By Michelle Kinsey—
MUNCIE, Ind.—Think “The Office” meets “A Christmas Carol,” told in the style of “This American Life.”
That’s how Jennifer Blackmer describes this year’s IPR Radio Drama, broadcasting live at 8 p.m. Dec. 17 from Sursa Performance Hall at Ball State University. And she should know. She wrote it.
Blackmer is a professor in the Department of Theatre & Dance and the Director of the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry, both at Ball State University. And she’s no stranger to the IPR Radio Drama.
“I’ve been involved in the Radio Drama ever since I first directed “Miracle On 34th Street,” which was in 2013,” she said. “Since that year, I’ve been involved every year in various capacities, either as director or producer. But this is the first year I’ve actually written the play itself. Please don’t hold that against me.”
Ah, yes, the pressure is on. But this award-winning writer is excited about the challenge.
“I’m a playwright; it’s what I do and what I teach, and what I love,” she said. “But the irony is that I haven’t yet had the chance to write for the Radio Drama because I’ve been busy with other writing projects. Sadly, those opportunities weren’t available to me during the pandemic — I lost a great deal, actually, as theaters across the country canceled their seasons, and have had varying degrees of success opening back up.
“When I heard that we were going to produce the Radio Drama in person again this year, I jumped at the opportunity to write. It’s been a wonderful bright spot in the midst of so much loss and uncertainty. Plus, I’ve been able to try my hand at writing a screwball comedy! I’ve made myself laugh, but I’m not sure if that actually counts.”
She hopes the audiences laugh as well. “Please laugh. Like, a lot,” she joked.
“Seriously, the story is about the importance of your community, and acknowledging the many varied contributions of those around you,” she continued. “It’s about how we define success in a high-stakes, crazily-paced professional world, vs. what’s really important — empathy, love, compassion and finding joy in those around you. We tell meaningful stories at this time of year for a reason, and it’s important to me that we think about how we bring the holiday spirit with us even when times are tough and the pressures are great.”
Angie Rapp, Radio Drama Producer and IPR Marketing Manager, agreed.
“After a one-year pandemic hiatus, I’m so glad we are getting the chance to return the IPR Radio Drama to the stage and airwaves for our audience,” she said. “This original work by Jen Blackmer is going to strike the perfect combination of humor and warmth that we all need right now and I’m so excited to see it play out before an audience.”
And with an Emmy® Award-winning “dream team,” she added. “Being able to bring together again Blackmer, Director Matt Reeder, Music Director Michael Elliott, Animator Chris Flook — with the addition of Stan Sollars on Foley — is such a treat.”
Tickets to attend the live performance (please be in your seat by 7:30 p.m.) are $15 general admission and $5 for students/children, on sale now at the College of Fine Arts Box Office located at Sursa Hall. Purchase online at indianapublicradio.org/community, by phone at (765) 285-8749, or in-person, Monday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m., or starting 1 hour before the performance at Sursa Hall.
Masks are required in Sursa Hall.
If you miss the live broadcast, the IPR Radio Drama will air on Ball State PBS at 1 p.m. Dec. 25 and at 4 p.m. Dec. 25 on Indiana Public Radio.
“This American Carol” is presented by LifeStream Services and Indiana Michigan Power. Major support is provided by Michelle Walker Thrivent Financial, Yorktown Public Library, and The Meeks Mortuary and Crematory. And sponsored by Mark’s Service Center and Morrison Woods Health Campus.