Radio lovers and mystery maniacs alike can witness the ending of an era next week on Jan. 30, as Imagination Theatre will present its final live recording at Kirkland Performance Center.
The brainchild of Jim French, Imagination Theatre has brought well-loved stories and new thrillers to life on the radio for more than 20 years. And for the last 17 years, Jim French Productions has called Kirkland Performance Center home.
French, who has a rich history in Seattle-area radio, wrote most of the scripts for the productions until recently, when a decline in health forced the 88-year-old to step back from many of the day-to-day demands.
The final live performance includes the sequel to an earlier show in which a wife killed her husband by exploding his allergy to cat dander. In the sequel, the wife is now on her deathbed and needs help to solve her own impending murder.
The second half of the show is a double-length Sherlock Holmes program, featuring some of the longest-running and most well-known actors to have voiced the Sherlock Holmes classics. French made history in 2015 by completing a project to fully-dramatize and record all 60 of the original Sherlock Holmes stories using the same actors — John Patrick Lowrie as Sherlock Holmes and Larry Albert as Dr. Watson, as well as the same adapter, M.J. Elliot.
Though French has been writing most of his life, he began working with radio while serving in the Army in Japan.
“I was assigned to Armed Forces Radio service and told to begin writing a weekly one-hour dramatization of world news,” French remembered. “There was a lot of news to absorb and condense, and we had quite a number of announcers that were actors for us.”
After leaving the Army in 1947, French was back in the Seattle radio scene in the 1970s, and started producing the beginnings of Imagination Theatre in March of 1996. The production took place at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle until the move to Kirkland.
“It was always fun,” French said. “We were able to work with enormously talented people, and many movie stars that were up in Seattle and appeared in some other medium and were willing to worth with me.”
Though Jan. 30 is the final live performance, radio productions will still continue. Albert, the longtime voice of Dr. Watson and many other characters, has taken over many of French’s producing duties, though French still has a hand in business decisions. Albert said once French decides to step down, Jim French Productions will close its doors.
Tickets can be purchased at the box office, over the phone or online. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.