Stephen F. Austin State University

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Red River Radio to present SFA School of Theatre's Christmas play

December 20, 2011 - SFA Public Affairs
NACOGDOCHES, TEXAS - "The Gift of the Magi," the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Theatre's first radio play, will be broadcast on the region's NPR affiliate (locally KLDN 88.9 FM) at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 25.

The half-hour adaptation of O. Henry's classic Christmas story of the same title was dramatized by Jack Heifner, SFA resident playwright and Broadway veteran writer, and directed by SFA Senior Lecturer Jackie Rosenfeld.

Heifner opens his play in an early 20th century pub where an author named William Sidney Porter (O. Henry's real name) is heard worrying about a deadline for a Christmas story due to a New York magazine. An affectionate pair of youthful pub-goers inspires Porter to write what would become his best-known work-the story of a struggling young wife and husband who make extraordinary sacrifices to buy one another Christmas gifts, explained Scott Shattuck, director of the SFA School of Theatre.

"The presents prove so ironic that the twist ending has become one of the most famous in the history of the short story form," Shattuck continued.

The production was recorded in the School of Theatre's newly renovated, state-of-the-art sound laboratory. It features original music by Tyler sophomore Mason Lieberman, SFA music composition major; and sound effects by CC Conn, SFA assistant professor who specializes in theatrical sound and lighting design. Adjunct faculty member David Raine plays Pete the Bartender.

The other characters are voiced by SFA students. Commerce junior Benn May plays Porter, and Richmond freshman Katy Rutherford portrays both the young woman in the pub and the young wife. Mesquite junior John Lisi plays her husband and the young man in the pub.

British exchange students Helena Williams and Fenella Spillane, Houston junior Virginia Arteaga, Nacogdoches senior Kyla Williams, Orange sophomore Randy Wuske, and sophomore criminal justice major Jeron Humphrey of Dallas complete the cast.

Visiting Assistant Professor Toni Smith provided vocal coaching for the actors. Nacogdoches senior Arrie Tucker is the assistant director, and freshman Ryann Underwood of West Chapel, Fla., serves as stage manager.

Members of the School of Theatre's New Original Cast, directed by Assistant Professor Jason Davids Scott, provide the Christmas caroling that is heard in the background. Graduate student Robert Palermo of Brownsville and Sachse senior Korey Stephens perform the original score on saxophone and clarinet, respectively.

"Adding radio drama to our repertoire allows us to reach a large, new audience," said Shattuck. "It also gives a new dimension to the learning experiences available to our theatre students and strengthens our collaboration with the School of Music.

"The fact that we were able to commission a writer of the talent and stature of Jack Heifner to pen this pilot effort has resulted in an extraordinary holiday treat," Shattuck continued, "and we couldn't be more thrilled that Red River Radio has added it to their schedule so that our entire region can enjoy the story on Christmas night."

The program is also available as a podcast at www.theatre.sfasu.edu through Tuesday, Jan. 17.