Radio Plays at the Kiggins: Gunsmoke & The Shadow

Broadcast for 480 episodes from 1952 to 1961, Gunsmoke is one of the longest running radio series ever—and perhaps radio’s last great drama. In each episode, Marshal Matt Dillon deals with human dilemmas in Dodge City in Kansas Territory in the late 1800s. Sometimes he finds a solution, sometimes he doesn’t. There’s nothing romantic about his job, and Western fiction stereotypes are overturned with mature depictions of hard realities on America’s western frontier. Criminals are not always caught. Episodes often end unhappily. Women and minorities are mistreated. But Gunsmoke explored such issues, and brought them to our attentions well ahead of other media.

At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4, Willamette Radio Workshop will recreate an episode of Gunsmoke live on the Kiggins Theatre stage with voice actors and Foley artists, enhanced with digital sound effects, music, and visual backdrops. The result is “Re-Imagined Radio,” a partnership between Willamette Radio Workshop and WSU’s Creative Media and Digital Culture program—and all performances are absolutely free.

But wait, there’s more…after Gunsmoke, audience members will be treated to another classic from the Golden Era of Radio, The Shadow—a.k.a. Lamont Cranston, a young man with a mysterious power to “cloud men’s minds” who uses this power to thwart criminal activities. Beyond radio drama, pulp magazine series, and novels, The Shadow became one of the most famous action heroes of the 20th century, inspiring comic strips, comic books, television shows, video games, motion pictures, and other radio dramas. At the end of each episode, the narrator asks, “Who know what evil lurks in the hearts of men? …the Shadow knows!”

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