Old-Time Radio Play Casts Politicos, Community Leaders to Benefit LB Playhouse

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At 84 years of age, the Long Beach Playhouse is the oldest arts organization in the city—just old enough to have been around when old-time radio plays were in vogue, before video killed the radio star.

But on June 5 the Playhouse will hearken back to yesteryear—or at least to Garrison Keillor—with A Return to the Long Beach Home Companion, the third installment in the Long Beach Playhouse Annual Radio Show, a fundraiser that brings together a Long Beach Political Players cast that includes Councimember Gerrie Schipske, former Councilmember Evan Anderson Braude, community organizer Justin Rudd, BKBIA Executive Director Blair Cohn, Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Randy Gordon, Fire Chief Mike DuRee, City Auditor Laura Doud, and former Governor George Deukmejian. Foley effects will be performed live by Straight Talk host Art Levine. 

A synopsis of the play (courtesy of event organizers):

The city has been overtaken by a ruthless urge to rebrand, refresh and redevelop. To that end, long time city landmarks are being renamed to recognize the community leaders who have served as their patrons and protectors. While the gambling ship remains in limbo, we believe it demonstrates the now-defunct RDA’s role in creating revenue opportunities for the city.

Could this be true? No, not a word. But it’s funny. And that’s what makes the Long Beach Playhouse Annual Radio Show an event like no other. Harry’s script is rousing and provocative and the ad libs will come fast and furious. Who knows what can happen! No subject is off limits, but take them all with a grain of salt.  

As in previous years, the play is authored by Gazette Executive Editor Harry Saltzgaver. 

“I’ve been a Prairie Home Companion fan for years, and it seemed a natural to do take-offs of the skits using Long Beach plots and jokes,” says Saltzgaver. “There is a lot of inside humor. You have to know a bit about current affairs to get it all. Last year, we did a take-off of The Thin Man. It worked, but I found it more difficult to give everyone a meaty part with a single plot line. So we decided to go back to The Long Beach Home Companion this year. The biggest coup has been getting former Gov. George Deukmejian to participate. He makes a perfect Garrison Keillor, with his great voice and laconic style.”

Long Beach Playhouse Artistic Director Andrew Vonderschimitt says that three years ago Playhouse staff were kicking around ideas for a fundraiser (in case you don’t know, selling theatre tickets in Long Beach doesn’t cover all the bills), and someone came up with the idea of involving local politicos.

“We wanted to get them in some kind of performance, […] and the obvious choice was to write something for them,” says Vonderschmitt. “So we got Harry Saltzgaver on board to write something for them. 

As to why Saltzgaver and cast agree to volunteer their efforts to the project, Vonderschmitt believes city officials and other community leaders understand the value of an institution like the Playhouse. And that they like to have fun. 

“I think what we bring to Long Beach is really recognized by the political leaders in town,” he says. “And whenever we’ve reached out to any of them, they’ve always been willing to help in any way they can. […] Our politicians recognize the importance of the arts in Long Beach—and the importance of Long Beach Playhouse in the arts locally. […] But the other half of it is: it’s fun, it’s a blast! They have a good time. They get to play parts that are fun and crack jokes and have a good time with each other. [They get to] blow off some steam, [whereas] usually they have to be, you know, political when they’re in front of the cameras and press. For this event they don’t have to be.”

The 3rd Annual Political Players Radio Show takes place 5:30PM to 7:30PM on Wednesday, June 5, at the offices of Keesal, Young & Logan. Outstanding food and drink, as well as a glorious view over the harbor and city, are included, with all proceeds support the productions and programs of the Long Beach Playhouse. For more information or to purchase tickets (both individually and as part of group sponsorship), call (562) 494-1014 or visit the Playhouse’s event Webpage.

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