Western Carolina University’s original production of “On the Home Front, Nov. ’44” has been recognized with two top awards in the Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts.
The show, which was presented to a sold-out audience on Veterans Day in WCU’s Fine and Performing Arts Center, is winner of the best of competition award in the long-form audio production category. “On the Home Front” went on to win the overall best of festival award for faculty audio, a $1,000 cash prize presented by the Charles and Lucille King Foundation.
Don Connelly, head of Western Carolina University’s communication department who wrote and produced the show, will accept the awards as part of the annual BEA convention in Las Vegas in April.
“The BEA Best of Festival King Foundation Award represents the highest mark of national distinction for a faculty member in the media arts,” said Wendy Ford, dean of WCU’s College of Arts and Sciences. “We are pleased to offer our students in the communication program at WCU the rare opportunity to work with truly exceptional, nationally recognized faculty members, such as Don Connelly.”
Connelly wrote “On the Home Front, Nov. ’44” as a way to honor veterans with a live, historically accurate re-creation of the popular World War II radio show “Command Performance, USA!” The Fine and Performing Arts Center was transformed into one of the CBS radio studios in Hollywood where the show was recorded and broadcast 65 years ago for GIs overseas.
Professional stage and screen actors, communication faculty members, and broadcasters and professional voice talents re-created the program. Bruce Frazier, WCU’s Belk Distinguished Professor of Commercial and Electronic Music, served as the show’s musical director. In addition to selecting the music for the show, Frazier directed a live orchestra of faculty musicians from the School of Music.
The production, which was broadcast live by radio station WWNC-AM of Asheville, represented a collaboration involving several academic areas. In addition to students and faculty from programs in communication and music, the department of stage and screen handled costumes and presented a tap dance number, while the department of history created historical displays for the theater lobby and content for the commemorative program. Steve Carlisle, associate dean of the Honors College, directed the show, and Honors College students did historical research and provided other assistance.
“To me, this show really represents what is so great about Western Carolina, and that is the chance for students to work across departments and colleges in their area of interest and get a quality educational experience,” said Connelly.
“On the Home Front” was selected from 15 faculty audio entries representing various categories in this year’s BEA Festival of Media Arts, said Clark Greer, professor of communication at Point Loma Nazarene University, who was chair of the festival’s faculty audio competition.
“In general, the level of excellence in the faculty audio competition continued this year,” Greer said. “Awards in the faculty audio division were given to the top three scoring entries. Don Connelly was awarded best of competition for long-form production and also was named best of festival for his entry. Judges noted that Don created an authentic feeling of the time period through his production. Additionally, the judges were pleased with his technical work and audio quality.”
One judge praised the entry as an “excellent re-creation of historical form with modern technology.” Another said the production “…holds so tightly to the formula of wartime radio one could think it was a transcription.” The show “…brings the listener back to the era effectively,” said one judge, while another called the production “…a very unique idea executed very well…creatively captured a cultural event in the past.”