SHERIDAN — It’s a classic story to which many can relate. A man, down on his luck, struggles to cope with the hardships of life. He even considers whether those he loves would be better off without him.
As the U.S. continues to struggle with political division and a global pandemic, the emotions experienced by George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” feel familiar. In the end, though, with the help of friends and by leaning into his personal relationships, Bailey realizes his life does indeed have purpose and he has reason to be grateful.
It’s a happy ending many lean on each holiday season to relish in the warm and fuzzies the story creates.
Grace Cannon and Jami Lance of the Sheridan Civic Theatre Guild hope to deliver that feeling this December through an adapted production of the classic.
“Fundamentally, theater is about connection — whether it’s the actors connecting with the audience or cast members connecting with each other through the experience,” Cannon said.
With the goal of connection balanced with the consideration for cast and audience safety, Cannon and Lance will try something new. The adapted version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” tells the story of a cast of characters who are performing the story via radio.
“So in a typical year, the audience arrives in a radio station and watches them perform,” Cannon said.
This year, though, the audience will observe the play via live stream while the actors perform from the Mars Theater at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center.
Lance and Cannon conducted auditions for the show via Zoom earlier this week, and said the turnout was strong. They have also considered hosting rehearsals via the digital platform.
“We can get away with that because there isn’t a lot of blocking or complex movement,” Cannon said. “It’s mostly voice acting.”
Lance noted the process for choosing a show, conducting auditions and accounting for the health of the cast has been a struggle, just as many events in Sheridan County and across the country have proven to be over the last several months.
“It’s so much work to think outside the box and be creative,” Lance said. “But we can also take it as an opportunity to evolve.”
Cannon, who is also currently directing a play at Sheridan High School, said the play will look different, but should still deliver the emotional connection and comfort those used to the classic film would expect.
“The gym floor doesn’t open up, so you won’t see anybody fall into the pool,” Cannon said. “But this is an opportunity to see local art and to see local people telling this story. …It’s not a big spectacle acted out on a grand scale, but it delivers on the story.”
Both Lance and Cannon admitted the production will be an experiment, but they are hopeful and eager to give it a try and continue delivering the arts to the Sheridan community despite the pandemic.
The play will debut in Sheridan in mid-December. Tickets, while not available yet, will be available through the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center. Those tickets will allow for the audience to log in and see the livestream of the show.