By Christian Carvajal
For many, the 1983 family movie A Christmas Story is an annual tradition. A middling success at the box office, it achieved immortality on marathon cable-TV airings and home video. Yet it may come as a surprise to fans of Ralphie and his avaricious adventures that they debuted, not in cinemas or book form, but over the radio. Beginning in the mid-1950s, late-night disc jockey Jean Shepherd told listeners stories about his Indiana childhood. Friends nagged him to type those stories out, then transcribed them on his behalf. The anecdotes saw print in a decidedly non-family venue, Playboy magazine, throughout the 1960s. B-movie director Bob Clark heard Shepherd radio tale around the same time those stories were collected into a book, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash, in 1966. He resolved to turn them into a holiday movie. Only after he’d directed the salacious smash hit Porky’s, however, did he have the industry cachet to do so.
It makes sense, then, that Olympia Little Theatre’s president and artistic manager, Kendra Malm, chose to present Philip Grecian’s stage adaptation of A Christmas Story as a vintage-style radio play. Its action may be set in the 1940s, but Malm envisioned her studio setting in 1972: “It’s about Ralph remembering his childhood,” she explains, “so ’72 is about the right [year] for a middle-aged man to be remembering his childhood.” Adult Ralphie, essentially Shepherd himself, will be played by Ben Tindall.
“I think it’ll be a pretty good draw for us,” says Malm. “It’s got all that great humor, and the Christmas setting is inherent in the story.” One of the practical advantages of doing A Christmas Story as a radio play, she concedes, is adults can be cast as any number of children. Megan Wakefield, for example, will play young Ralphie. Jean Kivi Thomas portrays Esther Jane and Ralphie’s best buddy, Schwartz. Mike Turner is Ralphie’s “old man,” celebrated battler against furnace clinkers and the winner of a major award. Audience members will fill the roles of in-studio guests, laughing and applauding as dialogue and live sound effects are performed before their very eyes … and ears.
A Christmas Story
Olympia Little Theatre,
1925 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia
7:25 p.m. Thursdays – Saturdays except Dec. 13,
1:55 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 7-23