By Jennifer Vazquez
You don’t have to be an actor or director to know that the few weeks leading up to a major production is “crunch” time –a critical period where rehearsals are scrutinized and all final elements of the performances are analyzed and perfected. This takes place in order to make sure that, when the curtains open on the first day of the showcase, all fundamentals that compose a successful stage act –whether it be the acting, costumes, lighting, and props –work together without a glitch.
Anyone stepping into the West Hudson Arts and Theater headquarters on Midland Avenue these past couple of weeks will witness just this. Their crunch time for the well-known ‘War of the Worlds’ radio play that W.H.A.T. will be performing the last weekend of October.
The story centers around the infamous and highly recognized radio play by Orsen Welles–however this is not necessarily a play surrounding the book. Instead it is a complete reenactment of the radio broadcast that transpired in the late 1930s, leading those who listened to the broadcast to assume the scenarios being described were actually taking place since the play was being broadcast as news bulletins, thus causing panic. Since this is a production reflecting the radiocast, all actors will be playing radio personnel reading the script of the radio play –just as the original radio crew did many decades ago. To add to the authenticity of the play W.H.A.T. founding member and director of this production, Gerald Ficeto, pointed out a fun element that will form part of the artistic recreation.
“The New Jersey Antique Radio Club is going to provide us with era radios which we are going to hook up so they can be the sound system,” he explained.
This will undoubtedly bring a sense of authenticity to the production, allowing the audience to hear the broadcast, as it would have sounded when it originally aired.
W.H.A.T. was conceived as a joint effort between Ficeto and the town of Kearny. The purpose behind it is to be a cultural resource that will enrich and invigorate the West Hudson community as a whole while embracing, educating and entertaining people of all ages, cultures and abilities,” according to their official website.
Those who form part of this organization, including the chairs and actors are dedicated to the arts –setting aside time from their busy schedules to rehearse and contribute to W.H.A.T.
This is the theater’s company second season. Though, still a young organization, it is showing much promise and has been received and welcomed by the surrounding communities. They are now housed at 131 Midland Ave.
“People in the community knew that I was involved in theater and would come up to me asking me if there was something I could do (theaterwise),” Ficeto explained.
He took it upon himself to organize, as the first production, a radio play –allowing the actors participating not have to memorize the script since they would be reading it, just like actors did decades ago on the radio. The radio play was organized as a fundraiser. The success and positive reviews and attitude from the community proved exceptional. So much so that W.H.A.T. puts on numerous productions a season.
“We put on about three special events and four main stage productions,” Ficeto explained.
According to Ficeto, when auditions are held, many people turn up which leads to an eclectic group of individuals who many might not expect to be interested in acting. Those that received a part in this particular production are no exception. The actors range, among many other professions, from a teacher, to an attorney, to a funeral director. (Even some members of The Observer have taken center stage in the past!)
Ficeto stresses that even if those that audition do not get a part, since there are only a certain number of roles to go around and many individuals who audition, W.H.A.T. is always looking for those who can help in the wardrobe, props, lighting and other departments. Even volunteers who want to usher during production nights are welcomed as well.
“The great thing about this organization is that you don’t really need a resume,” Franklin School seventh grade science teacher and fellow actor Timothy Firth said. “I, for one, had no acting experience what-so-ever. The closest I ever came was in college when I was a radio disc jockey.”
However, participants note –not only the fun aspects –but the importance of having a theater company within the community.
“The importance of this organization is great, especially now-a-days,” Firth said. “People seem so busy and so bored with everything that the arts are under appreciated. It’s a wonderful way for the community to get involved whether it be as an actor or an audience member. It allows them to experience something new.” ‘
War of the Worlds’ will take place on Friday and Saturday, October 26 and 27 at 7:30 p.m. at W.H.A.T.’s Midland Avenue headquarters. Tickets are $20. Funds from tickets sold to the performances and refreshments sold during the performances go back to the organization in order to support the art-driven work that it does, including providing a theater camp for the communities’ youth.
If you would like more information on W.H.A.T. or to purchase tickets to this production, please visit www.whatco.org or call 201- 467-8624. Tickets will also be available at the door but you might run the risk of the show being sold out by then!