By Daniel Buckwalter

We live at the razor’s edge of many things as a society. Perhaps it’s always been so, but today’s breathless rolling news cycles do seem to carry an extremity that we can’t come back from.

Then along comes Radio Redux and its Christmas Special, which opened Dec. 20 and is playing at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Dec 21-22  at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.

Even for those who are not inclined to say “Merry Christmas,” the perceived simplicity of an earlier time that Radio Redux champions (“The Golden Age of Radio”) is a balm for the anger and uncivil discourse that has flooded the airwaves and our consciousness.

It’s an unabashed declaration of Christmas that may seem out of place in today’s cynic-driven world, but it is much needed.

There are excerpts from The Kate Smith Hour, Dragnet, and The Cinnamon Bear, a 15-minute serial born in 1937 that ran from Thanksgiving until Christmas and, believe it or not, can be heard locally on KOOL, 99.1 FM.

Also, there is The Gift of the Magi, adopted from the 1905 short story by O. Henry and performed here by young actors Adriana Ripley and Oshen Parris-Austin, and a condensed version of A Christmas Carol, which touches on only the highlights because Radio Redux has performed it often since the ensemble’s inception in 2003.

All of that makes up the middle of Radio Redux’s Christmas Special. The bookends of the weekend performance are my favorite pieces, each of them starring Peter van de Graaff and Adriana Ripley.

The show starts with van de Graaff and Ripley reading from Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, first penned for the editorial section of The (New York) Sun in 1897.

Ripley, a junior at South Eugene High School, takes on the role of the eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanion, who is beginning to question the existence of Santa Claus. She writes a letter to the family’s paper of record: “Is there a Santa Claus?”

Van de Graaff, the voice of KWAX-FM classical radio, plays the part of Francis Pharcellus Church, a hard-boiled editor at the paper who previously had seen the worst of life as a war correspondent in the American Civil War. Church reportedly didn’t want the assignment, and it was only years afterward that it was revealed he had written the response to Virginia’s question.

From two disparate realms came an editorial that has been reprinted many times and become a legend. It was not prominently placed in the paper, but it was noticed and beloved.

It’s a reminder of a child’s innocence and a man’s grace.

The end of the show has van de Graff reading from the Gospel of Luke (2:8-14). For some reason, I immediately traveled to A Charlie Brown Christmas. Yes, I saw Linus and Charlie Brown again.

After the reading, Ripley took a microphone to sing O Holy Night. It was not overdone. Indeed, Ripley brought touch and grace to the carol that was appreciated by the full house in the Soreng Theater. She, and Radio Redux, received a standing ovation.
As Linus would say, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

When: 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 20; 2:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, December 21-22

Where: Soreng Theater, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, One Eugene Center (Seventh and Willamette streets in downtown Eugene)

Details: Radio Redux performs seasonal songs and spins sentimental stories guaranteed to put everyone in the family in a merry mood in this new version of the ensemble’s annual 1940s-style radio-theater Christmas. Expect a cool yule when Santa delivers a sleigh full of carols, poems and jokes, as well as a surprise classic old-time radio program.

Tickets: $23-$26.25 (college, youth and senior citizen discounts available)

Information:, 541-682-5000 (Hult Box Office)