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The New York Times: WVXU and CCM revive rare Rod Serling baseball comedy

Serling's comedy about confusion between Russians and the Cincinnati Reds airs at 8 p.m. March 25

UC’s College-Conservatory of Music and Cincinnati Public Radio station 91.7 WVXU have co-produced a long-lost baseball comedy by The Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling. Recently featured by the New York Times, the radio play titled, "O’Toole From Moscow," airs on 91.7 WVXU at 8 p.m. this Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The New York Times describes the comedy as “a screwball romp, with a side of whimsy.” Read the full article.

Promotional graphic of a hand holding a baseball bat with the Communist hammer and sickle emblem

"O'Toole From Moscow" airs on WVXU 91.7 at 8 p.m. on March 25, 2020. Graphic/WVXU

"O’Toole From Moscow" is about confusion between Russians and the Cincinnati Reds at the height of the “Red Scare” over possible Communist infiltration of American institutions during the Cold War. Serling originally wrote the one-hour television play for NBC Matinee Theatre and it was only broadcast once on Dec. 12, 1955. The performance was not filmed or recorded.

"O’Toole From Moscow" was adapted for radio and produced by WVXU’s John Kiesewetter, who tracked down the original script with the help of Serling historians. He also met with Serling’s daughter, Anne, who is the program host and narrator on the radio play. CCM Acting students recorded the comedy, which was directed by CCM Professor Richard Hess, at Cincinnati Public Radio’s studio. Sammi Grant, a visiting master’s student from London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, tutored the cast so they would sound authentically Russian.

Hess hand-picked his lineup of eight student cast members for the radio play: Chandler Bates, Austin James Cleri, Matt Fox, Dustin Parsons, Jack Steiner, Frankie Chuter, Cameron Nalley and Lucas Prizant. The team also recruited Cincinnati Reds organist John Schutte, who provided the ballpark organ music for the broadcast. Read more about the making of this radio play on WVXU.

Cast and crew members stand in a line and smile in the radio studio

The "O'Toole From Moscow" team, from left: WVXU engineer Josh Elstro, Frankie Chuter, Matt Fox, Chandler Bates, director Richard Hess, Cameron Nalley, Jack Steiner, Austin James Cleri, Dustin Parsons, Sammi Grant and Lucas Prizant. Photo/John Kiesewetter

Long-time baseball fans will enjoy Serling's script and hear references to some of baseball's biggest stars of the 1950s including: Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berri, Stan Musial and Ted Kluszewski.

In "O'Toole From Moscow," a Russian consulate staffer named Mushnick is being sent back from New York to Moscow for re-education because of his high absences due to attending Brooklyn Dodgers games at Ebbets Field. So Mushnick and a muscular Russian security officer named Joseph Bishofsky hop a train and go as far west as their money will take them — to Cincinnati. Bishofsky panics in Cincinnati and goes to the Reds office to turn himself in, mistaking the baseball team for his Russian comrades. Mushnick bursts in to explain that Joseph — whom he calls "Joseph O'Toole" — is an outfielder wanting a tryout. The Reds give O'Toole a shot, and he ends up being a better slugger than Kluszewski — until the Russians find him.

Tune in to hear the "O’Toole From Moscow" broadcast on 91.7 WVXU at 8 p.m. this Wednesday, March 25. A live stream of the broadcast will also be available on the WVXU website.


Feature image at top: Dialect coach Sammi Grant (foreground) with cast members (from left) Austin James Cleri, Chandler Bates, Cameron Nalley, Lucas Prizant, Frankie Chuter, Matt Fox, Jack Steiner and Dustin Parsons. Photo/Richard Hess