BEMIDJI — The Beltrami Area Theater Club is bringing history to the airwaves this summer with an original radio drama.
The theater club, formerly known as the Beltrami Homeschool and Friends Theater Club, has done several productions since its inception a couple of years ago, including a “Mystery at the Movies” dinner theater show in February 2022 and a large production of “Swiss Family Robinson” at the newly renovated Nary School just a few months later.
The idea of doing a radio show started several months ago when club organizers Kate Riggs and Joy Paavola were discussing ideas for the upcoming season and what they wanted to accomplish as a theater group.
“When we were brainstorming last summer we came up with the idea to do a radio theater kind of thing,” Paavola explained. “We thought, ‘What if we took this family on a trip from the East Coast out West during the wagon train?’ We wanted to get into the family dynamics of it and explore what could have happened along a long trip like that way back then and make it a real family show.”
After much brainstorming, the pair settled on the specifics of the show, “As the Wind Blows,” which tells the story of two immigrant families, the McLanes and Huntlys, and all the other characters they meet along the way as they travel West as part of the wagon train.
“Our story begins in a little town in West Virginia called Blue Sulphur Springs in 1868, three years after the Civil War as America is slowly rebuilding itself,” the narrator reads at the top of the first episode. “Westward expansion is becoming popular again but it hasn’t fully affected everyone in our little town. We turn our focus toward two families, the Huntleys and the McLanes.”
Riggs mentioned that McLane is her maiden name, which helped inspire those characters, who are from Ireland.
“The McLanes are based kind off of my family, and I’m Irish, so even though it’s all a fictional story, (my heritage) sort of inspired it,” she added.