Looking for some old-fashioned entertainment that still provides fun and suspense?
Look no further than the Missouri River Regional Library, which will host the annual Reader's Theatre this weekend, offering a chance to go back in time to the days where families would gather around the radio for an entertaining show.
This year's performances, set for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, will include "Dragnet: The Big Bounce," "The Hermit's Cave: The Blackness of Terror" and "Suspense: On A Country Road."
Mark Wegman, director of the Reader's Theatre, said the library began doing the Reader's Theatre in 2009, always doing at least one each year, usually in fall. Wegman said though they have done some more contemporary shows in the past, they typically have stuck with the old-time radio shows, which he said a lot of the audience members really enjoy.
"They really like the old-time radio shows complete with some live sound effects, and those have been the most popular," Wegman said. "It's always a lot of fun — it's one big party."
He said they have a lot of live sound effects, including a wind machine which he said has become very well known over the years.
Wegman said they have done some light-hearted comedies in the past, but have found audiences really respond to mysteries, though even those have a hint of comedy to them.
"Even with the mysteries, with doing them live and with them being somewhat dated, there's always some humor in there because you have the old-time commercials that go along with it," he said.
As Wegman put it, everyone knows "Dragnet," the franchise that began as a radio series and became a television and film series later on and enacts cases of the Los Angeles police detective Sgt. Joe Friday and his partners. The particular episode that will be performed has the story of an actor who is writing bad checks around town.
"Then we get a little bit more creepy with 'The Hermit's Cave', which was a well-known radio show back in the day where there was a host called the Hermit who was really creepy, and he introduces the show," Wegman said, noting the story itself gets a little scary and "is perfect for Halloween."
The particular episode of "The Hermit's Cave" that will be performed centers around an elderly gentleman who has had a stroke and is taunted by "some type of spirit," Wegman said.
"Suspense" was also a well-known radio show that ran in the 1940s through the early 1960s. Wegman said the show will revolve around a storyline where a killer has escaped and a couple driving down a country road run out of gas right in the area where the killer has been sighted.
Wegman said there's only a couple of rehearsals before the shows are put on, mainly because the actors involved are good and dedicated. They get scripts weeks in advance and can also go online and listen to the original shows in order to get everything down before showtime, he said.
Wegman said the shows are typically well attended, and they are appropriate for older children and teens. He emphasized the talent of the actors involved who really help the audience picture the story.
"Some patrons say they just kind of close their eyes like they're listening to the radio," he said.
The show is put on by the Missouri River Regional Library Foundation, which helps raise and provide funds to enhance the programs, services, equipment and capital projects for the library. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. both nights, and Missouri wines and desserts will be served. There will also be an opportunity to win a door prize.
Tickets are $18 in advance or $20 at the door and can be purchased online or at the library.