Newsworthy cameos dot Studio stage

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 27, 2009

Talk about your fake news. Get ready for "7 on Your Side" . . . on stage.

When Studio Theatre's "The Solid Gold Cadillac" opens Wednesday, the WJLA news team -- or part of it -- will be in front of the audience with actors Nancy Robinette and Michael Goodwin. Look for cameos by Channel 7's evening anchor Gordon Peterson, morning and noon co-anchor Doug McKelway and reporter Greta Kreuz, all playing old-time newscasters in George S. Kaufman and Howard Teichmann's 1953 comedy about corporate culture.

The journalists won't be there in person. But the timely show, which deals with a scandal that occurs when a small shareholder (Robinette) questions why the chairman of a company's board (David Sabin) is paid so much, calls for a couple of filmed scenes featuring news reports about the brouhaha. In Studio's production, directed both on stage and on film by Paul Mullins, a giant mockup of a period TV screen will descend from time to time, featuring mini-movies starring Peterson, McKelway and Kreuz. And a recorded voice-over narration for the production was provided by announcer Robert Aubry Davis, whose sonorous tones are well known to listeners and viewers of local public radio and television.

Production manager Serge Seiden says squeezing convincing performances out of the non-actors was the easy part. "They were all really good," he says. The hard part was tracking down a vintage DC-3 airplane and classic car for cutaway sequences featuring Robinette's character and her love interest (Goodwin) being besieged by a scrum of reporters at an airport before being whisked away.

Seiden found the plane and car in Hagerstown, where dozens of extras playing reporters were bused for a few Saturdays of filming. The exterior of the Scottish Rite Temple on 16th Street NW doubled as courthouse steps, while the interior news studio shots with Peterson, McKelway and Kreuz were filmed at Studio Theatre in front of a green screen. Backdrops featuring rudimentary news sets were digitally added later. "In those days, the typical news set was quite crude," Seiden says with a laugh. "Maybe a really small desk with a microphone, in front of a map."

The Solid Gold Cadillac Studio Theatre 1501 14th St. NW 202-332-3300 Wednesday through Jan. 10. $42-$63.

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