Paul Ashwood makes directorial debut with Phipps’ ‘Radio Daze’Paul Ashwood has been involved in just about every way possible with theater productions at The Phipps Center for the Arts. Now Ashwood is about to add the role of director to his resume, too.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
Paul Ashwood has been involved in just about every way possible with theater productions at The Phipps Center for the Arts.
Since landing the role of Schroeder in a 1989 production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” Ashwood has gone on to serve as sound, lighting and costume designer, production coordinator, stage manager, set builder and more. He’s currently in his second stint as chairperson of the Drama Council.
“I’ve done everything at The Phipps except direct,” he said in a phone call last week from the village of Knapp, where he serves as postmaster.
Now Ashwood is about to add the role of director to his resume, too.
He is directing a readers’ theater production of “Radio Daze,” featuring scripts from five popular shows of the golden age of radio in the 1930s and ’40s. The show will open Friday evening, Jan. 20, in the Black Box Theater at The Phipps.
“Radio Daze” was Ashwood’s idea. He personally compiled the scripts for it.
“I’ve been a fan of old radio,” Ashwood said, recalling listening to radio dramas and comedies around a big radio at his grandparents’ house.
The amber glow of the dial on his grandparents’ radio would pulsate with the volume — the louder the sound, the brighter the light.
“People gathered around the radio and actually watched it,” Ashwood related.
“Radio Daze” will feature bits from “The Jack Benny Show,” “The Bickersons,” “The Shadow,” “The Strange Dr. Weird” and “The Canterville Ghost.” It’s a mix of comedy and drama.
“The writing back then was over the top, because they had to get that expression across,” Ashwood said. “They had to make it big and powerful.”
Part of Ashwood’s idea for the show was to use it to introduce new actors and stage hands to The Phipps, since reading a script isn’t as threatening to a newcomer as having to memorize lines.
The show has already been a success on that score, according to Ashwood. The cast and crew are made up of number of newcomers, along with some veterans to serve as mentors.
“Everyone’s excited about it,” Ashwood said. “A lot of them haven’t been to The Phipps before, and it’s the first time on stage for some. There’s a lot of different emotions going on. They’re embracing the concept. They’re having fun.”
The set design is simple. There’s a sound-effects table, an organ and chairs and microphones for the radio actors.
Ashwood’s oldest son, Chris, will play the organ.
Phipps productions have long been a family affair for the Ashwoods.
Ruth Ashwood, Paul’s wife, has been the musical director for a number of Phipps shows. She’s also a music teacher at St. Patrick School and the organist and pianist for First Baptist Church.
All five of the Ashwoods’ grown children — Chris, Will, Clara, Ben and Emily — have acted or worked behind the scenes at The Phipps.
Clara Ashwood, a teacher at Bethel Highlands Preschool, has choreographed shows and sang and danced in many Phipps musicals.
Paul’s last role was as a drinking companion of Alfred Doolittle in “My Fair Lady.”
His hope is that “Radio Daze” will introduce others to the enjoyment his family has found in The Phipps.
Tickets for the performances are $10 for adults and $8 for students of all ages. The shows are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, from Jan. 20 to Jan. 29.
Tickets can be purchased by calling The Phipps at (715) 386-8409 or through its website at www.ThePhipps.org.