LAWRENCE: >‘Wonderful’ this weekend

   George Bailey, one of the central figures in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” is one of Walker Sayen’s favorite movie characters.
   That’s why the Lawrence High School senior jumped at the chance to play the fictional George Bailey in the Lawrence High School Theater Company’s production of “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” this weekend.
   The play opens tonight, Thursday, and runs through Saturday at the Lawrence High School auditorium. It begins at 7 p.m. each night. Tickets are $6 ($5 for senior citizens), and they are available at the door.
   The play, which is based on the Frank Capra film of the same name, is about George Bailey. He finds himself in a jam and becomes distraught. It takes Clarence — an angel trying to win his wings — to prevent him from harming himself, and to show him what life would have been like in Bedford Falls if he had not been born.
   ”George is ‘Everyman.’ He is an idealist. He wants to do good in the world. He is one of my favorite characters in all of movies. It has been a joy to act this character that I love in that movie,” Walker said.
   ”In comparison to other roles I have played, George is going through a transformation. The other characters I have played are static. This one is more difficult and more challenging,” Walker said.
   Juliana Long, who is a junior at LHS, plays Zuzu, George Bailey’s daughter. Zuzu does not come up often in the play, but the character is important in George’s life, she said. He thinks he wants to throw everything away, but Zuzu represents everything he loves about his family and causes him to reconsider.
   ”Zuzu is very sweet and innocent, contrary to other roles I have played in the past,” Juliana said. “It is more challenging. I have not had much experience as a mature actor to play an innocent girl. As we mature as actors, we want to get into more complex, dramatic roles. It’s a challenge to go from playing adult characters to a child’s role.”
   In addition to George Bailey and his daughter, Zuzu, the other main characters are George’s wife, Mary Bailey, played by Rachel Friedman, and Clarence the angel, played by Gavin Gronenthal. Rachel and Gavin are seniors.
   Written by Joe Landry, the play that will be performed this weekend had its premiere in 1996 at the Stamford Center for the Arts in Stamford, Conn. It takes place in the fictional WBFR studio in Manhattan on Christmas Eve 1946.
   But instead of a film, it is a live radio play. The audience will learn how radio shows were recorded in front of a live audience in the days before TV, said director Lorie Baldwin. She is the director of the school’s theater program.
   The audience also will see the actors enter and go in and out of character, Ms. Baldwin said. They will watch as sound effects are created, such as cornflakes that are stepped on to create the crunch of walking in snow.
   For more information, call 609-671-5510.