LB Shakespeare to offer streaming radio-plays in time for Halloween

Patrons can see and hear creepy Poe tales and scary ‘War of the Worlds’ read with effects.

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Edgar Allan Poe

The intrepid Long Beach Shakespeare Company (LBSC) is offering its third and fourth streaming productions of the year during the current COVID-19 pandemic as theatres remain dark.

As it does each October, LBSC is putting on ‘radio-play’ productions of scary classics plus its perennial favorite, Orson Welles’s “War of the Worlds,” which was first broadcast in 1938 on Halloween and purportedly caused a panic as listeners thought Martians had indeed invaded earth.

LBSC has offered “War of the Worlds” each year since 2002 and was the company’s first production in what is now the Helen Borgers Theatre at 4250 Atlantic Ave., renamed in 2018 following the death of its founder and first artistic director.

See related story: Helen is our magic’: Long Beach Shakespeare Company renames theater after late artistic director Helen Borgers

In addition, Edgar Allan Poe fans will delight in hearing four of his stories and a poem read on stage by LBSC’s seasoned actors, enhanced with light and sound effects.

“Poe’s favorite bird even makes an appearance,” LBSC notes.

In addition to Poe’s poem, “The Raven,” actors will read four of his stories– “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Pit and the Pendulum”– which LBSC says fit its 2020 “Host of Heroes” theme.

“Poe can be tricky,” Artistic Director Brando Cutts notes. “His characters are mostly despicable and the subject matter gruesome, but the language and rhythm draw us in while tingling our spines in a purely visceral way. It is because we are repulsed that we know we are good, but it is also because we are so drawn in that we know morbidity can lurk beneath the surface. It is his willingness to face this duality head-on that makes Poe our ‘Hero of Halloween.’”

Orson Welles performing “War of the Worlds” radio play in 1938, with newspaper about resulting panic (Auralcrave.com)

Both “War of the Worlds” and the Poe tales will be available as separate streaming productions from Oct. 16 to Nov. 16. Tickets will be sold one per household and each show can be viewed multiple times.

Dana Leach, LBSC’s producer, told the Signal Tribune that the actors have appreciated being able to continue doing what they love as theatres have canceled productions due to virus restrictions. ​

She added that LBSC has enforced safety protocols at the Helen Borgers Theatre, where the productions are filmed.

“Our actors and crews have all expressed that they have felt very safe participating,” Leach said.

“The streaming shows have kept us in front of our patrons, allowed people from other parts of the country– and even a few viewers from Canada– to see our productions. It also has allowed our talented group of actors and creative teams to have a place to continue their craft.”

Earlier this year, LBSC streamed staged versions of Oscar Wilde’s “A Woman of No Importance” and William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” both of which added to its educational resource library.

See related story: Long Beach doubles down on Shakespeare

“The streaming productions are only bringing in about a quarter of the revenue that we would see from a show in the past,” Leach said. “We hope those numbers will increase as people find streaming to be a more acceptable way to see theatre.”

The theatre needs to raise $20,000 to continue operating through the end of 2021, Leach said.

LBSC has planned to continue streaming its 2021 season with the theme, “Back to Basics,” including radio plays and fully staged versions of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

In the meantime, upcoming 2020 shows include a staged version of “Sherlock Holmes and the Blue Carbuncle” next month and a radio-play version of “A Christmas Carol” in December.

“We are also starting our donation drive at the end of October,” Leach said. “This month’s
offerings will be our first radio productions to stream as ticketed events. We really hope people will have a chance to see what radio shows look like and expand our patrons base.”

In the local theatre scene, LBSC has been relatively prolific with its streaming offerings during the pandemic, with four under its belt as of this month.

Leach credits her and her husband’s –set-designer Tim Leach – backgrounds in TV and film production, and their son’s professional cinematography skills, for allowing them to transition to streaming until theatres are allowed to reopen.

“We have a great team of problem solvers,” Leach said. “We have both expertise and access to equipment to record our productions. Our team of directors understand both stage and film so they are able to help bring the ‘live theatre’ look while keeping in mind the needs of a recorded version.”

Tickets for “War of the Worlds” and “The Hero of Halloween: Edgar Allan Poe” are each $25 per household and can be purchased at lbshakespeare.org beginning Friday, Oct. 16. Each production includes a program and can be viewed multiple times between Oct. 16 and Nov. 16.