A rendition of “The Graduate” will be performed as a radio theater performance, which focuses on the auditory component of the production.
An iconic 1967 film will meet the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center (PAC) on Nov. 19 with L.A. Theatre Works’ radio theater production of “The Graduate.”
Radio theater focuses on the production’s auditory component, Cal Poly Arts Director Steve Lerian said. Like traditional theater, the actors perform on stage in costume; however, they use stand-up microphones and have little physical interaction with the script, he said.
“It’s as if you can close your eyes and listen to it like you were listening to the script being performed on the radio,” Lerian said. “It’s a really interesting process and wonderful for the imagination.”
L.A. Theater Works has successfully adopted radio theater for almost all its productions, he said. The company usually employs recognizable Hollywood actors looking to expand their careers for its radio theater shows.
“They use actors that you’ve seen on television,” Lerian said. “They’re not necessarily big stars, but people who work regularly in Hollywood and they do this as part of their growing acting process.”
L.A. Theater Works’ “The Graduate” stars Heidi Dippold, whose TV appearances include “The Sopranos,” “NCIS” and “Law & Order,” as Mrs. Robinson. Brian Tichnell, who has appeared on HBO’s “The Newsroom,” plays protagonist Benjamin Braddock. Matthew Arkin, who plays Mr. Robinson, acted in “All My Children” and “Liar Liar.” Tom Virtue, playing Mr. Braddock, is known for his long-running role on Disney Channel’s “Even Stevens.”
Radio theater works well with the film script for “The Graduate” because its fans tend to know the dialogue backward and forward, Lerian said.
“Most of those who know the movie have seen it many times and can almost do the lines with them,” Lerian said.
All the sound effects in the production originate from props rather than electronics, he said.
“When they’re drinking and mixing martinis, they actually have martini glasses out there and they’re clinking them,” Lerian said. “It makes you feel that if you had your eyes closed, you could visualize what was going on in the scene.”
“The Graduate” follows a young college graduate named Ben. When he returns from college, he begins questioning the value of his education and what he will do with his future. At the same time, he finds himself stuck in a love triangle between a family friend’s wife and her daughter.
The plot connects well with young adults because of its college-aged main character and his conflicts, Lerian said.
“If you look at it as a kind of period piece of the way life was 40 years ago, it’s very interesting,” he said. “I think students would get a kick out of it. It’s a very compelling story.”
Graduate student Tim Farrell grew up with film, he said.
“I saw that at the drive-in,” Farrell said. “I must have been seven. At the time, it made a big impression.”
“The Graduate” included offputting plot skips and unusual storytelling techniques, he said.
“I remember thinking, ‘Man, that’s a really strange film,’ even as a young person,” Farrell said. “It’s got a different linearity in the way it’s presented.”
When Farrell saw the film again as an adult, he had more appreciation for it, he said.
“I remember being struck by the contrast of the really sophisticated humor,” Farrell said. “It’s kind of subtle. Parts of that movie are really funny — at least to me. I guess what that portrays to me is that there are a lot of layers going on.”
The film’s dialogue makes it fitting for the stage and for radio theater in particular, he said.
“It’s pretty dialogue-driven,” Farrell said. “That’s what makes it a sophisticated comedy. There aren’t a lot of pratfalls or physical comedy. It’s just a lot of subtly-worded, intellectually-appealing humor.”
College students might take a particular interest in the plot because they can relate to the main character’s questioning of life post-university, he said.
“I think what’s really going to make it appealing not just for the stage, but for the stage at Poly, is it’s about a guy graduating and basically questioning his whole academic experience — not really thinking it’s worth it,” Farrell said. “He gets out of college wondering why he did it. He’s questioning his motivation in life.”
Farrell hopes the production will challenge Cal Poly students, he said.
“I don’t know if it’s going to strike a chord, because so many Poly students are so singularly driven,” he said. “They aren’t used to questioning. I’m not sure if it’ll strike them as intriguing or if they’ll just ignore it.”
Farrell looks forward to seeing how the radio theater production will portray certain famous scenes from the film, he said.
“I’d be really curious, if for nothing else, to see how they pull off parts,” he said. “The ending is big, physical, dramatic — kind of operatic. I’d be fascinated to see how they do that.”
English senior David Llamas has seen the film production of “The Graduate” multiple times and hopes to attend its theater production at the PAC.
Beneath the satire and unique presentation of “The Graduate,” the film is simply an entertaining story, he said.
“It’s a fun movie,” Llamas said. “The tension of the conflict in it is something that could translate to any format. Even though it’s something we really associate with the mid-’60s, I think the timelessness of it would translate to any other medium.”
“The Graduate” starts at 7:30 p.m. Student rush tickets are available at the door for $10.