KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
September 29, 2020
By Jennifer Miko
Audiences from Katy, and around the world, can watch the Katy High School Theatre Department’s stage production of War of the Worlds. Their live recording of the classic Orson Welles radio broadcast will be streamed on Broadway on Demand Thursday through Sunday.
Nate Sarlls in KHS's theatrical broadcast of "War of the Worlds"
The creative directors of Katy High School’s (KHS) Theatre Department found a way to share their company’s fall show without filling a seat in the auditorium. Due to the current COVID-19 restrictions, their production of War of the Worlds will be showcased online providing a safe way for friends and family all over the world to see the show. Patrons can purchase tickets to watch any of the performances on Broadway on Demand.
Showtimes are Thursday to Sunday, October 1-4 at 7 p.m., and a matinee on Sunday, October 4 at 2 p.m.
Creative Theatre Company Adds to Resume
The KHS Theatre department has presented productions that have exceeded audiences’ expectations. In the past two years, the students performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a sand-covered theatre in the round, and the technical production crew constructed a swimming pool in their Black Box for Metamorphoses.
This year, the KHS Theatre Directors gave the students three plays to consider for the fall show, and the overwhelming majority voted to produce War of the Worlds, the radio broadcast based on the H.G. Wells novel. When the program originally aired on October 30, 1938, many listeners were frightened. They believed the "reporters'" accounts of an alien attack and were convinced the country was being invaded.
“In the age of COVID-19, I believe our students were craving the opportunity to produce a production with circumstances that mirror our own,” says Katy Tagliabue, Head Theatre Director at KHS. “However, what I think really drew them in was the ability to be the master of fear. For once, they get to be the thing that goes bump in the night.”
The KHS production of War of the Worlds gives the audience an insider-look at a 1930s radio studio, where voice actors recorded their scenes, scripts in hand, and generated sound effects.
“Our production is unique in the sense that we are taking a radio play script and fully staging it with costumes, set pieces, and props,” says Tagliabue.
Technical Elements Transform Audience to 1930s
Charlie Woods, Theatre Department Technical Director & Performing Arts Center Director for KHS, said the production was recorded in one continuous take and will be presented in black and white.
“Since we were really telling two stories, (the actors of the Mercury Theatre and the characters that they play in War of The Worlds) we wanted to provide a live performance feel as if we were observing this in real-time even though it was recorded,” says Charlie Woods. “Interaction of the actors before and after the performance, as well as all those minor inconsistencies that happen in a live production, are all part of the no-editing recording of our production.”
Woods led the production crews to overcome many obstacles like authenticating props and achieving elements that transform the audience into a 1930s radio studio. He said the student prop crew used materials from the company’s scene shop to design and assemble the nine microphones used in the production.
Like early radio productions, War of the Worlds also features live sound effects. A student Foley artist spent hours listening to sounds to determine how to mimic alien machines and weapons. He later taught the actors how to execute those effects live on stage.
One of the biggest battles, Woods said, came in the form of time.
“COVID guidelines, social distancing when working on crews, face masks, and constant sanitizing of tools, equipment, materials after any student or director touched or used them left us with much less time to get the show together,” says Woods.
Ultimately, he said, the time restrictions pushed the student technicians and crew heads to focus on thinking creatively and problem-solving.
“All of our technicians and crew heads rose to that challenge and the work that you will see in our production is a testament to their hard work,” says Woods.
Stay Tuned for More from KHS Theatre
As she plans for future shows, Tagliabue says the KHS Theatre Department will continue to move forward, creating art while following district guidelines and safety regulations.
“We enjoy challenging our students with content that encourages a stronger sense of empathy throughout our theatre company and community as a whole,” says Tagliabue. “We delight in telling stories with intricate technical theatre components and complex characters for our actors to portray.”
To order tickets to watch KHS's theatrical broadcast of War of the Worlds on Broadway on Demand, click here.