Hope Repertory Theatre, a significant feature at Hope College for more than 50 years, will welcome back one of its founders to direct the beloved holiday story “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” on Tuesday-Saturday, Dec. 19-23, in the Knickerbocker Theatre.
This beloved American holiday classic comes to captivating life as a live 1940s radio broadcast. With the help of an ensemble that brings multiple characters to the stage, the story of idealistic George Bailey unfolds as he considers ending his life one fateful Christmas Eve.
The five performances will be on Tuesday-Friday, Dec. 19-22, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 23, at 1:30 p.m. The production will be directed by John Tammi, professor emeritus of theatre, who was the founding artistic director of Hope Summer Repertory Theatre, which launched in 1972.
“We are delighted to come full circle by inviting John Tammi to direct this holiday classic,” said Michelle Bombe, who is the new executive director of Hope Repertory Theatre, as well as a professor of theatre, resident costume designer and department chair. “John has a special gift with working with heartfelt material like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ and I know our audiences are going to be charmed with this production featuring performances by veteran HSRT alum Michael Hanson and our talented new Hope College Theatre faculty member, Bianca Washington Ciungan.”
Other members of the cast will include Brandon Ruiter, a 2008 Hope graduate and Hope Rep alumnus; Adam Chamness, a 2023 Hope graduate; and Hope sophomore Claudia Hwang of Norton Shores.
Hope Repertory Theatre — or, “Hope Rep” — produces plays and educational programs throughout the summer as well as during the academic year, and involves theatre professionals as well as student interns onstage and in technical and production areas. Bombe noted that the audience on Dec. 19 will be the first to learn what’s in store next.
“Join us on opening night to hear live our announcement for our upcoming summer season,” she said.
Hope Rep began as Hope Summer Theatre, inspired by the opening of the 500-seat DeWitt Center main theatre in the fall of 1971. It adopted its current repertory format, and became Hope Summer Repertory Theatre, in 1974. The name was shortened to Hope Repertory Theatre last year to reflect the company’s history of also including productions at other times of the year.
The Dec. 19-23 performances of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” mark a return engagement, following the play’s presentation by Hope Rep in December 2022. Written by Joe Landry and first produced in 1996, the play is based on the 1946 film produced and directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart as George Bailey. The film was itself an adaptation — of a 1943 short story, “The Greatest Gift,” by Philip Van Doren Stern.
Director John Tammi joined the Hope theatre faculty in 1968 and retired in 2014. He has taught courses including theatre history, directing and playwriting; was director of theatre for the department for several years; and has also directed almost 100 productions at the college. He also co-led a popular college May Term in Ireland for more than 20 years.
Active professionally beyond campus as well, he worked with the Colonnades Theatre Lab in New York City and directed David Copperfield in “The Magic Man” in Chicago. He served as dramaturg for The New Harmony (Indiana) Project on two occasions, working with Linda Lavin and Patricia Birch and was the dialect coach on two major motion pictures, working with Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo and Jonny Lee Miller.
Tammi participated in the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival for more than 40 years, and was awarded the Kennedy Center Medallion for his contributions to the success of that organization and educational theatre in general.
Tickets for “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” are $30, and are available at the Events and Conferences Office located in the Anderson-Werkman Financial Center at 100 E. Eighth St. adjacent to the Knickerbocker. The ticket office is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached at 616-395-7890. Tickets may be purchased online at hope.edu/tickets or by calling or visiting the ticket office.
To inquire about accessibility or if you need accommodations to fully participate in the event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Updates related to events are posted when available at hope.edu/calendar in the individual listings.
The Knickerbocker Theatre is located at 86 E. Eighth St., between College and Columbia avenues.