Author & Director Notes

I wanted to adapt this classic story in this way for four reasons. First, who of us has not marveled at the will and skill of Orson Welles and what he did with a company of actors on Halloween, 1938? I wanted to tap into that actor-driven, company-driven event, and the first scene is sort of an homage to that fateful night. But I also wanted to add the dimension of a live event more than simply a live radio show. Could we haunt and provoke and invoke with stage images the same way Welles did with vocal ideas, preserving in some way his theatre of imagination with theatre of shadows and fog (literally!), stories and reports, monsters unseen (and it can never be seen!), and the haunting revelations found only by candlelight. I also wanted to learn the secrets in this century-old story; what was it about this tale that has captured our imaginations enough to retell it so often in film and radio? I knew it had something to do with the kind of mythical anxiety we had evolving into the 20th century…an anxiety we still have, though it has permutated and multiplied. But has it really? Are we not safe from such hysteria today, insulated in our information and affluence? The week this version opened here in St. Petersburg, FL, Hurricane Wilma glided a path through the Gulf of Mexico, visiting Mexico, and eventually grazing the tip of Florida before dissipating at sea. We spent a sunny and mild rehearsal week – and I mean day after day after day - hearing reports of the impending “Killer Hurricane” on the radio, emergency evacuation coverage on the Weather Channel, and bright red satellite images on the covers of newspapers. Our worried parents called, “Aren’t you getting out of there!” And we all know what we do when we are inundated with such a barrage of information; we tend to either act irrationally or passively do nothing and wait. We are shocked into absurdity or inactivity. Killer African Bees, West Nile Virus, SARS, Avian Flu, Mad Cow Disease, shoe bombs, they seem to be our “heat rays.” Our hysteria may now be injected less suddenly, instigating less dramatic reactions en mass, but the new information age has in no way immunized us from irrationality. Could WAR OF THE WORLDS happen again? Not in that form. But we expect terror to change shape don’t we? That it does is evidenced by the timelessness of H.G. Wells’ remarkable novel.

Todd Olson

Technical Requirements


Speakers down on floor level (somewhere visible)


Set painted black with sections of text covering 2 walls)

Small table (used as a simple desk) with either light up tabletop or light up platform on which it sits

5 music stands

5 mic stands with functional mics on them

Big fan (on dimmer)

Painter’s work light (extremely bright) switch operated by actor

Projector that can play Powerpoint

Slide projector with remote

Small rolling scaffold about 6’ high (not unlike SHREW rolling unit that we never used)

TV with functional VCR

A way for 1 actor to climb the back of the I-beam and deliver a speech at top (his head as far high as will go)

Mezzanine area (lighting storage space) “framed”

Child’s swimming pool on mezzanine (lighting storage area) big enough for an adult to lie down, but short enough to be beneath the “frame” (so an actor could rise out of it and go right into silhouette).

Muslin (or some such material) hung on mezz that can be lit from behind creating a silhouette of whomever stands in front of it.


Provided on disk at no charge as part of your rental package


Provided on disk at no charge as part of your rental package


Loose-leaf pages to use as fake script (on the music stands)

Small battery-operated lanterns/flashlights

As many candles as we can get w/candle holders

Hand-held mic (for Carl Phillips)

Many 3x5 note cards (to be used as bulletins)


Lots of pin spots for isolated specials

Stage filled with stars

Bank of lights alley space

Mezzanine (light storage area) lit from behind creating a silhouette of whomever stands in front of it.

Manual typewriter and paper (functional, though no one will see what is typed)

Lighting “Looks” in WAR OF THE WORLDS

Scene 1: The Radio Show

The brightest scene. Lots of bright light around 5 guys at music stands.


Scene 2: The Observatory

Two guys in a field of stars.

GOBO: Realistic Stars (GAM 231) or ROSCO 77896 “Nebula”

Scene 3: The Wilmuth Farm

All in huddle looking at bright light offstage.


Scene 4: The Stone Wall

All flat against wall looking at bright light offstage.


Scene 5: The Speeches

Powerpoint on wall. Then press conference lit by free-standing painter’s work light.


Scene 6: The Farmhouse Bulletins

Powerpoint on wall. Men stuck in doorway lit brightly from behind.

GOBO: “Dense Leaves” (Rosco 77733)

Scene 7: Three Grave Reports

Actor seated against STR wall lit by the light from a slide projector (as it shows undecipherable slides on him and keystoned on wall)


Scene 8: Fighter Plane

Self-lit by flashlights in their lap focused on their face – floating heads of fighter pilots as they are pushed around the stage.

GOBO: simple clouds high on the walls (GAM 224 “Cloud 1”, GAM 227 “Cloud 4”, Apollo 1104 “Clouds Thin”, and Rosco 77170 “Cloud 12”, and maybe Rosco 77448 “Clouds Distorted”)

Scene 9: Bombing Mission

1 Commander sits in chair in a tight/severe special (between where the 2 walls will fall).

GOBO: same cloud look as Scene 8

Scene 10: Report from the Roof

A floating head

GOBO: Rosco 77786 “City Lights”.

Scene 11: Island of Daylight, AND Scene 12: The Stranger

Actors in silhouette.


Scene 13: Pierson’s Final Report, AND Scene 14: End Sequence

1. up against wall, 2. at desk (lit from desktop), 3. slow fade to black (with lit candles)

GOBO: GAM 641 “Shafts” spread across STR wall.


Base costume?

3 flight masks

2 gas masks

Pool look?

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