Kirsten Van Ritzen with the Victoria cast of Radioland ’48 – Robert Conway, Van Ritzen, Daniel Diemer and Melissa Taylor (from left). On. Feb. 11, Van Ritzen presents a staged reading of the play in the Port Theatre lobby. (Photo courtesy Ian Ferguson)

Play-in-progress takes comedic look at mid-century radio broadcasting

Victoria playwright Kirsten Van Ritzen presents staged reading of ‘Radioland ’48’

A play that began as an improv comedy routine is near completion and its author is bringing it to Nanaimo for some final touches.

“I think it’s going to be ready for production after this,” said Victoria-based playwright Kirsten Van Ritzen. “And so what I’m looking to see is is the audience engaged in the story? Are they laughing where I think it’s funny? I think there’s romance, is the romance connecting?”

Radioland ’48 follows a quartet of broadcasters who try to save their radio station from being shut down.

“The older couple are very much like Hepburn, Bogart, very snappy. She’s a very snappy dame,” Van Ritzen said. “And then there’s the younger ingénue couple who are very naive.”

It features a radio play-within-a-play with wacky sound effects and pokes fun at the values and social attitudes of the 1940s. Van Ritzen first created Radioland 48 as a long-form improvised serial with a story that continued over the 10 months she performed it at the Second City theatre in Toronto.

“Several years later I was inspired to write a 10-minute play that was inspired by that improv series,” she said. “And then from there it expanded to a 30-minute play and from there a 50-minute play. I just found it to be a really fun world to live in.”

On Feb. 11 a staged reading of the play will take place in the Port Theatre lobby as part of TheatreOne’s Emerging Voices series. The last time Van Ritzen was on stage in Nanaimo was as part of the Blackstones and Bathtubs musical revue in celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial in 2017.

So far Radioland 48 has been read in Victoria and Calgary. The Nanaimo reading will be Van Ritzen’s first time hearing the latest version of the script, with a revised radio play segment. She said the most important thing she’ll be watching for is “where the laughs come.”

“It’s definitely going to be challenging for the actors because they really only get one day to rehearse for it, so the challenge is there for them,” she said. “It won’t be a polished performance … and yet it should be able to hold up. If my writing is strong enough it will still engage an audience.”

WHAT’S ON … TheatreOne presents a staged reading of Radioland 48 by Kirsten Van Ritzen in the Port Theatre lobby, 125 Front St., on Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m.

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