War of the Worlds is an Out-of-this-world Production


Photo by: Mary Bosch (III)

War of the Worlds, based on a radio drama, is performed on Zoom.

By Maggie Olson, Staff Writer

Have you ever wondered what would happen if aliens invaded Earth? Last week, Boston Latin School Theatre explored that question with their production of Orson Welles’s infamous War of the Worlds.

Their production of War of the Worlds was based on the radio drama that imagines what would happen if aliens took over the world, which sent many into a panic upon its original release in 1939. BLS Theatre performed the first half as if it were a radio broadcast with visuals and the second half about a survivor of the invasion, all over Zoom.

War of the Worlds is not the first time BLS Theatre has put on a show virtually. Sam Ringrose (II), playing a reporter who was one of the first casualties of the Martian invasion, says that they were “really able to push it to the next level with this one.” Using virtual effects and backgrounds, the cast and crew simulated a real radio broadcast, fully capturing the ominous nature of the original story.

Abigail Powers (II), the set designer and builder before the pandemic, has now taken on the role of the digital artist, as they created all sets virtually. Previously, their designs had to be used throughout the entire play or that could be easily transitioned. Powers, however, now finds that “every different scene can have a very different background.” No longer restricted by in-person set designs, she created over 20 backgrounds, all that involved research to perfectly fit the historical context.

Much of Powers’s research was based on the era of the original radio broadcast, which the rest of the cast had to consider as well. They drew sets digitally that included details based on references from the time.

The cast’s portrayals only added to the historical element of the show. “We had to transport ourselves to the 1930s, which was a difficult but enjoyable task,” says Ringrose. His loyalty to the period, as well as that of the rest of the cast, was evident.

After many rehearsals, Josephine Lorusso (VI), who played Operator Four and Gunner, says, “The most fun part of the performances was […] watching it all come together.” While a few rehearsals were close to the final performances, there is “a different feeling that comes with it when you know that this time, people are actually watching you.”

Similar to other virtual performances at BLS, the cast was able to see the audience’s reactions through the chat which was constantly buzzing with applause and surprise over the events of the show, expressing their shock at the Martian that had appeared on their screen, or in awe of Professor Pierson’s monologue in the second act.

War of the Worlds truly brought viewers to another world, and the cast and crew’s dedication and talent shone through their performances. Whether or not you managed to see War of the Worlds, be sure to check out the upcoming school musical, Urinetown!