Rich in Talent
A Pocahontas resident with a wealth of theatrical experience will bring those riches to the stages of Storm Lake as Ebenezer Scrooge this holiday season, using his skills with dialects and sound effects to bring the main character of "A Christmas Carol" to life in a radio theater production of the play Dec. 3.
Ron Hohensee, a Pocahontas native and advertising executive with KAYL radio in Storm Lake, was chosen by production director Bruce Kurtz to fill the lead role of the classic Charles Dickens story during auditions late last month, and Hohensee said he was thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to portray the miserly man.
"When I first heard that they were looking for a Scrooge I thought 'Well, I can do that,'" Hohensee said. "I had never played Scrooge before, so it was a role that I thought would be fun to try out for, and I'm really looking forward to doing this role in this readers theater."
The readers theater production, which will take place in the Vista Theater in Storm Lake at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3, will be broadcast over northwest Iowa on KAYL, and Hohensee said the fact that the production would be on the airwaves would provide both challenges and opportunities for all of the actors in the play.
"I'm a big fan of radio theater," Hohensee said. "It's fun coming in and putting together personas because you put yourself more on the line. You don't have any actions that can help back you up there on stage, so it all comes from the voice. You have to use your voice to come up with the voices of the characters and the sound effects of things that aren't on stage, like clanking chains and howling winds, so that makes it both challenging and fun."
After holding jobs in Fort Dodge, Storm Lake and New Mexico, Hohensee returned to Pocahontas with his family 20 years ago, and quickly began reviving a love for theater that began when he was in high school. After helping fix up the Rialto Theater in his hometown, Hohensee began to get involved in the Princess City Players theater group in Pocahontas, where he dived into roles such as the Cary Grant character in "Arsenic and Old Lace" and Joseph in a Christmas play.
Hohensee's mastery of dialects and accents also opened up opportunities for him in the Pocahontas and Storm Lake community theater groups. The thespian has portrayed Russians, Germans and Norwegians in various plays, and directors have used Hohensee in multiple roles in plays as a result of his vocal skills.
In one play, Hohensee filled the roles of four different characters and went through 19 costume changes. In a second play, he initially portrayed a black character, went off stage to change costumes and remove makeup, came back out as a Southern white, went back off stage and came back on as the black character again.
"I really enjoy the challenge of playing multiple roles," Hohensee said. "It's fun to try to come up with the different dialects and accents in order to get the persona of that character across to the audience."
Hohensee estimated he will spend about 100 hours preparing for his role in "A Christmas Carol," time that includes reading over lines, memorizing key phrases, installing dialects and voice patterns for each of his sentences and coming up with different sound effects for sounds such as the thumping of canes up steps and slamming of creaking wooden doors.
However, Hohensee said he doesn't view the many hours of preparation he puts into each of his roles as work.
"I've never really thought about how many hours I put into this, because I suppose if I did, it wouldn't be something that was fun. I think that's true about anything you enjoy. People who stay out all day to hunt and fish don't look back and count how many hours it took to get that fish or that deer, because they enjoy putting in that time. It's the same thing with theater for me. I just enjoy doing it."
Hohensee said he has also enjoyed the time spent with his fellow cast members in "A Christmas Carol."
Sandy Robinson, Dick Hakes, Ryan Schultz, Heather Warner, Merle Hinton and Kurtz are playing the other roles in the production
"There are some very, very talented people in this play," Hohensee said. "I'm really pumped up about this. To be in the company of people this talented makes something like this really fun to be a part of."
Unlike the miserly ways of Ebenezer Scrooge, who thought it better to receive, Hohensee said he wants to help give people an opportunity to escape the troubles of their worlds and dive into a realm of imagination for a short time.
"The best reward is to know that you've taken someone from today's problems and helped them drift off into your world for a couple of hours," Hohensee said. "It's a great feeling to know you've helped people out in that way."