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'Ashland Radio Hour' premieres over Zoom

After more than two years discovering a passion for live performance, a group of improvisation aficionados are bringing a fresh comedy to older Ashland adults in the old-fashioned style of a radio show, nodding to the present day with a Zoom video component.

A free, live performance of “Ashland Radio Hour” will premiere on Zoom screens and phone lines at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10. Required registration can be completed by calling 541-488-5342 or visiting the city of Ashland website. A phone-only option is also available. A question-and-answer session with the cast will follow the performance.

Presented by the Ashland Senior Services Division, written by Jack Seybold and directed by Cheryl Goodman-Morris, the show takes place in the backdrop of Ashland, with 16 OLLI Players presenting skits, commercials and a meet-up with private investigator “Charlie Dancer, Man of Danger.”

OLLI Players began as an improvisation class through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Southern Oregon University.

The full cast includes Jackie Bachman, Allyson Barnes, Janie Burcart, Kathy Campbell, Teri Coppedge, John Ferris, Doug Godwin, Cheryl Goodman-Morris, Mark Goodman-Morris, Andrew Kramer, Laura Kramer, John Pratt, Barbara Richard, Jack Seybold, Mary Beth Watt and Carol Weekley.

Senior Services Division Superintendent Isleen Glatt said since the pandemic began, the division has endeavored to offer safe ways to maintain connection and engagement for older adults during an extended period of isolation — an old-fashioned radio play fit seamlessly with that goal, she said.

Content is suitable for all ages, but will most likely be enjoyed most by the older crowd, Seybold said.

Despite some challenges with a virtual performance, such as securing eye contact with cameras, lighting 16 different spaces and acquiring virtual backgrounds, Goodman-Morris said she is delighted with the result. By experimenting with proximity to the camera, for example, the format offers unique intimacy with each character, she said.

“Seeing (the characters) expand beyond where any of us thought it would go has really been a great joy,” she said.

“Ashland Radio Hour” follows in the footsteps of a dozen sold-out 2018 and 2019 murder-comedy dinner performances of “Murder at the Cafe Noir,” performed by members of the OLLI improvisation class.

“We had such a good time doing that that people were wishing for the good old days and wishing we could do it again,” Seybold said. “So, we finally decided that rather than look around for a script, we’d just make one ourselves.”

Goodman-Morris said Seybold’s script highlights each character’s quirks, while the Ashland-focused comedy shines through. Script writing and rehearsals spanned from September through the holiday season, and rehearsals offered a welcome reprieve from heavy real-world news, Seybold said.

“The charm or the enjoyment that people are going to have is just seeing some seniors having fun — that’s us,” he said.

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com and follow her on Twitter @AllayanaD.

The free, live-performance of the Ashland Radio Hour on Wednesday, Feb. 10, includes skits, commercials and a meet-up with private investigator “Charlie Dancer, Man of Danger.”