It isn't every day you run into jousting knights, an enchanted forest, a talking pony, and, of course, a family of dysfunctional giants.
But to Joe McHugh, that's part of the beauty and creativity you can find in live radio theater, which is coming to the Nevada Theatre and a KVMR 89.5 FM/kvmr.org streaming live broadcast for the first time in exactly one year next Wednesday night (March 16th) at 7pm.
Last March 16th, he and his wife Paula, purveyors of the Raven Radio Theater (from Olympia, Washington), brought together a dashing Pony Express driver and the woman who saves his life in "Zephyr Of The West", set in the American frontier.
This time out, it's "The Black Knight," based on an ancient Irish folktale that follows the adventures of a young man on a quest to rescue a knight's daughter being held in the dungeon on an evil castle he can only reach by facing a fierce storm, a raging river and obstacle after obstacle.
All of which takes place in, um, the Nevada Theatre? Including a raging river?
"Radio dramas allow you to bring these intense images like a talking pony or enchanted tree," McHugh says. "It's as if a whole group of people can have a dream together."
And it takes a cast of twentysome -- from skilled actors to guest community members -- to populate the play's characters and even more volunteers to, yes, engage a wide variety of hand-operated sound effects, under the direction of Paula McHugh.
Once again, local actress/producer Loraine Webb has been corralling the actors and sound crew; she will also perform the key narrator's role.
McHugh's "The Black Knight" was first performed in 1994 at the Strawberry Music Festival, where longtime McHugh friend, the late folk icon and Nevada City resident U. Utah Phillips, was the narrator. "And he did it so straight-laced it was something else," Joe recalls.
The McHughs lived in Nevada County for most of 15 years until 2003, and, for part of that time, Joe even served on the KVMR Board of Directors, where he was a strong advocate for the station getting its own building.
Now, ironically, that has come to fruition with the KVMR/Nevada Theatre "Better Together" collaboration of the Bridge Street Project, which has resulted in a new 8,000 square foot building that houses the radio station and a new, spacious backstage for the 150-year-old attached venue.
Another irony, perhaps, was that Joe credits a former KVMR engineer with suggesting he and Paula try old-time radio drama in some children's workshops he was doing. And it clicked.
So they brought a low power portable transmitter, students brought portable radios and they've performed in more than 200 schools and conferences using the radio drama context.
"The beauty of it is there is no memorization," notes Joe. "It's all done with scripts."
Those holding scripts onstage next Wednesday?
Well, actors include Scott & Lois Ewing, Damiian Lang, Micah Cone, Casey Burke, Tom Wolfe, Marion Jeffrey, Sally Ashcraft, KVMR hosts Connie Coale and Annie Hestbeck, and sound effects actor Sands Hall.
And community participants include SYRCL's Caleb Dardick, The Union publisher Jim Hemig, Hospitality House's Joanna Robinson, Sierra Cinemas managers Michael and Azriel Lamarca, political activist Heidi Hall, KVMR General Manager Julie Chiarelli and Nevada Theatre's Tom Taylor.
Oh, there's more, which makes it even merrier. And that makes the medium of radio even more appealing, according to McHugh.
"I love hearing something on radio that resonates with you," Joe says with a smile. "Radio at its best is ephemeral, it's in the moment. And that's its special magic. As Voltaire once said, 'The ear is the road to the heart.'"
SUPPORT FOR 'THE BLACK KNIGHT' RADIO DRAMA PRESENTATION COMES FROM ACE A-TO-Z GARDEN & SUPPLY, RIDGE ROAD, GRASS VALLEY.
KNOW & GO:
Who: Raven Radio Theater, KVMR Radio & Nevada Theatre
What: Live traditional radio theater performance of "The Black Knight"
Where: Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad Street, downtown Nevada City
When: 7pm, Wednesday, March 16th.
Tickets: $10 general, $8 KVMR members, free children 12 and under. On sale at KVMR office, 120 Bridge Street, and at door.
Broadcast: Live on KVMR 89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming
Information: 265-9073 or kvmr.org