A Very Vocal Artist
Judi Weinkauf "has a huge character range — everything from little kids to old people, with dialects and nuances galore," Radio Redux founder Fred Crafts says.
One reason Judi Weinkauf returns over and over to the Radio Redux stage is her affection for the Golden Age of Radio scripts the troupe performs.
“I love all the old programs, and I love that they are safe. You can tell children to come because there’s no bad language, there’s none of the garish stuff we see and hear these days elsewhere on stage and on TV,” she says.
“Also, with Radio Redux it’s the whole feeling of the group — it’s all for one and one for all. There are no stars, it’s a neat coming together. There’s a cohesiveness from creating something together and making it work. It’s the whole family feeling of it.”
Being drawn to a “whole family feeling” may go back to Judi’s earliest memories when, as an only child, she realized performing was a way to entertain herself.
“I realized in middle school that I was a big ‘Let’s Pretend’ person, whether with dolls or books and play-fantasizing. I remember sitting on my stoop singing a lullaby to my doll and someone telling me I had a really good voice. In my family, no one ever said things like that.
After performing in several high school plays, she realized “I’d found my place. There’s an incredible satisfaction in being another character, being someone different. In college I got a terrible grade in speech because I couldn’t give my own opinions — I had trouble being me — but I could be someone else."
For Radio Redux, Judi has played lots of “someone elses,” from individual key roles to several bit parts in a single play. She doesn’t methodically research characters to develop a voice, she says, but lets them emerge organically.
“It’s more of a Mel Blanc approach — you come up with a voice, then you create a character out of that,” she says.
“David (her husband) tells me that I take on a persona with each person in how I stand or how I walk. I’m more of a technical actress than a method actor. Kim (Donahey, a veteran Radio Redux actress) will ask me ‘What is your character thinking?’ but my characters are more voices than backstory.”
“I love all the old programs, and I love that they are safe,” Judi says of Radio Redux productions. “You can tell children to come because there’s no bad language, there’s none of the garish stuff we see and hear these days elsewhere on stage and TV.” Photo by Marti Gerdes.
Achilles Massahos and Judi Weinkauf in a Radio Redux performance at the Hult Center in Eugene. Photo by Scott Kelley.
Creating distinct voices is a vital skill for Radio Redux actors. Because each may play several roles in one show, they must make each voice unique enough that audience members can distinguish roles solely by ear.
“It’s interpreting primarily with your voice. It comes from a different place,” Judi says of performing with Radio Redux. “You still have to have a character and what goes with that, but the interpreting is different than just acting. “
Director Fred Crafts says he is constantly amazed at the variety of voices Judi comes up with.
“Judi has a huge character range — everything from little kids to old people, with dialects and nuances galore. She is constantly surprising and delighting us,” Crafts says “Her remarkable talent for voice acting, as well as her preference to play a number of small roles, lifts our shows.”
To keep her roles straight, Judi makes notes on her script. “Fred may say ‘That’s not quite right’ so I’ll write a note to make my voice higher or lower. Sometimes I’ll ask Fred, ‘Do you want that kind of voice or a character we’ve played before?’ and I’ll note that on my script, which becomes a bit of a mess.”
What does she hope the audience takes away from a Radio Redux experience?
“First of all that they have a great time, that they enjoy it, which I know they do because they talk about it” during the cast meet-and-greet after each show.
“Second, I want them to remember, and the younger ones to learn, what radio and the Theater of the Mind was like,” she says. “I love it that they can close their eyes and be transported off to these places with the sound effects and our different characters created with our voices so they can see it in in their minds. To expose younger people to a wonderful form of theater that was being lost until Fred brought it back — that’s what I love.”
Judi relishes Radio Redux so much that she’s even ready to face one of her toughest, real-life roles: airline passenger. She has a fear of flying.
“Radio Redux is such a gift to me that I’ll even get on an airplane to come be in a show,” she says, “which is huge for me.” Next February she’ll be on a long-planned road trip in Arizona but will fly back mid-trip to appear in Stage Door.
“It’s that much fun for me,” she says of being in Radio Redux. “It’s a highlight in my life, a chance to continue to use a gift that God has given me.”
By Marti Gerdes. Marti is a free-lance writer
based in Eugene.
Judi Weinkauf (left) and Carol Philips star in Arsenic and Old Lace in a Radio Redux performance on the Soreng Stage at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts in Eugene. Photo by Paul Carter.
Judi emotes her heart out as the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. Photo by Emerson Malone.