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December 26, 2006 > Local group resurrects bygone radio age

Local group resurrects bygone radio age

by Julie Grabowski

Every now and again the golden age of radio rises from the past to settle under the lights of Mission Coffee Roasting Company, resurrecting a time when friends and family gathered together to listen to their favorite stories over the airwaves. Fremont Occasional Theatre is a group of volunteers who have been presenting stage radio shows since 2002.
Producer and current director Andy MacRae says the group evolved out of people's enjoyment of old radio plays and the sheer fun of the idea of bringing them back to life. Fremont Occasional Theatre has reenacted such classics as "The Lone Ranger," "War of the Worlds," "Dracula," and "Little Orphan Annie." MacRae and fellow enthusiast Brian Oldham adapted "A Christmas Carol" to a radio play, this year marking their fourth performance of the popular Dickens story.

There can be difficulties in choosing plays, as some require a royalty payment for use, as "War of the Worlds," or allow only an exact reproduction of the original script. But MacRae considers all, looking for those that would be fun to present. Most performances are delivered as a cold read, with no prior practice; rehearsals are only held for the more involved or complex scripts.

"We like to involve as many people as possible," says MacRae of their performances. "Over the past four years we've probably had twenty or more people take part. Some have been in several productions, some only one or two. We are always open to new people taking part. Last year we recruited someone just minutes before the show began and he did a great job." Similarly, a young boy interested in the sound effects set up for "A Christmas Carol" was invited to help out in the show as an assistant. The programs run around an hour, in keeping with the old radio time frame, complete with an announcer from station KFOT, sound effects, a commercial break to promote their sponsor (Mission Coffee), as well as a brief intermission for listeners to partake of the sponsor's offerings.

Performances occur sporadically, only a few times a year, whenever a script is settled on and people can get together. When a date and time have been fixed, notices are put in the local papers, through e-mail, and posted at to let the community know about this unique opportunity for a sampling of the past. Interested parties can get more information by calling (510) 589-5003, or e-mail

MacRae also hosts an open mic night at Mission Coffee on the third Friday of each month, where musicians, singers, story tellers, and poets can share their talents.

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