Jenna Whetzel

Jenna Whetzel is the writer and director of KZMU’s 6th annual radio drama, “Choreomania,” about the true story of the phenomenon that came to be known as the “Dancing Plague” of 1518 that occurred in Strasbourg, Germany.

[Photo courtesy of Jenna Whetzel]

KZMU is looking for local talent to audition for its 6th annual radio drama, an original production entitled “Choreomania” by Moab playwright Jenna Whetzel. Whetzel is also directing the show with KZMU General Manager Serah Mead. The show is scheduled to be broadcast on KZMU in March.

Auditions will be held over Zoom on Saturday, Dec. 12 starting at 11 a.m. and on Sunday, Dec. 13 beginning at 2 p.m.

“Choreomania,” according to Whetzel, is based on the true story of the phenomenon that came to be known as the “Dancing Plague” of 1518 that occurred in Strasbourg, Germany. The word “choreomania” translates roughly to “dancing madness.”

One afternoon while baking bread, said Whetzel, a Strasbourg woman went out in the middle of the street and began to dance.

“She was soon joined by gaggles of townsfolk who danced for days and weeks without end, without stopping to eat or sleep,” Whetzel said. “When all was said and done, over 400 were dead from cardiac arrest and exhaustion.”

Whetzel said the audience will enjoy a “kooky cast of medieval characters including fools, witches and bishops” working to solve the mystery of why hundreds would dance themselves to death.

“The radio show explores possible explanations for this pandemic of dance and draws comparison to current events,” she said, “proving that political and social turmoil can lead to madness.”

There are nine speaking roles in the show; four for men, four for women and one genderless role. Some cast members will be playing multiple roles to reduce cast size and address social distancing concerns.

While it is not necessary to RSVP or prepare anything to audition, Whetzel welcomed people to email her ahead of time at jennacatherwhetzel@gmail.com to get excerpts from the script.

The production is also looking for crewmembers to do Foley artistry, creating live sound effects.

Those cast in the show will need to commit to at least one 2-hour rehearsal per week from January through March and additional rehearsal times as necessary.

Whetzel said the hope is to have rehearsals in person starting in early January. Safety is a high priority, and participants must wear masks and physically distance when meeting in person. Whetzel said the crew is prepared to pivot to virtual gatherings if necessary.

Performance dates are set for the last three weekends in March on the KZMU airwaves (90.1 and 106.7 FM).

Whetzel said that, while Choreomania is not a musical, its plot centers around “non-stop, perilous dancing” and that she was “lucky and ecstatic” to have local musician Jessica Retka return as the show’s music director.

Whetzel and Retka previously worked together on “Wormhole! The Musical!” which premiered at Star Hall last spring.

Whetzel said that she started writing “Choreomania” in September, drawing inspiration from current events.

“The dancing plague, while deadly in its own right, is nowhere near as tragic as the pandemic that plagues our world,” she said. “I am hoping that Choreomania will bring lightness, joy and comic relief to Grand County in what is shaping up to be a dark, lonely winter.”

For more information, the KZMU office may be reached by calling 435-259-8824.

Zoom links for the auditions are as follows:

Dec. 12 Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/96629503235

Dec. 13 Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/94424222783