by Lorie Lewis Ham
As the arts community continues to look for creative ways to share their talents in a Covid world, many theatre companies are turning more and more to streaming shows of various kinds. The Enchanted Playhouse in Visalia is doing a radio play of War of the Worlds this Halloween and it is being directed by Kelly Ventura. We chatted with him recently to learn more.
KRL: Why and how did Enchanted decide to do a radio play?
Kelly: Great question! I felt that during these times, a radio play – while presenting a few production challenges – fits best into a season, especially during Halloween. This type of production can be recorded by actors remotely and in person and edited later. The process is very similar to what I’ve done for EPTC with the dramatizations of Treasure Island.
KRL: Why did you pick War of the Worlds?
Kelly: I have been a huge fan of the Old Time Radio genre since I was young, and I first came across the “War of the Worlds” script in an English class in Junior High school. It is a show that has been “re-told” many times, but it is the original 1938 broadcast that resonates with a variety of audiences. EPTC looks to create productions that are instantly recognizable and appeal to a wide audience. So, I thought, how could a play that created a Nationwide panic in 1938 not fit the bill?
KRL: What all are your roles in this production?
Kelly: In the original 1938 broadcast, Orson Welles hosted the show and played the character of Professor Pierson. I am playing the “host” role of Orson Welles.
KRL: How did you go about casting it? (in person, video, audio?)
Kelly: We announced our auditions on Facebook and via email blasts. We provided audition sides via Facebook and cast members submitted their recorded auditions via email.
KRL: Is the show going to be recorded with you all together or separately and then put together?
Kelly: We are adhering to social distancing guidelines in all aspects of this production. With that in mind, we did two things for this show – we created two recording groups in our cast: “in person” and “remote.” This allows us to keep our actors safe, while involving as many members of the community as possible.
KRL: If together, what have you had to do – or will you do – to ensure everyone’s safety?
Kelly: We are not recording actors together. HOWEVER, when we can re-open, I really want to do a “live radio play” with actors set in the 1940s on stage at the Fox theatre.
KRL: That sounds like a lot of fun! Have you had in person rehearsals or all virtual?
Kelly: All of our rehearsals have taken place via phone call. To be frank, it is a little awkward, but it really works. I actually did “conference call” rehearsals over this past summer working on King’s Players production Spooky Stories. It was a first for me, but during this time, it is the best way, in my opinion.
KRL: What has – or will – the recording process been like?
Kelly: We have set up a recording space for all of our “in person” actors and we have several microphone kits that have gone out to actors doing remote recordings. With actors doing so much voice over work now, several of our cast members already had quality audio equipment. To be frank, like a lot of actors now, I am recording most of my own voice over stuff in my closet, so I’m familiar with the process and I can share tips with those actors doing remote recordings. (Kelly has actually been in several episodes or Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast with more to come)
KRL: What all has been involved in putting this together?
Kelly: A lot of “leg work” researching the copyright for the original broadcast has gone into this production. The original broadcast recording from 1938 is in public domain, but the script written by Howard E. Koch, of Casablanca fame, was not in the public domain. So, we secured performance rights for the original script and hit the ground running.
KRL: What special challenges have you faced doing this during a pandemic?
Kelly: Actor safety is our utmost priority. As with my “day job,” I am an insurance broker, so risk management is always at the front of the mind for me. Our mobile microphone kits are disinfected before being sent out to the next cast member. As far as our “in person” recordings go, we are recording only one actor per night in our recording space. This provides us with an opportunity to disinfect, clean and allow an exchange of air in the space before the next actor comes in for their session. This has extended the recording timeline, but at the end of the day, we want to ensure we do everything we can to keep our performers safe.
KRL: Who are the cast members?
Kelly:WOTW 2020 CAST LIST
Orson Welles: Kelly Ventura
Professor Pierson: Hugh Munro Neely
Announcer (Announcer One) – unless noted below: Zachary Ludden
Announcer Two: Tim Budz
Announcer One (pg. 14-15): Isabella O’keefe
Announcer One (pg. 15 break) / Announcer 3: Lauren Ventura
Reporter Carl Phillips: Parker Lewis
Captain Lansing / Policeman / Operator 2: Joshua Rey
Mr. Wilmuth / Secretary of the Interior: John Arnold
Vice President Harry McDonald /
CBS Announcer (Intermission) / Operator 4: Michael Newman
General Montgomery Smith / Officer: Sergio Garza
Commander Voght: Kristin Mauricio
Observer / Operator 3: Shay Ventura
Stranger / Operator 5: Russ Roberson
Gunner / Operator 1: Marina Rojas
KRL: When and how will the show be available to listen to?
Kelly: Our license for recording is contingent upon using the online streaming platform Show Share Broadway on Demand. It will be made available on an “on demand” basis on October 31, 2020 throughout the day and night. For dramatic purposes I wanted to make it available only during the exact time frame as the original 1938 broadcast which was 8 p.m., but practically, it makes more sense to have it “on demand,” especially during Halloween.
KRL: How much are the tickets and how do you purchase them?
Kelly: Tickets will total $8 and this includes a $2.95 fee from the streaming service. Tickets can be purchased here, OR if you have a Roku TV you can download the app.
KRL: Are there limited tickets?
Kelly: No, unless we crash their online server platforms with the “tsunami” of people listening!
KRL: Anything else that you would like to share?
Kelly: I really hope everyone enjoys the show. It was my intent to steer away from a modern re-telling of the story and to retain some of the qualities of an actual Old Time Radio broadcast. This show will be best experienced with the lights out, popcorn or red vines handy and a beverage of your choice. And of course, it’s Halloween, so have some fun!
KRL: Are there plans to do more shows like this?
Kelly: With everything involved in this process, we will evaluate before deciding to move forward with a similar show. However, if we have a successful production, then I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t thought about a certain radio play for Christmas, involving an infamous villain named Mr. Potter and an angel named Clarence.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast (check out some of Kelly Ventura’s episodes), which features mysteries read by local actors–many of whom you will have seen on local stages. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play, and also on Podbean. A new episode goes up next week!
Check out more theatre articles & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.