Arts & Humanities

Theatre Students Defy Covid-19

For spring production, students will perform the most notorious radio play of all time.

By Romel Hernandez | April 29, 2020

The Martians are coming!

Banished from campus by the coronavirus, a Reed theatre class is sticking together to produce a live “radio” play of The War of the Worlds—virtually, of course. 

Performing as the “Reed College Theatre in Exile,” the seven-student class is in charge of every element of the broadcast, scheduled for May 1 at 7 pm PDT on the Zoom platform.

“It’s a dark and scary time, so hopefully this can bring a little light into people’s lives,” says Eva Licht ’21, a biology and theater major who is co-directing and performing in the project. 

Theatre 302 is designed to give junior theatre majors a hands-on experience producing a stage play. The spring-term class was in rehearsals to stage a series of mini-plays at the Diver Studio Theater when the coronavirus pandemic shut down campus, scattering students back home.

But Prof. Peter Ksander and his students were not about to scrap the project. 

“We needed to reinvent the class,” Prof. Ksander says. “I wanted the project to be intellectually rigorous but also fun. I think we’re all just grateful to be able to make some art right now.”

Quickly regrouping, the class shifted to producing the 1938 Mercury Theater/Orson Welles radio adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel about a Martian invasion—a broadcast so realistic that it set off widespread panic about an alien attack.

The class chose The War of the Worlds because it would provide a bit of sci-fi escapism. “It’s definitely camp,” Ksander says. “The pulpy elements are what make it fun and interesting.”

At the same time, the classic radio drama can be seen as a commentary on today’s world, exploring socially relevant themes such as colonialism, news, and science. And as Ksander notes, the invasion is ultimately thwarted by an unexpected ally that will resonate with today’s audience.

Although the pandemic presented unique challenges to the production, the class stepped up. “Everyone’s been excited to move forward,” Licht says. “Even though the play is about an alien invasion, we hope we can bring joy to the audience—performing live adds to that excitement.”

Tune in on Friday, May 1, at 7 p.m. PST to hear a fantastic tale of humanity, adventure, and triumph in the face of the apocalypse. After registering with Zoom, you can listen to the live broadcast at  https://zoom.us/j/97330714048

 

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