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Elko High School Explores the Magic of the Mind

Nevada radio morning personality helps students embrace the power of radio

“War of the Worlds,” the classic Martian invasion program produced by “The Mercury Theatre on the Air” and directed and narrated by Orson Welles, remains a staple for lovers of radio and theater of the mind.

Tom Ray, a consultant and longtime friend of Radio World, told us this fall about a new production involving one of his radio clients. 

Sandy Beeler, morning personality at KHIX(FM) in Elko, Nev., owned by Global One Media, is also vice president of Ghost Light Productions, a nonprofit theater company in that community.

She got the OK from the management of KHIX to put together a show with the Elko High School theater department to create some Halloween magic.

“I love getting to work with kids in theater,” said Beeler. “They are eager and enthusiastic and honestly just the best and most fun to work with.” 

After casting students through auditions, she led the audio production of an hour-long Halloween show that would air on Mix 96.7 and be streamed on its website. 

“When we began rehearsals, I explained to them that [radio] is theater of the mind,” said Beeler. “There are no cues on stage. We tell the story through nothing but the way we speak it. They were quick to understand, and some came to the next rehearsal with different character voices already. They picked up everything so quickly.” 

Sandy Beeler, second from right, and Elko High School students who participated in “The War of the Worlds” special.

With the exception of a few commercially recorded effects, the young people also made their own sound effects for the program. 

Jeanine Hoskins, Elko High School theatre teacher and thespians advisor, told Tom Ray, “This has been an amazing and unique experience for my students. They have risen to the challenge of having to rely simply on their voices to convey emotion and expression. This opportunity proved to not only be a learning experience but a fantastic social experience for the students. They really bonded and enjoyed their time in the recording studio.”  

I’ve had my own happy experiences in creating live and recorded radio drama with groups like the Crosley Radio Players in Indiana, Lean & Hungry Theater in Washington and Port City Playhouse in Alexandria, Va. So hearing about this kind of program is delightful to me. 

[Related: “Radio Is Theater of the Mind“]

I checked in with Beeler after the show aired. 

“It went off with a bang, in a good way,” she said.

“The town was abuzz about listening to the show. Everyone was commenting on the Mix 96.7 Facebook page about the upcoming evening and how they were going to tune in and listen.” 

They even had listeners from Florida to New York, California and Utah, writing in saying they’d read about the show on the station’s site and were excited by it.

“I think the students were able to hear how their story came to life on a different kind of stage, and use that in their next endeavor into radio theater, if they do so choose to do this in the future. With just their imaginations and voice, some could see they could have maybe voiced it a bit different or used different inflections. It’s a learning process for all, in the best way possible.”

She hopes to organize more projects like this, to bring theater-plus-radio to more students and other schools. 

“It’s two of my favorite things coming together, and I love seeing everyone getting involved with it. Magic of the mind!”

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