WCU’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ wins second national award

A Western Carolina University re-creation of the 1938 Campbell’s Playhouse radio classic “A Christmas Carol” was recently named the winner of a 2011 Gabriel Award from the Catholic Academy for Communication Arts Professionals.

Gabriel Awards, which are designed to honor works of excellence that uplift and nourish the human spirit, honored 47 achievements in radio, film and television. In addition to WCU, 2011 recipients included such organizations as WNYC Radio in New York for the arts show “Gamun-Pyul,” DreamWorks Animation for “How to Train Your Dragon,” and Walden Media for “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.”

The award marks the second national honor for Western Carolina’s production of “The Campbell’s Playhouse: ‘A Christmas Carol’ 1938,” which also won an award of excellence for long form production in the audio competition at the national Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts.

“Campbell’s Playhouse: ‘A Christmas Carol’ 1938” was presented to a sold-out audience on Dec. 9. The show re-created a production that starred the legendary Orson Welles.

The WCU show used Welles’ personal script and starred Arthur Anderson, who reprised his role of the Ghost of Christmas Past that he performed in the original version more than 70 years ago. Age 88 when he appeared at WCU, Anderson was 16 when he performed with Welles in the 1938 broadcast.

Don Connelly, head of the university’s communication department who produced the show, partnered on the academic-based entertainment event with director Steve Carlisle, a stage and screen veteran who is associate dean of WCU’s Honors College; and musical director Bruce Frazier, the Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Electronic and Commercial Music.

The team previously collaborated on the 2008 live radio show production of Welles’ “The War of the Worlds” and 2009’s nationally acclaimed Veterans Day tribute “On the Home Front, Nov. ‘44,” which won two top honors in the Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts.

In addition to being seen by a live audience, “Campbell’s Playhouse: ‘A Christmas Carol’ 1938” was broadcast by WWNC-AM of Asheville as part of its Christmas Eve programming.

This year, the team will produce “Dracula” as a live broadcast radio show in the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, Jan. 24. The show, written by Connelly with original music by Frazier, will be directed by Carlisle. The research director will be Brian Gastle, who served as research director for “A Christmas Carol.” Gastle will coordinate involvement of English students as they explore the historic novel and work to ensure the script and show authentically reflects the novel and remains true to the period.

“What’s interesting about ‘Dracula’ is the original novel is a mystery,” said Connelly. “Our radio show is very, very close to the original novel, and it is not just the story of a vampire jumping out from behind a tree and biting someone on the neck.”

Tickets will go on sale Nov. 1.