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Group celebrates 20 years of recreating radio shows

By Tom Weber

weber@postbulletin.com

Dick Goetzman is one of those lucky people who has managed to extend a favorite childhood activity well into adulthood.

"I was a big radio fan," said Goetzman, of Rochester. "I couldn’t wait to get home from school and listen to ‘Dick Tracy.’"

Dick Tracy is no longer on the radio, but a couple of times a year, Goetzman relives his childhood with the Rochester Radio Theatre Guild, which this year is celebrating its 20th anniversary season of staging live versions of classic shows from radio’s golden age. Goetzman was one of the founders of the guild, which will present its anniversary show Friday and Saturday.

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"We had no idea we’d last for 20 years," he said. In fact, when the group started out in a small, 90-seat hall and couldn’t fill the place, it appeared the concept of recreating radio shows live on stage would have a short shelf life in Rochester.

But, if for no other reason than because they were having the time of their lives, Goetzman and other founders, including Bob Ruble, the guild’s current president, kept at it. Soon, audiences began to catch on to the fun of watching sound effects created on stage, and letting their imaginations create the scenes for the stories they were hearing.

Over the next several years, the shows moved to ever larger venues. "We had to keep moving because the audiences kept getting bigger and bigger," Goetzman said.

For the past few years, the Rochester Radio Theatre Guild has performed at Rochester Assembly of God Church. Attendance is usually "in the 300s," Goetzman said, with a high of 750 for a two-night run.

By now the performances have settled into a groove. There is usually a comedy to open the show, followed by a short drama, then a second comedy and a musical variety program to end the evening. All of the segments are based on the original radio scripts.

"We do shows we think are going to be fun for the audience," Goetzman said. "We’ll reprise an episode. If we haven’t done a show for seven or eight years, we’ll repeat it."

Some radio programs from over a half-century ago are too topical or politically incorrect to be done today. But others provide evidence that good story-telling, suspense, humor and music never go out of style.

"It’s fun to do," Goetzman said.

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