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INTERVIEW: Andrew Botsford On Hampton Theatre Company Filming A Socially Distanced "Miracle On 34th Street" Radio Play

T.J. Clemente

Lux Radio Theater 'Miracle on 34th Street will be available virtually. (Photo: Courtesy of HTC)

Andrew Botsford, Hampton Theatre Company (HTC) Board of Directors President, is excited about this year's Christmas show -because for 2020, HTC is filming Lux Radio Theater 'Miracle on 34th Street, which will be available for the public to screen starting Saturday, December 19.

Botsford explained, "We had originally scheduled, in this season, to do a holiday show which was a different plan from our normal season - which would be four shows. There would be one in the fall, there would be one in January, one in the spring - meaning March and one in June. That was our usual season. This year, way before COVID, we picked there were going to be three shows, a fall show, no January show, a show in March and a show in May/June. Instead of a fall show, we were going to do a holiday show at the theater [in Quogue] to be chosen later."

He continued, "We really hadn't picked out what it was going to be, we just knew we were going to do something for four days. Perhaps five or six shows, not a major production and for a short run. Then COVID happened. It happened with one week to go before the opening of Sylvia. We were just starting tech week, costumes, set, lighting everything was done. We were set to open on the 19th of March, but the Governor shut everything down on the 12th, and it all stopped."

Then, after a lot of plans that again were changed due to the depth of the COVID crisis, many difficult decisions had to be made on the fly. Botsford explained, "We realized we still have a holiday show to do, but we also realized we can't get anybody into the theater. So, we said what can we do? There is a lot of 'Zoom burnout' going on out there, so the idea of doing a live stream Zoom thing or something like that seemed not to be copacetic. We thought we will make a holiday radio plan, because we have done readings like that for the library in the past, and we thought let's do that, with the COVID protocols."

With the plan set, HTC set out to spread a little holiday cheer. "We decided we will go to the theater, leave the doors open, we will have masks and fill out questionnaires, take temperatures, do 45-minute rehearsals, space six feet apart, and do a radio play reading of A Miracle on 34th Street. We will video tape it - a professional video tape with two cameras live," he noted. "This was not to be like the usual video tapes you get with one set camera with a wide angle to take in the whole stage, but two cameras, one for the wide stage and then a mobile camera to go in and do tight shots."

Then, the plan evolved as Botsford explained, "We always do our end of the year appeal, which every non-profit has to do to ask the people perhaps to give again. We decided with our end of the year appeal to give something with the donation. You will get a ticket to see the video through an exclusive link, along with a talk with the cast afterwards, of the making of the radio play. If you give $25 or more for the end of the year appeal, you get the link."

The Lux Radio Theater presentation of Miracle on 34th Street originally aired on December 20, 1948. It featured the three stars of the 20th Century Fox movie, Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, and Edmund Gwenn. The HTC live performance will take patrons into the studio to see the actors "broadcasting" the show, complete with advertisements for the show's sponsor, Lux Laundry Flakes.

The cast for the HTC production will be: Andrew Botsford, Rosemary Cline, Rebecca Edana, Terrance Fiore, Amanda Griemsmann, George Loizides, and Roger Moley.

For more information, visit www.hamptontheatre.org.




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