royalty — Order #3243d : $50




  • Second Performance Amateur/Educational Royalty — Order #3243e : $40




  • Professional Royalties will be quoted upon application
  • EMAIL us for rights and information. Be sure to give us anticipated performance dates and the address of your group and, if different, your theatre. Please also include a contact name and phone number.




PRODUCTIONS

  • Premiered  at Plan-B Theatre Company (co-produced by KUER’s Radio West program) — 2016

PHOTOS of the KUER Plan-B Broadcast:

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BILLING CREDITS

The following is how the credits should read in all programs, posters, fliers, handbills and other promotional advertising for the show:

Yuletide
Episode 9 of the RADIO HOUR Series

by
Matthew Ivan Bennett

NOTE: The names of the Playwright(s), Composer, Lyricist, and Bookwriter shall be equal in size, type, coloring, boldness, and prominence. No billing shall appear in type larger or more prominent than the billing to the Authors except for the title of the play. (In a press release all type, will of course, be the same size.)

ALSO:

THIS NOTICE MUST APPEAR IN ALL PROGRAMS, ON ALL POSTERS AND PUBLICITY MATERIALS AND INTERNET ADVERTISING/WEBPAGES FOR THE PLAY:
YULETIDE is presented through special arrangement with Leicester Bay Theatricals.  All authorized materials are also supplied by LBT, www.leicesterbaytheatricals.com”


 

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