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A new twist to oldie ‘War of the Worlds’

Story by James Hill, photos by James Hill and Dana Haynes.

Theater director Patrick Tangredi

Theater director Patrick Tangredi

On one Sunday night in October 1938, young Broadway wunderkind actor and director Orson Welles took radio listeners on one wild ride.

On Oct. 30, 1938, Welles terrified listeners by merging false news broadcasts. Proving the power of the media in less than an hour, Welles changed the medium forever through his radio play based on H.G. Wells’ novella, “War of the Worlds.”

In 2008, a full 70 years later, PCC’s new theater director hopes to take theatergoers on a similar ride with Portland Community College’s adaption of Welles’ famous production.

The PCC production, adapted for the stage by theater director Patrick Tangredi, explores what happened moments before, during and after in the CBS radio studio and beyond. Done in real time, the show builds in pace to reflect the suspense of the event as it took place. This is a multimedia event without an intermission, done in 90 minutes.

“It was a style of radio drama that no longer exists,” Tangredi said. “It was brilliant in its execution. I wanted to look at something lost in history and recreate our appreciation for it. It raises questions of who we are and who we were.”

Performances for PCC’s “War of the Worlds – Redux,” will be at 7:30 p.m. from Nov. 13-15 and 21-22, with a special matinee at 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 23. All shows are scheduled for the Performing Arts Center at the Sylvania Campus, 12000 S.W. 49th Ave. Tickets are $10 for general admission, $8 for seniors, PCC students and staff, and $5 per person group rate for 15 or more.

Students practice 'War of the Worlds' Tickets are available at the PCC Sylvania Bookstore or a half hour before performances at the box office. For more information, call (503) 977-4949.

This is Tangredi’s first production as PCC’s theater director, coming aboard this summer from Blue Mountain Community College. The high-energy, creative instructor brings a wealth of experience. He’s also worked for the Hartford Stage Company in Connecticut, New WORLD Theater in Massachusetts and has taught theater at the University of Wisconsin and UMass. He received a master’s degree from Tulane University in theater directing.

Tangredi added context to Welles’ play by writing 20 additional pages to the original novella. He said that he first got his taste of “War of the Worlds” 15 years ago when he put on the radio play without much change from Orson Welles famous radio version.

“When we staged it, people weren’t taken by it,” said Tangredi. “And as a director I began second-guessing myself afterwards. ‘What did I miss?’ I wondered. But in retrospect it wasn’t what I missed. In 1938, this event had context that we don’t have today.

Students practice 'War of the Worlds' “When I got into a position to try it, I wanted to revisit this play again someday,” he added. “I wanted people to experience what I experienced when I listened to it. With this year’s election, I thought it would be good timing.”

The play will recreate the CBS radio studio and will use a litany of objects to create the sound effects needed. They will be objects that could have been found back in 1938. Some of the things Tangredi’s troupe will use include a unicycle, bingo wheel, beehive smoker, crash box and a 1930s pitch whistle, to name a few.

“I love using sound effects,” he said. “To me there’s nothing better. The students have really come up with some neat things.”

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