Arlington High School’s drama department is holding a drive-in event for their first feature-length film with their showing of War of the Worlds this month.
Showings began March 5 and will continue with shows on March 12 and 13 at 7 p.m. at the Arlington High School parking lot.
Tickets are available at byrnesperformingarts.org.
Attendees stay in their car during the drive-in film and will be able to tune their car radios to receive the audio.
The story follows famous film-maker Orson Welles the night he stages the radio drama ‘The War of the Worlds.’
“In the 1930s this was a radio show and this is about these aliens that come and take over New Jersey and basically the entire country,” said Arlington High School student Hannah Marsh.
The script follows the actors putting on the radio drama despite multiple obstacles.
“Orson Welles runs this theater company and everything is going wrong but you have to maintain the show,” said Marsh.
“You have a script that follows War of the Worlds but action that follows the shenanigans going on backstage,” said Arlington High School drama teacher Scott Moberly.
There’s a mix of drama and comedy as part of the film.
“Even though it’s a more serious show at times there’s also some laughs which I think is good for an audience,” said Sierra Schmitz, an Arlington High School student and stage manager for the production.
The drama department for the school traditionally does live-action shows, but attempted a film this year to stay within COVID-19 safety guidelines.
“You’ll see in the film students speaking without a mask. That’s because every line was the actor alone on stage with a camera,” and then the shots were edited together later, said Moberly.
Because the Byrnes Performing Arts Center is so large it was easy to keep students physically distanced as well, he said.
The acting component was a departure from their usual live performance.
“It was a big learning experience and completely different than anything we’ve ever done, but it was fun,” said Schmitz.
Marsh said acting in front of a camera was a new experience.
“There’s no live reaction like you get when you’re in front of an audience,” she said.
There were advantages though, like being able to do takes again and again instead of only getting one shot, said Marsh.
Actors also have more freedom in some of their actions as well.
“You can do different diction when you’re in front of a camera versus when you’re trying to project to the back of the Byrnes Performing Arts Center,” said Marsh.
The backstage crew usually has to rush to prepare sets between scenes but a film was not as hectic for Schmitz.
“Normally there would be a whole crew I would he helping to run,” she said. “This year the crew is just two people.”
Moberly said the drama department was lucky to have a former student available who had editing skills.
“I kind of floated the idea if we could make a movie under COVID conditions with the camera and the theater lighting and he gave me a qualified ‘I think so,’” he said.
They also received an inflatable screen from the city of Arlington to help put on the drive-in screenings.
The drive-in show was the first drama department production in almost a year and Moberly was glad to get the students back to some kind of acting.
“For those months I know they were distracted, happy, doing something happy and engaged,” he said.
Students were glad to be back as well.
“I enjoyed we got to do a show this year. Through what this year has been, it has been nice to do something,” said Schmitz.
“I’m really thankful that [Moberly] allowed us to do this show this way,” said Marsh. “Especially being my senior year I was happy to be able to see everyone,” she said.