By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer
“Mr. Marco is murdered!”
That’s the line from the 1943 radio drama “Murder on the Circus Train” from a series called “The Ellery Queen Mysteries,” being performed by a group of Portales and Clovis residents for the Clovis Music Festival. People can listen on the radio or watch the broadcast in person Wednesday.
“This is American entertainment at its best,” said Eastern New Mexico University history professor Donald “Doc” Elder, who is serving as announcer. “We’re a nation of storytellers.”
Although Americans now tell their stories through motion pictures and television, he continued, they have an oral tradition. Elder said radio has a power television doesn’t.
ENMU junior and sound effects technician Dakota Crouch said besides being history lessons, radio dramas encourage people to think about the world in a different manner.
“Murder on the Circus Train” depicts gentleman detective Ellery Queen helping solve the murder of a man who just sold a circus on the train on which Queen is traveling. The story takes about 30 minutes to perform, and director and lead actor Frank Sherman said he would write commercials in 1940s style.
Crouch said he signed on to the project thinking he could handle it.
“And two rehearsals into it, I was going, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s so many sound effects,’” he continued.
Nonetheless, Crouch found all the sounds — some created with props, some altered to fit the production and some borrowed from old taped radio shows.
Elder said radio aims to create pictures in the listeners’ minds through sound, and an actor’s delivery of lines or the volume and clarity of a noise can affect that image.
Crouch said he must convey even elements of the story that aren’t mentioned in the dialogue.
“There’s no point at which there can be silence because there’s no image to tell people what the silence is about,” he said.
Elder said the voice actors are using the original script with some revisions to clarify outdated slang. Sherman, an employee of Rooney Moon Broadcasting in Clovis, said performers would wear some semblance of costume, such as a hat.
Three years ago, Sherman decided to recreate an old-time radio drama for the festival because people who came to town early for the event didn’t have anything to do the night before.
“It always seems to come together at the last minute,” he said. “It’s difficult getting there sometimes.”
Sherman said performing in and listening to the old radio shows is fun.
What: Ellery Queen Mysteries radio show “Murder on the Circus Train”
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Broadcast on Q101.5 and performed at Clovis Community College Town Hall
Cost: $1 for the CCC scholarship fund if attending in person