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Radio play showcases mayor's awards

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Saturday, Mar 01, 2014 06:00 am

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  • Tracy Aisenstat
    Tracy Aisenstat
    FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette
  • Paige Tirs
    Paige Tirs
  • Doug Hoyer
    Doug Hoyer
  • Jan Randall
    Jan Randall

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Getting ready for the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts Awards is serious work.

For most observers, the semi-formal affair is a chance to pat nominees on the back.

For playwright Tracy Aisenstat (Crossword Puzzles), it’s been weighty business as her dream play is about to come to fruition.

She has written Retro Radio Program, a full script for the award ceremony that re-imagines an old-time radio program from the ’40s and ’50s complete with comedy, jingles, entertainment and a radio drama.

Hosting this radio recreation is her husband Kelly, a thespian who hones his acting chops through St. Albert Theatre Troupe, and the internationally renowned pianist-actor-director Ted Dykstra of Two Pianos Four Hands fame.

As the comedic duo delivers whizz bang patter and a few groaners, the radio variety show will be fleshed out with tap dancer Paige Tirs, spoken word artist Troy Sherdahl, singer-songwriter Doug Hoyer and pianist-composer Jan Randall. In addition, Three Form Theatre performs a 10-minute radio drama.

With ceremonies a mere two weeks away on Friday, March 14 at the Arden Theatre, it’s crunch time.

“Old radio dramas are my passion. I listen to them constantly. I’d always wanted to recreate a variety show – something like Martin and Lewis or Abbott and Costello,” says Aisenstat who admits to few nail biting moments.

The diminutive playwright had started penning the radio variety show several years ago as a vehicle for her husband and local actor Hans Potter. When Potter moved to Vancouver, the project was shelved indefinitely.

However, after the St. Albert Cultivates the Arts Committee opted to change the awards show format to more of a theatrical extravaganza, Aisenstat was asked to dust off the script and polish it for the city’s biggest cultural event.

For Aisenstat, Novak for Hire starring Jack Webb strongly inspired her. Pat Novak is a street-wise guy who rents boats and anything else a good man pays a bad one to do. Loaded with femme fatales, drunken speeches and verbal and physical fisticuffs, it was the quintessential ’40s radio show.

“You can’t redo that stuff. The stuff today never touches the ’40s and ’50s for radio drama. Nowadays it’s hard to write without making it tongue-in-cheek.”

Providing musical support for jingles and other scripted interludes is Jan Randall, a quiet, unassuming personality with a big bold reputation.

The St. Albert resident, happily married to local music teacher Ina Dykstra, has a long history in theatre with Second City, Die-Nasty, Three Dead Trolls, Rapid Fire Theatre and the Fringe.

He is regularly invited to CBC’s Irrelevant Show, and for 10 years was musical director for the Banff Television Awards where he met Dame Edna, Bob Newhart, Kelsey Grammer and John Cleese.

“We’re trying to add glamour, fun and entertainment,” Randall said.

For singer-songwriter Doug Hoyer, the radio show-based awards is an opportunity to return to his roots. The 2003 St. Albert Catholic High grad released his sophomore pop-art album To Be a River in June 2013.

“I’m really excited to be playing in such an esteemed venue. I rarely get to perform in St. Albert and this is pretty cool,” said Hoyer. Providing backup support is guitarist-keyboardist Jesse Northey.

Paige Tirs, a recipient of the 2011 Emerging Artist Award, has choreographed a tapper to Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies, a medium swing tune written in the 1920s. As a chart, it reached its peak in the 1940s with the Bing Crosby-Fred Astaire movie of the same name.

“It was surreal to receive an award and be recognized for my achievements. They saw me as an artist working to see her dreams come true. It was a nice feeling. Now I get to show them what they’ve invested in,” said Tirs.

As Tirs has so eloquently stated, artists that receive expressions of appreciation, whether it’s applause, an award or payment of services, continue creating.

Randall explained it in fairly simple terms.

“Artists give a lot to the community. It’s in our heart to do what we love and showing artists that they are recognized means so much. Attending and showing artists you appreciate what they do is a giving thing. But it’s going to be a lot of fun too and there’s a lot of talent on stage. It’s a win-win.”

Tickets for the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts are $35 plus agency fees. Call 780-459-1542 or purchase online at ticketmaster.ca.


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