It’s a Wonderful Life at Regent: Kay Lynn Perry Steps into New Role
Kay Lynn Perry, manager of Regent University’s Box Office described the funniest acting job of her career:
“My first paid acting gig was in a children’s theater production of “Froggy Went a Courtin’,” which was a playlet based on the old children’s song. We toured the grand state of Alabama traveling in mini vans. We went all over the state, to preschools and elementary schools. Here were all these professional actors being paid to perform for kindergartners or younger!”
However, acting and the Box Office is not all Perry does. December 2018, she made her Regent directorial debut with “It’s A Wonderful Life: Live Radio Play.”
From elementary school class plays to directing community theater in both Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Perry has pursued her life-long love of theater in many venues. This is her fifth year working at Regent, where she oversees all publicity and ticket sales for the Regent University Theatre, as well as communication with Regent’s dedicated patrons.
“I’ve wanted to direct at Regent for a while, because on a missional level I am compatible with Regent and the kinds of plays we like to do here. We’re always looking for plays that are clean and [have] a redemption message. There might be a bad guy, but at the end things are redeemed,” said Perry. “This particular year, we wanted something for our December slot that we thought would appeal to our audiences, and “It’s a Wonderful Life” certainly fits that bill. It was sold out for weeks in advance! People have a strong emotional connection to the story.”
The radio play adaptation of the famous film It’s a Wonderful Life required Perry’s directorial vision to create a unique experience for the audience. The play took place in the studio theatre, which was set “in the round” to mimic a radio studio.
“As a radio play we don’t show any of the locations – we created an aural experience, trying to replicate what they would have done in the 1940s. In the early days of radio, there was a lot of radio drama [with] sound effects and music that came together to help tell the story.”
Perry transformed the play into a “hybrid” version, where the actors interact as they would in the movie.
“If two actors are interacting with each other you see the other actors come up and do the sound effects that go with the scene. It makes it a little more interesting to watch and in the early days of radio they had live studio audiences. So, that’s our conceit is that our audience is the live studio audience,” said Perry.
Regent University Theatre’s patrons are important to Perry. When asked why she thought this particular play would resonate and appeal to them, she responded with a brief history of the
story and what it means to her personally: It’s a Wonderful Life was originally a book that could not find a publisher, then an unsuccessful film, until its popular resurgence as a TV movie in the 70s.
“Why did it become so popular? My thought is that it’s a story that tells us that prayers can be answered and the way we live our lives makes a difference … In the darkness of our world today, fewer and fewer people believe in God or have hope for the future. Yet here’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” telling you there is hope and there is a future. [Life is] not just this nihilistic experiment, then we die. There’s a reason to keep on living. I think people really respond and that message of hope resonates with people.”