WCPA Joins KZLR-FM To Produce
A Christmas Play for Radio

The Westcliffe Center for the Performing Arts (WCPA) has for many years featured a Christmas-themed movie in the Jones Theater as a community event for the holiday season. This year, because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Jones Theater will still be dark. However, in the tradition of “the show must go on,” the WCPA Players will be turning their hands, hearts, and voices to a different sort of event for the holiday season: an adaptation for radio of John Arden’s The Business of Good Government: A Christmas Play, in conjunction with community radio station KLZR-FM.

Adapting a play for radio that is made for such intensely visual presentation presents its own unique challenges. (In his preface, Arden talks about staging the piece in a church, with all the actors, in full costume, in full view of the audience at almost all times.) The WCPA has gathered some of its most seasoned performers and production people to meet that challenge. Artistic Director Christopher Tabb will take the pivotal role of Herod; and Dan Hiester, familiar to WCPA audiences from his appearances with the Shakspeare in the Sangres festival, will also involved with the production as performer and adapter. Other WCPA stalwarts such as Bev Allen, Holly Wenger, and Wayne Ewing, along with relative newcomers such as Shana Abe, James Malone, and Custer County High School student correspondent Wulfgar Parmenter, will be taking roles. Smythe, Taylor, and WCPA Board member Allie Neas will be “herding the cats,” arranging for the cast to be able to record their parts in as Covid-safe a manner as possible.

It was in 1960 that John Arden wrote The Business of Good Government, turning from the West End to a church in the village of Brent Knoll, in a glimpse of things to come for his path as a playwright and performer, away from commercial theater and more towards politically and socially-conscious community-based theater with his wife, the Irish actress and activist Margarete D’Arcy. The play combines elements of the traditional Nativity play—Mary and Joseph, the birth in the stable, the Three Wise Men, the angel appearing to the shepherds to announce the Christ Child’s birth—with the story of King Herod and the Slaughter of the Innocents: Herod’s order to slay all the male infants up to the age of 2, in order to escape the implications of the prophecy of a new king, “sprung from David’s line.” The play concludes with the flight of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus into Egypt.

Along the way, Herod sounds a note of definite modernity, defending his actions not as those of a merciless tyrant, but an example of enlightened rule, part of “the business of good government.” He tells the Angel of the Lord: “You understand—I am putting a very particular mark against my name in the history books, and I know it, and I am not afraid. It is fitting that the honor of one man should die for the good of the people.”

The Business of Good Government will air twice on KLZR: first at 8 p.m. on December 24, Christmas Eve; and again on Christmas Day at 6 p.m.