Interview: Chris Iannacone Reflects On the Timeless & Tragic Relevance of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS at Classical Theatre

Classical Theatre's production runs April 13th - May 1st at The DeLuxe Theater in Houston

By: Apr. 04, 2022

Interview: Chris Iannacone Reflects On the Timeless & Tragic Relevance of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS at Classical Theatre

Classical Theatre Company, known for boldly re-envisioning classic drama, is unveiling a world premiere adaptation of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS by H.G. Wells this April. First published in 1898, this science-fiction tale of an alien invasion is far from irrelevant to our modern day. Over the course of 120 years, it has been produced in various mediums and time periods, retaining powerful commentary on the fear of "The Other".

Award-winning writer Chris Iannacone adapted the H.G. Wells novel for the script of this production. He shares his thoughts on adapting a story successfully to the stage, the power of theatrical portrayal, and how "the war of the worlds" is not a story of the past, but one that's happening today.


For those who might be unfamiliar with script adaptation, can you explain what you do and the decision-making that goes into it?

I think the most difficult aspect of adapting a story from one medium to another is determining what elements are essential to the core of the story and what are flexible as you metaphorically pour the story from one narrative container to another. In that regard, a key question to keep in mind is "why did you want to tell that story in the first place?" Some aspects of a story are fundamentally intrinsic to it, while others are products of the time it was first written or the manner it was first published. The real trick is determining which is which.

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS is a timeless piece, produced in many different cultural contexts and mediums. Can you touch on why you personally believe it has never "gone out of style", so to speak?

Two reasons. First, H.G. Wells' novel was the first popular literature to really conceptualize the idea of an alien invasion and as a consequence, it has embedded itself into our cultural DNA at a core level. Even someone who has never read the novel or watched an adaptation knows what this story is about because its influence is so extensive.

Second, and unfortunately, I think THE WAR OF THE WORLDS has never gone out of style because the issues at the heart of it are still with us. Colonialism, resource exploitation, and genocide are happening as we speak. While Wells explored these issues in a science-fiction context, what he's really examining is how a technologically advanced nation can prey upon another nation. Turn on the news right now and you'll see the War of the Worlds taking place on this planet tonight.

One of my favorite sayings is that theatre is truth portrayed under imaginary circumstances. Why do you feel it's important for stories like this to be told in a theatrical setting?

There is a unique quality to live theatre that no other medium can replicate. All the action in a live theatrical production takes place in the theatre space. It doesn't matter if the story is set in someone's kitchen or in a post-apocalyptic world, the sense of reality is created by the actors and their own belief in their characters and the world they inhabit. Therefore there are no limitations on the types of stories that can be told in a theatrical setting because the very fabric of the world is created by the shared imagination of the performers and the audience in that space. We shouldn't worry about what can or can't be realistically depicted in a theatrical setting, because it is all unrealistic. The reality is created by those present in the theatre.

What is your favorite part of this production? What should audiences look forward to seeing?

For me, my favorite part of this or any production is watching the actors breathe life into their characters and inhabit those roles. I think we have some incredibly human moments in this show that will make people feel scared, uncomfortable, desperate, hopeful, angry, and joyous. It's everything that theatre is intended to be.

And the audience gets to witness a full-scale alien invasion unfolding over the course of an evening (or afternoon).


THE WAR OF THE WORLDS runs from April 13th - May 1st at the DeLuxe Theater at 3303 Lyons Avenue Houston, TX 77020. For tickets and more information, visit classicaltheatre.org.



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