Feature: Modern Adaptation of WAR OF THE WORLDS Brings Live Virtual Theater Into a New Realm of Artistic Possibility

Thanks to Playwright Ben Hernandez, Director Stephen Rothman and MFA and Undergraduate Students at Cal State LA Department of Theatre & Dance

By: Nov. 15, 2020
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Feature: Modern Adaptation of WAR OF THE WORLDS Brings Live Virtual Theater Into a New Realm of Artistic Possibility

Tonight I witnessed proof that the New Medium of virtual theater is being transformed in the minds and hands of young people whose vision of what could be knows no bounds, thanks to MFA and Undergraduate students at Cal State LA whose production of WAR OF THE WORLDS, adapted by Ben Hernandez based on the novel by H.G. Wells and directed by Stephen Rothman, offered a very modern take on the classic Sci Fi tale of aliens invading the Earth, seemingly with destruction of the human race as their goal.

This time, the story is set in November 2020, and offers a modern update as frighteningly real as our current world situation, in which the only way to really stay connected with each other is via the internet while we remain locked down by the Corona Virus, while dealing with issues of racial and social injustice in the aftermath of the November 3 election. Social commentary abounds from all sides, while each character wonders exactly what can be done to stop the terror being inflicted not only at home but in cities around the world. Feature: Modern Adaptation of WAR OF THE WORLDS Brings Live Virtual Theater Into a New Realm of Artistic Possibility Do you stay inside or ask your social media followers if you should try to get outside and fight? Have we really become a society that allows others to make our decisions for us?

With cell phones being blocked ("so much for 5G" a character bemoans), the internet remains the only communication tool available for a band of close friends who try to rescue family while avoiding alien death rays and direct blood-bathed confrontation with an invading army of extraterrestrial beings. Feature: Modern Adaptation of WAR OF THE WORLDS Brings Live Virtual Theater Into a New Realm of Artistic Possibility Those friends are Frank Ramirez (as Michael), Irma Gill (as his sister Gabby), Thomas Sackett (as Yuri, a Russian version of an electronic Yoda), Natalie Sanchez (as the overly fearful of everything Rachel), and Dane Gbrayes (as Alex, a BLM marcher who reports in from the street as buildings fall around him). I have no doubt the costume design team really enjoyed creating such individualist looks for each of these iconic characters.

Feature: Modern Adaptation of WAR OF THE WORLDS Brings Live Virtual Theater Into a New Realm of Artistic Possibility As the friends stay in touch online, Michael is the first to take on the challenge of going outside to reach his sister Gabby who is confined to the COVID wing at Kaiser, clutching her oxygen mask which may or may not still be working as she stands against a very realistic hospital room backdrop. Gabby's sense of fear realizing the staff has left her alone and aliens have entered the building gets Michael up out of his chair and out the door to save her.

His journey, using OBS (Open Broadcast Software), takes the action of the WAR OF THE WORLDS live play performance to scenes on the devastated streets of Los Angeles, Feature: Modern Adaptation of WAR OF THE WORLDS Brings Live Virtual Theater Into a New Realm of Artistic Possibility confrontations with alien invaders, into decimated hospital hallways, and to emergency metro bus evacuations - all performed in the safety of every cast members' home.

Kudos to the entire production team whose brilliant graphic design and images fill news reports with the downtown skyline in flames, reported in from Cloteail Henry (The Influencer), Matthew Marposon (The Soldier), Gabriela Mendoza (a very effective News Reporter), and Godwin Obeng (The Witness who warns about "the wrath of God" being to blame for such widespread devastation). Feature: Modern Adaptation of WAR OF THE WORLDS Brings Live Virtual Theater Into a New Realm of Artistic Possibility One scene features Alex confronting waiting emergency buses loaded with "privileged" locals, guarded by Rob Lecrone as the by-the-books officer who refuses to allow the marchers onboard to fill the empty seats. That social division certainly speaks to the reality of our times, with the two actors realistically confronting each other as if actually standing beside each other in front of the waiting buses.

Totally realistic VFX/Video Editing by Laurent Gudemann and Karla Galaviz Feature: Modern Adaptation of WAR OF THE WORLDS Brings Live Virtual Theater Into a New Realm of Artistic Possibility allows several actors to appear in scenes side-by-side even though at different locations, against backdrops that range from a brick wall to in front of a fence with the city aflame on the other side, as well as several street locations at various stages of destruction. I was so enthralled by the entire production values that I put down my pen and stopped taking notes, allowing myself to become fully enveloped in the mesmerizing visual experience in front of me.

Feature: Modern Adaptation of WAR OF THE WORLDS Brings Live Virtual Theater Into a New Realm of Artistic Possibility And SPOILER ALERT - I bet any fans of this classic Sci Fi story will be able to figure out what is in the air now that eventually decimates the aliens. Here's hoping it will not also be the end of us human beings.

This production of WAR OF THE WORLDS, featuring MFA and Undergraduate students at Cal State LA's Department of Theatre and Dance takes the latest Zoom innovative technology to a new and bold level, launching Live Digital Theater into an art form you must see to believe!

Feature: Modern Adaptation of WAR OF THE WORLDS Brings Live Virtual Theater Into a New Realm of Artistic Possibility WAR OF THE WORLDS performances take place (Pacific time) on Saturday, November 14 at 7pm; Sunday, November 15 at 7pm; Wednesday, November 18 at 7pm; and Thursday, November 19 at 7pm. Run time is 40 minutes and all performances are free with advance registration at www.calstatela.edu/theatredance

After the initial run, WAR OF THE WORLDS has been invited by Os Satyros to perform in their Virtual Theatre Festival on December 4 at 6pm (Pacific time) along with THE ART OF FACING FEAR on December 5 at 6pm (Pacific time) (read my review of that international production at /los-angeles/article/BWW-Review-THE-ART-OF-FACING-FEAR-Produced-By-Company-Of-Angels-and-Rob-Lecrone-20200913), which will allow both shows to be seen by their large audience base in Brazil. Truly the world of live virtual theater is bringing the world together in acknowledging and speaking the truth.

Screenshots courtesy of Stephen Rothman



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