CORRECTION (Published 4/11/2013)

A story in the Valley Journal and Times-Herald incorrectly said the play "Requiem for a Heavyweight" will be presented April 12 through 27 at the Village Theatre in Danville. The play will run at that theater April 26 through May 18.

The golden age of television, roughly 1947-57, when most television was produced live, like most golden ages, is probably remembered more fondly than it actually deserves.

It's mostly the good stuff that exists on film, but you can see the rougher efforts and massive screw-ups on jiggly kinescopes. Even those, though, give the feeling of eavesdropping on pioneers -- in those days, they were making it up as they went along the journey through an uncharted world.

Eric Fraisher Hayes, the artistic director of Danville's Role Players Ensemble Theater and director of "Requiem for a Heavyweight," Rod Serling's 1956 teleplay (originally broadcast live), wants to give audiences the feeling of being in the studio that night the show was broadcast on "Playhouse 90."

"I want the audience to get the impression they are witnesses to a live broadcast," he said. "We'll present the show, but we'll also have elements of a broadcast, with the camera and its red light, set changes as scenes are unfolding on another of the small sets around the stage. And when they break for commercials, we'll be showing vintage commercials on the screen, as the sets are being rearranged."


Advertisement

It's been a remarkable undertaking for the theater and the actors involved in the show. Normally, stage actors play -- move, gesture and pose -- larger than normal and speak louder and with more enunciation than in normal conversation. So to recreate a teleplay, they must do basically the opposite: make everything smaller so it will fit within the confines of the small screen of the black-and-white television.

"I keep telling them what they did was great, but they have to make it smaller to fit in the television screen," Hayes said. "I sometimes feel like I'm directing a play and a television show at the same time."

Hayes is also quite impressed by what television shows were able to do, given the technical and time constraints of the era. He recalls another show featuring Jack Palance (who played the boxer in the original "Requiem"). Palance played one scene, then the show broke for commercials.

"And when they came back, two or three minutes later, he rides into the frame on a horse with a full change of costume," he said. "It was such a balancing and juggling act back then. And people watching the show will see that a little bit."

What they will see beyond the recreation of early television is what Serling himself considered his best work.

"Requiem" is the story of a washed up, punch-drunk boxer who doctors refuse to certify for another fight, fearing that it could blind or even kill him. So the fighter is faced with finding another career, almost impossible since his entire life has concentrated on boxing. He looks into a number of options, including becoming a professional wrestler. But he has trouble with that, since he takes great pride in never having thrown a fight and realizing that in wrestling the outcomes are known before the fight begins.

To keep the tension of telecasting the program in 90 minutes of real time, the show will be presented without an intermission, and will run around 90 minutes, Hayes said. In fact, he was thinking of putting a clock up in the theater so everyone could see how quickly the time passes, but decided not to do that for the time being in case the actors ran over or under the time.

Role Players Ensemble's production of "Requiem for a Heavyweight" plays in the Village Theatre at 455 Front St. in Danville at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays April 26 through May 18.

Tickets, at $20 to $28, can be reserved at 925-314-3400 or at www.villagetheatreshows.com.

CINDERELLA: The classic fairy tale is turned comic in this Prince Street Players adaptation of the familiar story.

Despite her stepmother's interference and attempt to keep her from the prince's royal ball, where he is looking for a possible wife, Cinderella, with a little help her fairy godmother and friends, makes it to the ball and wins the prince's heart.

But she has to leave the ball at the stroke of midnight and the prince searches the kingdom for Cinderella, the girl in the glass slipper.

The show plays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through May 4, with 3 p.m. matinees Sundays through May 5.

Contact Pat Craig at pjcraig495@yahoo.com.