RWU Theatre Department’s “The War of the Worlds” to debut this weekend in the Barn

Emma Bartlett, Arts and Culture Editor

Theatre performances look a little different this year. With COVID-19 restricting how actors and actresses interact with each other onstage, members of RWU theatre are using the pandemic to their advantage by selecting plays that focus on vocals and social distancing.

Their upcoming play, “The War of the Worlds,” is directed by theatre professor Robin Stone. The play features a script from a radio broadcast that aired in 1938. The broadcast was performed right before Halloween and tricked people into believing Martians landed on Earth, which led to widespread panic.

To learn more about the play and its cast, The Hawks’ Herald had the opportunity to talk with performers Gillian Snyder and Amanda Neff.

 

Gillian Snyder

As a junior theatre major, Snyder knew right off the bat freshman year that she wanted to be involved in the performing arts at RWU. After her first audition in 2018, she’s been in many plays, including the Freshmen Show, Festival of One-Act Plays, “La Ronde,” Broadway Under the Barn: A Musical Revue and “The Mandrake.” Currently, in “The War of the Worlds,” Snyder is taking on multiple roles. She is playing Announcer 2, Observer, Operator 3 and Stranger.

Due to limitations on how many people can be socially distanced onstage, each of the six cast members will play more than one part. Snyder said this adjusted performance will be different from what people have seen in the past.

“For productions normally, there is a lot of blocking and movement, but we are standing so we can stay socially distanced, since there’s not a lot of action going on onstage,” Snyder said.

The cast will also receive special masks built for singers. This will help their diction since the mask pushes out like a duckbill. The cast has been using regular masks in their hybrid rehearsals.

“We had a mix of in person and Zoom rehearsals because we have to get into the space and get used to our voices in [the] space. Both have worked really well, but the Zoom one is really fun because we can see each other’s faces,” Snyder said.

In-person seating for the show will be limited to just 13 people, but Snyder cannot wait to perform in front of an audience again.

“I think in general when I got cast, I was so genuinely excited to be in a show again. I haven’t been in a show since March and a lot of theatre has been shut down since,” Snyder said. “It was exciting to get back on a stage in a show again.”

 

Amanda Neff

As a junior criminal justice major with a core concentration in theatre, Neff also got involved in the RWU theatre program during her freshman year.

“I really like theatre and it was something that I wanted to pursue. I heard about auditions and went to them,” Neff said.

Auditions definitely went well for Neff since she landed parts in the Freshmen Show, Festival of One-Act Plays, “Eurydice” and “The Importance of Being Earnest” during the past two years. As she enters her third year, Neff will be playing Announcer and Operator 5 in “The War of the Worlds.”

Neff spoke about how performing a show on a radio broadcast is fitting for the pandemic. Figuring out ways to work around COVID-19 and still perform has been interesting, yet the cast has been able to use it to their advantage in many ways.

“This show focuses a lot on vocal work to paint a picture of a story with words alone, a way that lends it to explore more of vocal tech,” Neff said.

While getting together for rehearsals has been enjoyable, Neff said the most memorable part of preparing for the show was listening to the broadcast’s original recording and hearing others tell the story. Taking that idea and making it their own was fun to work with.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how people react to it. I’m hoping we’ll scare some people. That’s the overall goal of the show. We want to give people a theatre experience they haven’t had before, especially with COVID-19 because theatre had almost been non-existent,” Neff said. “I’m really glad we’ve been able to do it.”

Students and faculty will be able to watch in person for $5 or join the event virtually by using the link posted on the Theatre Department’s website and Facebook page. Reservations for the 13 in-person seats can be made by calling (401) 254-3666. Each performance will be roughly 45 minutes to an hour and performance dates include Oct. 2, 3, 8, 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 4 at 2 p.m.