It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play
Spend your holidays at PCS with this reimagining of the beloved classic!
Reimagined for the stage as a live radio broadcast, idyllic Bedford Falls is brought to life with an exciting ensemble cast, gorgeous music, lavish costumes, and delightful live sound effects. Small-town everyman George Bailey is having a Christmas Eve that can only be saved by a miracle. Enter George’s guardian angel, Clarence, who takes him on a heartwarming journey of redemption proving that “no one is a failure who has friends."
“A marvelous show that will please the entire family … the radio play is entirely faithful to the classic story.” –BroadwayWorld
Mental Health Resources
You are not alone! Help is available and mental health care is your right. We hope these resources can bring support to you or your loved ones this holiday season and beyond.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
If you need to talk, or if you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255 or dial 988.
Oregon Crisis Text Line
Text OREGON to 741741
Avel Gordly Center for Healing
Culturally sensitive care for the African and African-American community.
Community Counseling Solutions
The Warm Line
A peer-run program of community counseling solutions.
The Institute on Aging
More resources available at oregon.gov.
It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play Plot Summary
At the W-PCS Radio Studio, the Playhouse of the Air acting troupe prepares for the 2022 Christmas Eve broadcast of their audio production of It’s a Wonderful Life. Freddie Fillmore introduces the rest of the troupe — Jake Laurents playing George Bailey, Sally Applewhite playing Mary Hatch, Lana Sherwood playing Violet Bick and others, Harry Heywood playing Clarence the Angel and others, and Penelope Garson as Uncle Billy.
The troupe begins — carrying the audience into It’s a Wonderful Life. The people of Bedford Falls send prayers up to heaven for George Bailey. Joseph, the superintendent of Angles, summons Angel Second Class Clarence to direct their attention to these prayers. Joseph tells Clarence that George Bailey is thinking of throwing away his life and he needs heaven’s help. Clarence asks Joseph if he’s able to help George, and if he can be promoted and granted his angel wings. Joseph lightly agrees, and begins to show him moments from George’s life.
In 1919, we meet 12-year-old George as he is sledding down an icy hill onto a frozen lake with his friends and kid brother Harry. Harry falls through the ice and George springs into action in order to save him, resulting in suffering a bad ear from all the icy water.
A few months later, we see George at his job at Old Man Gower’s Drug Store. Old Man Gower has just learned that his son has died from influenza and, wracked with grief, he accidentally fills a prescription with poison. George prevents the pills from being delivered and promises never to tell anyone.
Joseph then shows Clarence teenaged George, who has big dreams of leaving Bedford Falls to travel the world and go to college. His father, on the other hand, would like him to stay and help him run the family’s Building & Loan business. George is reintroduced to his childhood friend Mary Hatch, and the two take a stroll together, stopping in front of an old abandoned house. Mary tells George that she dreams of one day living in the house. As they talk, George’s uncle, Billy, arrives and tells him that his father has unexpectedly suffered a stroke. Mr. Bailey dies and George stays in town to take over the family business so that it won’t fall into the hands of the wealthiest and most dastardly man in town — Henry Potter.
All of the money George has saved to go to college ends up going to his brother, Harry, who leaves Bedford Falls. On the night that the Baileys welcome Harry home from his studies with his new wife in tow, George finally professes his love for Mary Hatch. The two get married, but as they set off for their honeymoon, they witness a run on the bank and they use their honeymoon money to keep the Building & Loan open. George manages to build Bailey Park — a place where citizens of Bedford Falls can build homes as a way to avoid living in Henry Potter’s slums.
During WWII, George is ineligible for service because of his ear, but Harry and a few other men in town serve valiantly. On Christmas Eve 1945, the town prepares to receive their hometown hero, Harry Bailey, who saved a transport of soldiers. While on his way to make an $8,000 deposit at the bank, Uncle Billy Bailey taunts Henry Potter about his famous nephews, giving Potter the newspaper that has a headline about Harry on the front page. He forgets, however, that he’s left the money inside the newspaper, a fact that Potter uses to pressure the state examiner into charging the Bailey’s with fraud. When George realizes the money is missing, he falls into despair — knowing that his business will be ruined and he will likely end up in prison.
Desperate, he goes to Potter and asks him for a loan, offering his life insurance policy as collateral, but Potter refuses and tells George he’s “worth more dead than alive.” George flees to Martini’s bar, gets drunk, then wanders to the bridge, seriously considering ending his life. Clarence comes down from heaven, and when George wishes he’d never been born, Clarence uses his magic to show George a world where he’d never existed. Bedford Falls is now Pottersville, Harry fell through the ice and died as a child, Old Man Gower’s mistake was never corrected and he spent decades in prison, Uncle Billy was institutionalized, Bailey Park was turned into a cemetery, and Mary Hatch became an old maid. Distraught at what the world would be like without him, and realizing that he did indeed have a wonderful life, George runs back to the bridge and screams that he’d like to live again.
George’s reality is restored and he rushes home to await arrest. There, he discovers that Mary had gathered the whole town together to cover the $8,000 deficit, saving George and the Building & Loan business. When a bell on the Christmas tree rings, George's youngest daughter, Zuzu, explains that it means that an angel has earned his wings.
Learn about the works that had an influence on the creation of It's a Wonderful Life.
Though Christmas, in some form, has been celebrated since about AD 336, what many modern people consider a "traditional" Christmas began in the Victorian era. Learn more about how the traditions of Christmas have changed over time.
Although we are used to seeing plays on a stage, some early theatrical performances took place over radio. Learn more about the origins of radio plays and their relevance to this day.
Calling all readers! Multnomah County Library put together a reading list inspired by our production of It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.
PCS Literary Manager Kamilah Bush talks to Phil Johnson and Matt Rowning, the sound design and composition team, about bringing this unique experience to life.
Merideth Kaye Clark*
John San Nicolas*
Jamie M. Rea*
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Alexz Trent Eccles
Associate Sound Designer & Composer
Assistant Stage Manager
Chip Miller & RaChelle Schmidt
Jamie M. Rea*
Merideth Kaye Clark*
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Assistant Scenic Designer
Jenna Cady (They/Them)
Jessica Carr, Miranda Nolten
Sound & Video Technicians
Abigael Anastacio, Keira Anderson, Zoé CantúM Kyle Colgan, Bree Miles, Abbie Northrop, Rhea Pack DeCaro
Jesse Harkin, Zachary Horn, Allison Knight-Blaine, Esther McFaden
Portland Center Stage: Winter Song (created with Brandon Woolley); The Last Five Years (Cathy); Fiddler on the Roof (Tzeitl). Other credits: Wicked, First National Tour (Elphaba Standby); Evita, Northern Stage (Eva Peron); Oliver!, 5th Avenue (Nancy), Bright Star, Arvada Center (Alice Murphy), The Light in the Piazza, Portland Playhouse (Clara), The Sound of Music, Clackamas Rep (Maria). Merideth tours internationally with her original concerts Joni Mitchell’s BLUE and Happy Days Are Here Again: The Music of Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand. She is also half of the acclaimed folk-Americana duo Siren Songs. Merideth is a performance coach and voice and guitar teacher, and she has taught masterclasses nationwide. TV credits include Portlandia and the Emmy-nominated Documentary Now! Original Cast Album: Co-op. Love to my family!
Jimmy enjoys his collaborative relationships with innovative creative outlets such as Portland Center Stage, Artists Repertory Theatre, Profile Theatre, and Milagro, to name a few. Jimmy has also enjoyed five seasons at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and considers Ashland his second home.
Treasure is elated to return to Portland Center Stage for It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Recent performance credits include Chicken & Biscuits (Portland Playhouse), August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean (Portland Center Stage), Barbecue (Portland Playhouse), and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, and Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley (Portland Center Stage).
John is honored to be working with Chip, cast and crew on one of his favorite stories. He has previously appeared on the PCS stage in Shakespeare's Amazing Cymbeline and Twist Your Dickens: The Second City's Christmas Carol. He is a resident artist at Artists Repertory Theatre, where he has appeared in more than a dozen plays including Trevor, The Motherf#@&er With the Hat, An Octoroon, Everybody, Grand Concourse, and Jack Goes Boating. John has worked with numerous Portland theaters, most recently acting in F#@&ing A at Shaking the Tree Theatre and Gloria at Profile Theatre. He has been featured on the TV series Leverage and Portlandia and is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA.
Whether devising street theater with Grotest Maru in Berlin, dancing with Kiwi sisters at The Body Festival in New Zealand, or stilt-walking through the CAFF summer season in Canada, Jamie thrives on cross-cultural collaboration through physical expression. Favorite local roles include: Halina (Indecent) with ART/Profile; Olympe DeGouges (The Revolutionists), Jack Worthing (The Importance of Being Earnest) at Artists Repertory Theatre; Amy (In the Wake), Dawn (The Secretaries) at Profile Theatre; Macbeth (Macbeth), Kristine (A Doll’s House) at Shaking the Tree Theatre; Anna (The Snowstorm) for CoHo Productions and Many Hats Collaboration. She is a 20-year ensemble member with Sojourn Theatre, co-founding artistic director of the Beirut Wedding World Theatre Project, and thrilled to have this outlet for all of the funny voices that fly around in her head.
Ashley is an actor/producer and co-owner of Desert Island Studios, an independent film studio dedicated to creating more accessibility and affordability to film resources for independent storytellers. PCS credits: Rent, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and Redwood. Ashley has worked locally with theaters including Portland Shakespeare Project, Anonymous, and Hand2Mouth. As a screenwriter, recent works include Summerfield Estates and Private Chat. She would like to thank the It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play team — Chip, Phil, Isaac, Marissa, RaChelle, and everyone else in the company, cast, and crew — for inviting her onto her very firstholiday show! Ashley is a proud member of AEA and The Producers Guild of America. IG: @ashleysongofficial @desertislandstudiospdx
Joe's plays have been produced across the country and internationally, including It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, Reefer Madness, Vintage Hitchcock: A Live Radio Play, Eve & Co., Beautiful, Hollywood Babylon, and Numb. Joe attended Playwright's Horizons/New York University, founded Second Guess Theatre Company in Connecticut, and is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America. He is currently developing new projects for the stage and screen.
Chip is a director and producer, currently in the role of associate artistic director at Portland Center Stage. They were previously the artistic associate/resident director at KCRep. Directing: Rent, August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the world premiere of Redwood (Portland Center Stage); Larry Owens’ Sondhemia (Carnegie Hall); Journeys to Justice (Portland Opera); School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, Welcome to Fear City, Sex with Strangers, A Raisin in the Sun, (KCRep); the world premiere of Becoming Martin by Kevin Willmott (The Coterie); dwb: driving while black (Lawrence Arts Center, Baruch Performing Arts Center); 4:48 Psychosis (The Buffalo Room). Chip has developed work with playwrights including Kevin Wilmott, Kara Lee Corthron, Brittany K. Allen, Catherine Trieschmann, Darren Canady, Andrew Rosendorf, Susan Kander and Roberta Gumbel, Michelle T. Johnson, and Michael Finke. They have developed work at The William Inge Theatre Festival, NYU’s New Plays for Young Audiences, La Jolla Playhouse’s DNA Series, Portland Center Stage’s JAW Festival, The Midwest Dramatists Center, KCRep’s OriginKC New Works Festival, The Living Room Theatre, and Musical Theatre Heritage. Education: NYU, Tisch School of the Arts.
Peter is a scenographer and media artist whose work has been presented both nationally and internationally. He was a founding curator of the Incubator Arts Project in NYC, won an Obie Award for the scenic design of Untitled Mars (this title may change), and a Bessie Award for the visual design of This Was the End. Recent Portland credits include designs for Apoptosis, The Cherry Orchard, Sweat, Indecent, Fronteriza, The Weather Room, Arlington a love story, Our Ruined House. Previously with PCS, he designed the set for Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. He holds an M.F.A. from CalArts, is a professor at Reed College, and is a member of the Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble (PETE).
Portland Center Stage: August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. PCS/ART: the ripple, the wave that carried me home, School Girls: Or, The African Mean Girls Play. Artists Repertory Theater: The Children, Indecent, Skeleton Crew, An Octoroon, It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, We are Proud to Present. Portland Playhouse: Chicken & Biscuits, Bella, Barbecue, Pipeline, Crowns, The Wolves, How I Learned, What I Learned. Portland Opera: Beatrice, Central Park Five. Passin Art Theater: A Song for Coretta, Neat, Two Trains Running, Black Nativity, The Gospel of Loving Kindness, Smoldering Fires. Oregon Children's Theatre: Last Stop on Market Street, The Journal of Ben Uchida, In this Corner, Cassius Clay. Vanport Mosaic: Panther, Martha Bakes, Soul'd, Summer Squash, Left Hook.
Trent spends most of their year as the mainstage master electrician and programmer at Portland Center Stage, but they are excited to be igniting the stage as lighting designer for It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. This will be Trent’s first lighting design with Portland Center Stage, however, they have designed for several local theater companies over the years. They’ve enjoyed working on such productions as Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty with Northwest Children's Theatre, The Drunken City and Complex with Theatre Vertigo, and, most recently, with Third Rail Repertory Theatre for The Music Man.
Phil is a visual and theatrical artist based in Portland and the program director of Coho Productions. He is a multidisciplinary artist who likes to express himself in as many art forms as possible. He identifies as a futurist and surrealist who focuses on the realities of the human condition, especially as it relates to his experience as an African American. As a technologist, Phil likes to find ways to use technology to imagine these future worlds, whether it is creating using virtual reality, binaural recordings, or new programming software that enhances the theatrical experience. As a theatrical artist, Phil is curious about the performer-spectator relationship and enjoys finding ways to deconstruct theater norms. Phil has a B.F.A. and M.A. from Ohio University. If you would like to learn more, comment using @philjohnsonlive or visit philjohnsondesignstheworld.com for more content.
Isaac is a directing graduate of Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television and a company member of Third Rail Repertory Theatre. Favorite directing projects include: The Music Man, Arlington, The Angry Brigade, and Annapurna (Third Rail); The Bells That Still Can Ring (Portland Center Stage); Once, Fly By Night, Ordinary Days, and the world premiere of Loch Lomond (Broadway Rose); Grounded and the world premiere of db (CoHo); Mother Teresa is Dead (Portland Playhouse); Junie B. Jones and Ivy and Bean (Oregon Children’s Theatre); The Wizard of Oz (PHAME); Ordo Virtutum (In Mulieribus). Isaac was the resident director for the National Tour and Las Vegas productions of Defending the Caveman, Broadway’s longest running one-man show, and he remains an actor, educator, and filmmaker. Proud member of SDC.
Matt is a musician, sound designer, actor, and healthcare worker who is very pleased to be returning to work at PCS! Matt works in a local ER by day and plays rockstar at night. Selected credits: sound design and original compositions for The God Cluster (Fuse Theater Ensemble) and Abundancia (Matchbox Theater Company); guitarist for tick, tick … BOOM! (Portland Center Stage), Heathers: The Musical (Linfield University), Un Pajarito Canta (Portland Revels), Jesus Christ Superstar (Post5 Theater Company), and Footloose (New Century Players). Thank you to Phil for this amazing opportunity to compose, arrange, and learn. IG: @chaereb
Janine is thrilled to return for her seventh season at Portland Center Stage. She has been a stage manager and production manager for more than 20 years on Broadway, Off-Broadway, regionally, and on tour. Some of her favorites include tick, tick ... BOOM!, Rent, Frida ... A Self Portrait, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Macbeth, A Christmas Memory/Winter Song, Wild & Reckless (Portland Center Stage); Sweeney Todd (Portland Opera); The Lion King (Broadway); The Graduate (starring Morgan Fairchild), Cats, The Vagina Monologues, Jekyll & Hyde, Show Boat (National Tours); The Daily Show with Jon Stewart “Democalypse 2012 Republican National Convention.” Proud NYU graduate and AEA member.
Dana is so excited to be back at PCS for her third season. Previous work at PCS includes: tick, tick … BOOM!, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (assistant stage manager), Rent, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Redwood, In the Heights (production assistant), and The Bells That Still Can Ring (stage manager). Other credits include Much Ado About Nothing (stage management intern) at The Old Globe. Dana graduated from The Ohio State University in 2019 where she was on the stage management team for six main stage productions. Dana sends all of her love to her friends and family!
Kamilah is a playwright, dramaturg, and educator originally from North Carolina. She holds a B.F.A. in theater education from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and was an NC teaching fellow. Kamilah has spent several seasons at celebrated regional theaters across the country, including Triad Stage in Greensboro, NC, Asolo Repertory Theater in Sarasota, FL, and Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ. Her play Nick & The Prizefighter was a semifinalist in the 2021 Bay Area Playwright’s Festival and won the 2021 Urbanite Theater Modern Works Festival.
"Unique loved the intimate feel of it."
"What a wonderful, feel-good, sweet classic. I love the entire cast!"
"Very creative and moving rendition of this classic."
"I needed an uplifting performance like this. 2022 had been a rough year. Thank you for the fun show!"
"It was such a fun time. A great adaptation of a favorite classic."
"Very innovative. I know the story well and love its message. It was good to see the performers take various parts. They are all so multi-talented.
"If you're looking for a feel-good show to get you into the holiday spirit, and especially if you're a fan of the movie it's based on, put It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play on your list. It's sweet, comforting, and not at all demanding ... it's the theatrical equivalent of hot cocoa with whipped cream."
"Confession: I’ve never seen the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life. ... So I came to Portland Center Stage’s It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play a complete novice on all fronts. And it was a delightful way to experience this story for the first time. ... Call up that relative of yours who always turns on the film at the holiday gathering. Say you want to give their present a little early, and take them to see this heartwarming show. Instead of gifting the latest gadget, make a Christmas memory the two of you will treasure forever. -PDX Parent
"This fun and heart-warming story, with its focus on giving, self-sacrifice, and a visitor from another realm, has been a seasonal favorite since its inception. The fun radio play format breathes new life into an already-worthy member of the holiday canon. Chip Miller and six talented performers deliver a fine production." -Judy Nedry
"Funny, exuberant, heart-warming and spirit-lifting … there is enough holiday spirit packed into this performance to carry theater goers right into the New Year." -The Independent
“It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is "on the air" and the show will enthrall you with its charm.” -BroadwayWorld
“This adaptation by Joe Landry is a lovable, evocative piece.” -The New York Times
“There are many charming bits throughout the show, from the irresistibly hokey commercials to the sharply delineated characterizations.” -BroadwayWorld
Portland Center Stage is committed to identifying & interrupting instances of racism & all forms of oppression, through the principles of inclusion, diversity, equity, & accessibility (IDEA).