Virtual storytelling recreates “The War of the Worlds” broadcast

On October 30, 1938, radios came alive with news of an alien attack on American soil. An hour later, panicked audiences learned that the broadcast was a hoax – a radio play presented by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on CBS Radio, inspired by the novel The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells.

Flash forward more than 80 years, and on November 5, 2020, the co-curricular theatre group at Trinity College School recreated this infamous broadcast online. The virtual re-telling of the landmark play, with a script by Howard E. Koch, was presented via video as a way to creatively continue the tradition of the fall school play despite the restrictions currently in place due to COVID-19. One special feature of the online format was that it allowed our TCS Connect students, learning remotely, to participate alongside their on-campus peers.

Audiences were able to go behind the scenes and watch as the actors, with scripts in hand, stood at their microphones and told the story, through news bulletins, of the Martian attack on Grover’s Mill, New Jersey and its aftermath. Actors were tasked with using their voices to convey the meaning of the script, imparting character and fueling the audience’s mounting fear as the aliens began their takeover of Earth. Several of the 17 cast members played multiple roles during the broadcast, ably switching from character to character over the course of the hour-long production.

The broadcast, directed by Mr. Bill Walker, with production by Mr. Victor Svenningson ’74, Isabella Ciano as stage manager, and technical support by Xavier Lauzon, felt like a true radio play of the 1930s, complete with sound effects and popular music of the era. Kudos to our talented and creative actors: Isolde Ardies, Latajha Beneby, Sophia Bonham-Carter, Quinlyn Bright, Camryn Chalovich, Chloe Chan, Valentina Conrad, Madeline Craig-Szilard, Zoe Fingas, Kalea Jakic, Grace Johnson, Ryan Lu, Evelyn Maguire, Ross Miller, Kyle Munns, Connor Tidman and Summer Xia. They led the audience through a tale of fear that does not seem so very far removed from our own time of global anxiety, and reminded us of the precarious ties between science fiction and reality.