LEWISTON — Samuel Wheeler, a Bates College junior from Skowhegan, is directing the first-ever stage version of a 1939 radio play, in performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 13-14, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15, at the Black Box Theater, Schaeffer Theatre, 329 College St.

The 30-minute performances of “They Fly Through the Air With the Greatest of Ease” are open to the public at no cost. For more information, call 207-786-6161.

A double major in theater and sociology, Wheeler adapted and is directing the play as part of an independent study requirement, intended to help prepare juniors to write a senior thesis for the theater major at Bates.

“They Fly Through the Air,” written by Norman Corwin in 1939, takes place in a warplane that bombs civilians during the Spanish Civil War. Corwin wrote the piece as an installment of a weekly radio series that ran in the early 1940s.

The production features period-appropriate language and clothing — but the questions that it poses about humanity and violence are, according to Wheeler, “timeless.”

Human conflict is “this never-ending thing,” he reflects. “And I said to the cast, ‘There are three big things that never really change, and those are love, death and people fighting.’

“And all three are explored in this.”

Rather than casting to specific roles, Wheeler assembled an ensemble cast in which each actor performs more than one character. The five actors are senior Nick Muccio, of Concord, N.H.; and first-year students Claire Sullivan of Montville, N.J., Tricia Crimmins of Chicago, Becca Havian of Piedmont, Calif., and Michael Driscal of Cleveland.

“The fluidity of the casting, having people play multiple roles, helps show that at the end of the day we are all human,” Wheeler says. “I think that’s really what the play is trying to drive home.”

He hopes the piece will be both entertaining and thought-provoking. The tone of the production will reflect the gamut of human emotion. “It ranges from being very heartfelt to being a comedy to being kind of dark and tragic.

“I think everyone can relate, one way or the other.”

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