Barbara (Babs) Worthy’s home is punctuated with beautiful vintage pieces, giving it the feel of an Art Deco lounge. There are elaborately sculpted lamps, Tamara de Lempicka-like paintings, and large leather sofas. And, of course, a 1920’s-era microphone.
Hardly surprising, then, that Worthy’s passion runs towards radio, especially in its golden age. After her theatre career, she spent two decades at the CBC as a radio producer, and has spent the same number of years creating on-stage radio plays.
Radio Noir is, in fact, a term coined by Worthy’s Shaw Festival cohort Neil Munro. They used it to describe live theatre recreations of old radio plays, complete with sound effects.
“The foley artist — the person creating the sound effects — is actually on stage with the performers. That’s one of the things that makes it fun,” says Worthy.
It’s almost a form of transparent theatre: there is no trickery, no embellishment. The actors, in street clothes, hold their scripts and stand in front of microphones. The foley artist and musical accompanist are also on stage.
“What I love about it is the immediacy: the audience can see the work in front of them, and they can travel in their minds,” enthuses Worthy.
With Radio Noir there is also an aspect of time travel: Each play is an adapted recreation of a famous 1930’s to 1940’s suspense-filled radio series, complete with the type of commercials that would have run during the broadcasts. Worthy adapts and writes the scripts herself, customizing them for each incarnation.
Worthy describes families uniting around the radio in that televisionless age, listening to these dramatic whodunnits and sharing the thrills. She hopes for a similar experience for Radio Noir audiences. “I want them to feel transported by the story — the drama, the mystery, the romance,” she says.
There are three dates scheduled: Nov. 15, Nov. 29 and Dec. 14. The plays include Lucille Fletcher’s 1943 radio thriller, Sorry, Wrong Number, Edgar Allan Poe’s classic gothic fiction The Tell-Tale Heart, and After the Thin Man, based on the novel penned by Dashiell Hammett.
The plays will be animated by local actors and Shaw Festival alumni, including Worthy herself, co-producer Patty Jamieson, Guy Bannerman and Peter Millard. Shaw Festival associate music director Ryan de Souza will provide musical accompaniment, and Allan Teichmann is the foley artist.
General admission tickets to each performance are $40, and include a glass of wine and a snack. Tickets can be purchased at Ravine Vineyards, located at 1366 York Rd., St. Davids.