Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Radio Greats: The Plot to Overthrow Christmas (Columbia Workshop)

Norman Corwin had many extraordinary successes in radio, but one success that was extraordinary even for Corwin was "The Plot to Overthrow Christmas". It grew from a single question; put on the spot to come up with an idea for a Christmas, he said, "Did you hear about the plot to overthrow Christmas?" It grew into a performance on December 25, 1938. It was an instant hit, and Corwin would produce the radio play again in 1940 and in 1944. A television reading was done in 1969.

The show is a whimsical fantasy in free rhyme, which takes some getting used to, but despite the whimsy (to the point of goofiness, at times), it is less saccharine than one might think. We start the programming by descending into Hell, where we meet up with Mephistopheles the Devil, consulting with a number of villains about a very serious problem for the fiends of Hell: the good cheer and good will of the Christmas season. They eventually decide on a plan (proposed by Lucrezia Borgia) to assassinate Santa Claus, with the Emperor Nero getting the honors for doing the deed. But Santa's wits turn out to be more than a match for Nero, and turn an attempted assassination, quite surprisingly, into a tale of repentance and fellowship.

You can listen to the 1940 version of the radio play on and you can read the transcript at Generic Radio Workshop Script Library, complete with Corwin's own production notes. It would be a bit of goofy fun to throw together a reading over Christmas, if that's your sort of thing.

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