Although Bricolage Production Company’s Midnight Radio series is performed in front of an audience, it’s as much of an aural experience as it is visual, according to Tami Dixon, principal creative and co-founder of Bricolage Production Company.
“We just try to listen deeper to the story and reach in and pull the sound out,” she says.
Yinzer Scrooged: December 5 to 21
Bricolage Production Company’s latest installment of Midnight Radio, “Yinzer Scrooged,” runs beginning Dec. 5 to Dec. 21.
Here, Pittsburgh icons come to life, including 19th-century Industrialist Andrew Carnegie as Scrooge’s ghostly business partner, Jacob Marley; beloved television personality Fred Rogers as the Ghost of Christmas Past; and renowned entertainer Lena Horne as the Ghost of Christmas Present. With commercial parodies and Foley sound effects, “Yinzer Scrooged” combines holiday cheer and nostalgia into a cross-generational experience.
In honor of the return of “Yinzer Scrooged,” first performed in 2015, Very Local decided to look at the history of one of the company’s most well-known programs, now in its 12th season.
How Midnight Radio got its start
Midnight Radio first debuted in 2008, when Dixon and Jeffrey Carpenter — Bricolage Production Company artistic director, founder and Dixon’s partner — were deciding that year’s Staged Reading Performance Series, a free, six-month long program that offered a new show every month. At the end of the six months, the audience would choose which show turned into a full production, with the winning show featured in next year’s season.
2008 marked the last year of the Staged Reading Performance Series, and Dixon and Carpenter had decided five of the six shows for the series. However, they couldn’t land on the last one. So, they brainstormed.
“We decided, ‘what if we built one? What if we built a piece together?’” Dixon says.
Both lovers of radio dramas like “Little Orphan Annie” and Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds,” Dixon and Carpenter landed on a live vaudevillian variety show with three headlining shows featuring musical guests, silly commercials and local personalities. And, Midnight Radio was born.
Midnight Radio did not win the audience vote that year to be included in the 2009 season, but that didn’t stop Dixon and Carpenter from continuing the series.
“It was so much fun that we were like, ‘This is what we want to spend our time doing, creating and collaborating with people,” Dixon says.
So, they schemed up an entire season of Midnight Radios, called the Midnight Radio Smack Down, where three writers would go head-to-head, with the audience choice receiving a second episode of their concept.
Now, Midnight Radio focuses on one story for the entire evening. Dixon says the flexible format fits different kinds of material, from the serious to the absurd. Past Midnight Radio themes range from Pittsburgh ghost stories to a live Yinzer version of “Die Hard.”
“It’s a host for a lot of different tastes,” she says.
Midnight Radio also springboarded Bricolage Production Company’s education program, bringing theater to children in Washington and Fayette counties, and even reaching into areas of West Virginia.
“We’re out there working with kids to write their own Midnight Radios based on the curriculum they’re learning in school,” she says.
Throwing it back to 2015
Along with an updated script, this year’s production of “Yinzer Scrooged” features cast members from the original 2015 production, like Michael McBurney and Connor McCanlus, and new additions, like Shammen McCune, Jaime Slavinsky, and Midnight Radio veteran Wali Jamal as Scrooge.
Dixon says the decision to bring back “Yinzer Scrooged” was based on balancing out Bricolage’s season and listening to its audience.
“We’ve had a pretty heavy year this year, so we wanted to make sure we did something that was fun,” she says. “People have been asking about when it might come back. We thought this was a perfect year to do it.”
Events like a Foley and sensory workshop and DIY ornament night round out the Midnight Radio programming. And, with a commitment for accessibility, Bricolage is wheelchair accessible, features all-gender restrooms and wheelchair seating. The theater also offers reserved seating for guests and their companions, mobility aids and comfort items for guests with sensory sensitivities.
Despite an updated script and a changed world, Dixon says “Yinzer Scrooged” remains similar to society, just as it did four years ago.
“There are still a lot of disputes going on between CEOs and their employees, employers and employees, [and] between unions and corporations,” she says. “So that stuff is still resonating.”
Bricolage Production Company
“Midnight Radio” // Dec. 5 to Dec. 21. // Tickets: $25 – $35 // Various times
Free pre-show Happy Half-Hour, starting 30 minutes before the show with free beer, wine and holiday games.
For more information, visit the Bricolage site.
Lead Photo: Jaime Slavinsky, Connor McCanlus and Michael McBurney perform in Yinzer Scrooged. Photo by Handerson Gomes.