If you like “A Prairie Home Companion,” you’re going to love this.
This weekend is the premiere of Kansas Radio Theatre, a weekly comedy/music program that will air on 11 radio stations across the state – from Goodland to Salina to Wichita.
The show is a roughly hour-long mishmash of family-friendly skits and music, featuring a variety of local and national talent (including the Eagle’s own Beccy Tanner as official Kansas historian).
“I don’t think people in Kansas really stop to realize how much talent we have here,” said Ray Wills, the show’s producer. “We have great musicians, writers, actors and singers. I think we’re going to celebrate that on the show every week.”
A prime example of the kind of humor featured on the show: In one episode, Wills reports “the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum in LaCrosse has reported a sharp spike in visitors this summer.”
“It’s just family fun,” he said. “We can learn something about our history and we can also poke a little fun at ourselves.”
The project – years in the making – is the brainchild of Wills and Don Winsor, a Wichita native currently building a theatre career in Australia. Winsor writes the scripts and Wills produces, narrates and acts in the show.
It received early support from Mayor Jeff Longwell, who helped the project find funding through private donors, Wills said.
“He loved it right from the start,” Wills said. “He’s been a supporter ever since.”
So far the show’s been met with rave reviews – Wills held an advance premiere for eight blind/visually impaired students from Envision recently, who “went nuts over the show.”
“They loved it,” Wills said. “I could see that they were envisioning the radio play in their minds. That’s what it’s all about. It’s theater of the mind – it’s imagination.”
After weeks of building a radio audience, Wills said he plans on hosting an in-person Kansas Radio Theatre show at Old Cowtown, the Crown Uptown or another venue.
Wills listened to radio dramas as a kid, but he said “it’s an art form that’s not celebrated anymore.”
“Nowadays, obviously with television, film, Netflix and Facebook, people have gotten away from using their imagination,” Wills said. “It’s easy to just sit and binge on a Netflix series, but if you’re listening to the radio, it’s so much more fun. I’ve found the kids love it and seniors love it because they know the art form.
“I just thought it was something that deserved to be brought back and revived.”
In Wichita, the show can be heard at 6 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays on 92.3 FM KKGQ.
Listen to Kansas Radio Theatre
Kansas Radio Theatre will air in Wichita at 6 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays every week starting this Saturday. In other markets, check local listings, as times may vary by radio station. Stations where the show can be heard include the following:
92.3 FM KKGQ
1550 AM KKLE
100.3 FM KLEY
1130 AM KLEY
1150 AM KSAL
1290 AM KMMM
105.7 FM KRMR
1510 AM KNNS
Dodge City/Garden City
1370 AM KGNO
730 AM KLOE
790 AM KXXX