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Student talents are on display, on the the air

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high school Rosemount, 55024
Rosemount Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

When Rosemount High School students take the stage this weekend for the second annual installment of Rosemount Radio Theater's On the Air, the show will be both a look back at an old-fashioned form of entertainment and an exploration of some of those students' talents.

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The show, put together in the style of radio variety shows like A Prairie Home Companion, is a collaborative effort in a way a traditional play would not be. Students work with director Thomas Hoffman to fine-tune the skits and other segments. Some of the show's segments include original works by students. Alex Thibido, who also plays piano for the show, contributed a skit about a six-limbed octopus - a hexapus - and the teasing he receives from the other residents of the ocean. Other student provided original music.

"We encourage that kind of thing," Hoffman said. "This is what it's about, really, to me anyway. If you can include what those guys are doing outside of just what I want them to do."

RHS introduced the radio show last year along with a festival of short films as a way to reimagine its traditional winter play. The two productions split the budget typically assigned to the play.

On the Air is a collection of material drawn from a number of sources. Some of the pieces are from scripts the school bought. Some, like a five-minute mystery play the audience is invited to solve along with the performers, are from public-domain material that was originally used during the heyday of radio entertainment. Students even found sponsors and created jingles that get worked into the show.

"It's a great mix of stuff," Hoffman said. "We find things and we read things. (We say) 'This is good. This one really doesn't work for the radio.'"

Students will perform On the Air for a live audience this weekend, but you don't have to be at RHS to enjoy the show. Each performance will be broadcast live online. Hoffman said the school has done more this year to promote the broadcast. A link to the show is available on the school's web page at district196.org/rhs.

Performing for a distant audience is a change of pace for students who are used to using facial expressions and gestures to convey things to the audience. They can still do that for the radio show - students will still be in costume, and there is a set complete with the neon outline of an old-fashioned radio -- but Hoffman has been making sure students realize that silence can be deadly on the radio, where nobody can see what's happening.

"If you wait too long, people wonder what's going on," he said. "You can't just give a facial expression."

Hoffman has been stressing the radio aspect of the performance throughout. Unlike a traditional stage show, where there is set script and the show takes as long as it takes, Hoffman has been pushing to keep On the Air to an hour on the nose. He put the restriction in place because that's the way a radio show would be produced. There's no room to run over into the next time slot.

For students, that has meant cutting. The first run-through of the show was nine minutes long, so Hoffman worked with students to figure out what should go. Among other things, they cut a joke segment called, "Hey, What's So Funny?"

The segments that remain include the story of the hexapus, several songs and skits and a tribute to Mark Weber, an RHS parent who is dying of cancer and recently published a book he wrote to his sons.

Monday night's dress rehearsal was an hour exactly.

On the Air will take to the stage and to the Internet at 7 p.m. Feb. 8 and 9 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 10.

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