In the 1920s, when radio was new, roving salesmen set up makeshift stations in hardware stores and broadcast farm reports, banjo music and tall tales.
"Voice of the Prairie," the second production in Murphys Creek Theatre's Theatre Under the Stars Festival, covers that innocent time as seen through the eyes of fictional announcer Davey Quinn.
Recruited into radio by a con man, Davey gains fame by telling stories about his childhood roaming the country with his spunky blind friend, Frankie.
Director Graham Scott Green said he decided to stage the 1987 John Olive play at the suggestion of a couple of actors who had appeared in it elsewhere.
"I read it and I just loved it," he said. "It's such a beautiful play. It's a great story of rediscovered love."
The show features the same farm set as MCT's last production, Shakespeare's "As You Like It," and little in the way of props. More about storytelling than spectacle, it requires audience members to use their imagination.
"We'll move a crate down stage right to represent a hotel room and then it will move up stage left to become someone's parlor," Green said.
Five cast members from the Shakespeare production will appear in the show, each playing multiple parts. Josh Gren is Davey, Tara Kayton is Frankie while Jack Souza (founding artistic director of Modesto's Prospect Theater Project), William Trier and Lara Ford play supporting characters.
Performers will be required to switch quickly between different characters throughout the show. For example, Gren will have to play Davey at age 12 one minute and then Davey as a grown man.
"There are some actor calisthenics going on in that respect," Green said.
Some may see parallels with the story about the emergence of radio with the contemporary age and the advent of the Internet. It depicts a time like our own with people still figuring out how to best use a new technology. But Green said he is not going to belabor the point in his production.
"The story itself is so delightful," he said.
WHAT: "Voice of the Prairie"
WHEN: July 19-Aug. 11
WHERE: Open-air Cornelia B. Stevenot Performing Arts Center, Stevenot Winery, 2690 San Domingo Road, Murphys