The Old Time Radio Players theater will present "Surprise Party," an episode of "Our Miss Brooks" that originally aired Oct. 24, 1948, at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and again at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Grants Pass Community Center at the corner of 4th and I streets in Grants Pass.
Growing up in Boston in the 1940s, Tony Lentini used to love listening to radio shows like "The Green Hornet," "The Great Gildersleeve," "The Lone Ranger," and "Our Miss Brooks."
Lentini, 75, of Wimer, says in our multimedia age, such programs may be gone, but they are far from forgotten. The Old Time Radio Players theater is living testimony to that fact.
The Players will present "Surprise Party," an episode of "Our Miss Brooks" that originally aired Oct. 24, 1948, at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and again at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Grants Pass Community Center at the corner of 4th and I streets in Grants Pass.
"Those old-time shows were such good entertainment," says Lentini, who is retired from the U.S. Weather Service. "Not garbage. Most of us are of a vintage that we remember."
"Our Miss Brooks" was a sitcom starring Eve Arden as a sardonic English teacher in an American high school. It ran on radio from 1948 to 1957, and crossed over to television from 1952 to 1956.
The Old Time Radio Players got together about three years ago, formed a nonprofit theater, had a sponsor for a time, lost it but kept on going.
"All we want to do is make expenses," Lentini says. "Nobody gets paid."
The group even serves dessert at its performances. This week it's cheesecake.
The Players have presented "War of the Worlds" "The Lone Ranger," "The Green Hornet," "The Shadow," "The Great Gildersleeve," "Richard Diamond, Private Detective," "Fibber McGee and Molly," "The Life of Riley" and other shows. They started in the Rogue Theater and now present shows at the Community Center, a 100-seat venue with a thrust stage, as radio plays. Actors read scripts at microphones, and there's a sound-effects man (usually Lentini) and an APPLAUSE sign.
One thing audiences won't experience is canned laughter.
"We hate it," Lentini says.
The program often includes a variety show led by the group's musical director, Bob Armstrong, of Murphy. Music for productions is sometimes provided by a pianist, and sometimes by a karaoke machine.
Lentini can handle most of the sound effects, but he has to use recordings for some things.
"Such as a train going by," he says. "I can't go, 'Choo choo choo.' Although I am going to try to do a car motor."
Caroline Berkman, of Murphy, who is directing, says that in the "Surprise Party" episode, English teacher Connie Brooks wants an alligator bag, and her friends at school are determined to surprise her with it. She plans to buy it herself, so they resort to a ruse, and a war of wits ensues.
"Judie (Erickson, who plays Connie Brooks) is a fine actress," Berkman says. "She's been in Barnstormers and Rogue Music Theater. She does a very nice job.
"She is not trying to copy Eve Arden. You couldn't. Her delivery is her own."
Lentini says a lot of people suggested the Miss Brooks series. He has an extensive MP3 library of old radio shows to choose from.
"It's all public domain," he says. "We stay away from the newer ones."
In addition to Arden as Miss Brooks, the series featured actor Gale Gordon as the gruff Principal Osgood Conklin, Miss Brooks's foil; Richard Crenna as nerdy student Walter Denton; and Jeff Chandler as clueless science teacher Philip Boynton, Miss Brooks's sometime love interest.
According to www.old-time.com, "Our Miss Brooks" episodes lacked formal names, but "Surprise Party" was also known as "Putting The Touch On Miss Brooks," "Surprise Birthday Party," "Birthday Bite," "The Alligator Bag," "The Green Bag" and/or "Green Handbag."
Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.